988 tweets later: what I learned

On October 17, 2011, I started seriously with Twitter. Why? I participated in a one-hour workshop that was kindly offered by Dutch Railways. People from @Edelman_NL conducted the workshop and there were some great lessons. The main lesson: if you want to learn about Social Media you have to be active.
First choice I made was to tweet in English. The company I work for (ARCADIS) is a multinational company, and I work with people all over the world (colleagues, business partners etc.).
The second choice was to commit to tweet at least two times per working day. Today is Day 164 and my tweet counter is at 988, so that is on average 6 tweets per day (counting seven days per week). This target is met, question is if over-achievement on this target is a good thing!
What did I learn in nearly six months, 988 tweets and +1000 followers later. Eleven lessons from a Twitter rookie.

  1. Everybody seems to love lists
    On Twitter everybody seems to love lists. I (used to) hate them. Many many many lists passed my screen. Twelve great lessons on Leadership, the sixteen vegetarian dishes Steve Jobs hated most, ten ways to turn your divorce into an opportunity etc. etc.
    I have not been able to resist, as you can see,  and now I produce my own lists.
  2. I met some nice/  interesting people
    The Twitter world seems to full with nice and very polite people. If you re-tweet, they thank you, the same if you start following them. Over time I got to know some people better. People who tweet about subjects I am interested in and who point me in the direction of interesting content. Volume is an issue. In the beginning I had the tendency to want to read all the tweets of the people I followed. This turned out to be impossible, and I learned to let go. Adding people and organizations to lists helps.
  3. The amount of Twitterer’s and Tweets is somewhat intimidating!
    The amount of people on Twitter is somewhat intimidating. In my domain, HR, there are so many companies and one-person bands, that it is difficult to see the trees through the wood. I admire all the people who have had the courage to start their own consultancy/ coaching company, but looking at the people that I meet on Twitter it looks like everybody who was ever in HR has started a new company.
  4. Flat advertising does not work
    Some companies/ people that follow me send pure advertisements, often not clearly targeted. Why would I need a swimming pool cleaner in Florida (we do not have a house in Florida) or a Mexican restaurant in Paulo Alto? Also when it is better targeted (payroll systems, training companies, engagement surveys) it is annoying if the tweets and the bio are pure advertising. There are companies who do a better job. Example: Kenexa (@Kenexa_HR_Inst), who have a real informative Twitter account, providing good HR content (I am not a client, but the associations I have with the name have certainly become more positive).
  5. I get a lot of information via Twitter
    Most important: in the past months Twitter has developed into a major source of information for me. On many subjects (leadership, engagement, HR, generation Y, organizational design) I have been connected to rich content. Recent, but also recycled high quality older content. Some publishers stand out because of the high quality content they make available.
    HBR (@HarvardBiz), Fast Company (@FastCompany), Inc (@Inc), McKinsey (@McKQuarterly) and Forbes (@Forbes), to mention a few. Great content (and all free).
  6. Stimulated me to read more/ write more
    The continuous flow of information I receive through Twitter has certainly stimulated me. To read more, to share more and to write more.
  7. The power of feedback
    Twitter has also illustrated (again) the power of feedback. For me it is still early days, but I can be happy with a “retweet” or a “mention”, even if the original content was not mine (most of it, in fact). A day without some interactions on Twitter does not feel good.
  8. Twitter is somewhat brave and humorless
    Sometimes being active on Twitter seems a bit like going to church. All the things that are said and listed are true, but often so brave and so humorless. The ideal world is sketched, but this is an illusion. If all our leaders were behaving as Twitter prescribes in the lists with 12/18/3 things a good leader should do, then the organizational world would be a heaven on earth! Where is the humor, where is the irony? A very entertaining account is @GSElevator, with gossip out of the Goldman Sachs elevator. They are an exception (and probably banned in US and China).
  9. Good tools are necessary
    Some good tools have helped me to find my way on Twitter and to become somewhat more effective. There are many lists, as you can imagine (The 12 best tools to maximize your Twitter Account). The one I use regularly: SummifyBufferapp and SocialBro. There are many more!
  10. It is still early days
    It seems to be still early days on Twitter, especially in the areas where I am active. Not many people in my company are active, although some of my most inter-active followers are Arcadians. In a management meeting where I presented Twitter and FourSquare a typical reaction as “This is for people with a lot of spare time, which we do not have!”. This will change, I am sure, but our industry is certainly not ahead of the curve. In the past months I have been convinced about the possibilities and opportunities, and that it will be necessary (and fun!) to go with the flow and to become more pro-active.
  11. Time involvement can be big
    Although I do not have a lot of spare time, I have been able to find the time to be active on Twitter. Commuting by train helps as does frequent air travel with long waits. With iPhone and iPad a lot can be done. The reward is also there, although it is still difficult to quantify.

All in all: for me a very positive experience so far. I will keep you posted, via this blog (which I started because I found out that  tweeting without a blog is like ……. without a ………) and via my tweets.

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