Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sustainable Social Networking

I received an email a few months ago from Twitter saying that I was four years old.  I signed up for Twitter way back in March 2007.  At the time I didn’t really have a clue what to do with the prompt “What’s happening?” and mostly forgot about Twitter until sometime in 2009.  A few colleagues had started to really use and benefit from Twitter and they kept nudging me to get on board.  I did and the rest is history…

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There are many different tools for various modes of networking around media and medium for video, bookmarking / tagging, blogging, socializing, sharing, business connecting, presenting, etc.  People often join social networking sites like Twitter as part of a workshop or learning series only to rarely or never return.  In my experience, the sign-up numbers vs active users are quite different.  Twitter is definitely growing though as evident in this 2010 graph:

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I just gave a talk and hands-on session at the BC ASBO annual meeting in Penticton BC on Social Networking for school district business and financial leaders. 

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About 30 people attended my session.  About 10 people had laptops, 10 had mobile devices, and 10 had paper notepads.  I shared my opinions on Twitter vs Facebook…

  • Facebook = social and personal (for the most part)
  • Twitter = professional with some personal

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I wonder about the value of sharing a picture of one’s breakfast on twitter – this is probably better suited to Facebook.  There is a fine line though for Twitter – to build relationships that work takes time and one needs to share some personal information and engage in fun exchanges.  But I think that Twitter should mostly be about learning from and sharing with people. More personal / fun connections could move over to Facebook.  Otherwise, Twitter can get pretty “noisy”, distracting, and be a significant time consumer.  Side note – I do enjoy some of the fun banter though, particularly @shareski’s tweets – this guy has an fun sense of humor!

I would say most of BC ASBO group were of the curious about social networking variety.  The session description asked them to read this post and sign up for a Twitter account prior to attending.  Some did put a toe in the water by signing up for a Twitter account, following each other, and send out a few tweets.  It will be interesting to see how many use it in a sustainable way.  If you’re interested, you can view and use my slides from the session.  Note that I included a few slides at the end that you might find helpful on effective uses of Facebook in schools, districts, and by teachers.  The last slide has a useful list of reference websites that I used in preparing the talk.

I’ve worked with a small group of principals for a few years helping them to adopt technology as part of their practice.  Twitter has been a part of their journey but it has yet to really “stick” for them.  I think the time commitment is a worry and they haven’t yet found it to be valuable enough to use regularly.  I wonder about how to help them get to the tipping point of usefulness...

So, what is it that takes a person from curious social networker to the point where they depend on it?  What is it about Twitter that works for you?  How do you use it and why is this valuable for you?  What advice would you offer to others getting started with social networking?