The key, in my opinion, is taking the time to develop a manageable group to follow. Following fewer than 20 probably won’t generate a conversation worth the effort, while many hundreds seems like overkill, but, hey, I’m just getting started.
Just this morning, during a lecture at Bentley College that I followed via Qik (a service I learned about via Twitter, BTW), Laura Fitton (aka @pistachio) told the students: “If you get the right five followers you can change the world!”
I’m most interested in PR and social media topics and have carefully built a group that provides commentary and links to information that I otherwise never would have found through RSS or other ways.
One example of this is Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a service launched by Peter Shankman that links reporters with sources. Kind of like ProfNet, but it’s free and has already landed some outstanding coverage for users. I never would have heard about it without Tweets from @skydiver and in fact a reporter who writes for a national business magazine is currently considering a story about a Sawmill client, thanks to HARO.
Of course there’s much more, but when you hear people complain about Twitter being a waste of time, it’s probably because they’re following the wrong people. Sure, some people Tweet “good morning” to all or drone on for 140 characters about what they had for lunch, but if you determine what category you want to follow (maybe knitters who Twitter; there’s even a worm farmer on Twitter), take the time to find and follow (and un-follow if necessary), you can assemble a group well worth following.
Watch for Part II of this post tomorrow: actual examples of what makes Twitter worth the effort from my PR/social media perspective. Have some favorite uses? Share them with us.