If you are not a Twitter user, you might think that Twitter is interesting, but just not interesting enough for you to bother with. After all, what value could Twitter possibly add to your career?
If you are Twitter user, you might think that Twitter is entertaining, but it is basically full of useless information (e.g., Charlie Sheen’s epic meltdown #WINNING) and that it definitely has no value as a professional networking tool.
Until recently, as a casual Twitter user, my opinion of Twitter was a mix of the previous two viewpoints; however, this changed when I accidentally stumbled upon a large, technical communications community on Twitter. As a result of this, I have found Twitter to be one of the most valuable networking tools I have ever used.
What is Twitter?
At its most basic level, Twitter is a social networking tool that enables users to rapidly communicate information (useful or inane), in real-time, in the form of short messages. These messages can include images and/or links to pretty much anything that can be posted on the web. There is only one rule — messages must be 140 characters or less.
Here is how the process works:
- Set up a Twitter profile.
- Start following people, organizations, companies, products etc.
- Reply to tweets, re-tweet other peoples tweets, and tweet your own tweets.
- Start being followed.
- Build relationships.
From a networking perspective, Twitter helps connect people with common interests and builds virtual communities centered around those interests. The larger the community gets, in theory, the more valuable it becomes because there are more connections to be made and more information to be shared.
Uncovering the technical communications Twitter community
About six months ago, I bought a book called the DITA Style Guide. I liked the book so much that I decided to follow the publisher, Scriptorium Press (@ScriptoriumTech), on Twitter. Since the easiest way to find people worth following on Twitter is to see who someone else is following and who is following them, I did just that. Scriptorium Press had a lot of followers, and I recognized quite a few of them right away, including TechWhirl (Techwr-l) (@techwritertoday). Then I looked through those profiles to see who those people were following and on and on. I realized rather quickly that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of technical communicators, and related organizations, companies, associations, groups etc. linked together in this massive network.
Has becoming part of this Twitter community added value to my technical communications career? Absolutely.
The hardest part about professional networking is establishing that first relationship. Twitter takes the ‘edge’ off this, by offering a more informal way of communicating with people. Since I have been part of this community, I have exchanged tweets with a lot of great people and developed several professional relationships that moved outside of realm of Twitter. Most notably, the relationship that I developed with Al and Connie after replying to a TechWhirl (Techwr-l) (@techwritertoday) tweet three months ago (they were looking to assemble a team of writers). A few tweets, a few emails, and a few phone calls later…
Here are some profiles in the technical communications area you might want to consider following:
|The Rockley Group
|MadCap Software, Inc
And of course: