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You might be using Twitter wrong (because I was)

[Disclaimer: this isn’t a “best social media practices” blog post; it’s simply me admitting a stupidly obvious idea that you might’ve overlooked, too.]

A couple of months ago, I discovered this really neat social media service called Twitter.

I know, I know. Where have I been? I don’t live under a rock (although I do live on one). In fact, I originally registered for Twitter in 2009. I followed my friends, some other people involved in the organizations I was interested in, and my university; I awkwardly tried to fit a few status updates into 140 characters; and I tried using a hashtag or two. 

Then I gave up.

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I couldn’t figure out why I’d use Twitter instead of Facebook. So I went dormant on the former and stuck to the latter.

A couple of months ago, however, Engadget (a popular technology news site) posted a couple of articles on “who to follow in technology”, listing a number of their journalists and other commentators with expertise in different companies and areas. Then it hit me - you can do this in any field. You don’t need to know or encounter someone before you follow them - you can literally search for the experts and exciting people in whatever topics interest you. You can listen to (and sometimes engage in) dialogue at the cutting edge of work in your field. 

For the first time, scrolling through my Twitter feed wasn’t just for fun or a waste of time. So, now, every couple of weeks, I cull the list of people I follow on Twitter, cutting out people who simply haven’t been relevant to me. At the same time, I actively search for new people to follow on these topics, making sure I’ve added authors I’ve recently been reading or simply googling “People to follow in *x*”. 

Twitter and Facebook now have two very real and very useful purposes for me. As I said at the top, this might be a stupidly obvious idea - but I’m not sure most people use Twitter with this much intention. So, if you don’t already, try it! Think of the kinds of work you’re doing or research you’re learning about and seek out the people or organizations who are talking about it.

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