by Alexandra Janvey, Head Editor, INALJ Iowa
Top 3 Reasons to Use Twitter
Twitter has quickly become my favorite social media outlet, but it wasn’t always this way. When I first joined the microblogging service, my attention and interest quickly faded because I was using the technology without a true purpose or focus. I signed up for a Twitter account after hearing the buzz about it, but didn’t understand it’s true value yet. It wasn’t until I started graduate school for my Library and Information Science degree did I attempt to try Twitter for a second time as part of an assignment. My second experience with Twitter was completely different than before. I got hooked and haven’t stopped tweeting since. This was largely due to the fact that a huge community of librarians used Twitter to exchange ideas, converse, and support one another. Now that I had an area or group to focus on, there was much more activity and content to keep my interest and attention. It was exciting to be able to communicate with professionals in the field from all over, learn about current trends, events, and much more.
In my new career as a librarian and archivist, I’ve been able to use this social media outlet as a free, convenient, and powerful professional development tool. When used properly, twitter can serve as a platform for connecting with others in the field – receiving timely news within the profession, accessing resources, sharing and discussing ideas, following conferences, and asking for advice. It allows you to connect with others on both a personal and professional level, and there really isn’t another tool out there quite like it.
Reason #1 – Keep up with the profession
I believe the main reason many are captivated with Twitter is its ability to share relevant news, trends, articles, and other resources instantly across large distances. It’s a great tool for sharing information to a wide audience, and also useful for receiving relevant information. I can’t count the number of events that I’ve discovered through Twitter that I would have never known about otherwise, or how much I’ve learned from other resources such as books recommendations and articles that have appeared in my Twitter timeline. Not only are the shared resources useful, but there is also a lot of good discussion happening on Twitter between library and information professionals. They support each other, talk about changes occurring within the profession, best practices and innovative projects, receive and exchange feedback, learn how to better advocate for the profession, and how to do their jobs more effectively. Knowledge is power, especially in a field such as librarianship that is rapidly changing. Twitter is a great way to acquire and share the knowledge that is necessary to promote positive growth within the profession.
Reason #2 – Get questions answered
Another great reason to start using Twitter is that it’s a great place to get questions answered. Whether you are a recent graduate, in your first position, or seasoned information professional, there will be times when you find yourself stuck and in need of advice or guidance. Months ago, I found myself in such a position and turned to Twitter for ideas.
The problem involved a large amount of boxes in the archive where I work that were in need of spacer boards to keep the records upright, prevent further bending and curving. Ordering the large amount of spacer boards needed for this endeavor was not an option at the time because it was too expensive, especially after we had just put in an order of supplies for other projects. So, I asked if anyone on Twitter knew how to create alternative homemade spacer boards instead of buying them from an archival supply company – ones that could be just as effective. As it happens, a fellow archivist tweeted back within a day that she used to roll up file folders and use them as spacer boards at a former job. It was a great idea that I’ve been able to use to stabilize the records in the archive. It was a great temporary solution until my department had the funds to buy the real spacer boards from the archival supply company.
There is no limit to the questions you can thrust upon the Twitterverse and while all may not be answered, some of them will be. I’ve seen numerous inquires for information asked through Twitter such as links to relevant resources on a specific topic, upcoming training events, opinions about a current issue, advice for a difficult situation, and much more. Questions don’t have to be limited to the professional variety either. I once received great advice on what dessert to serve with a meal I was cooking.
Reason #3 – Follow conferences
Twitter also makes a great backchannel for discussion during (and even after) conferences, webinars, and other events. It’s a great place to comment on presentations, a venue for further discussion, and a way to connect with fellow attendees. There have been many times where I wouldn’t have realized a friend was attending the same conference as me if I hadn’t seen them tweeting. Live tweeting at conferences also allows those who could not make an event the chance to still follow what’s happening and learn. Even those who attend a conference can also use the Twitter hashtag # stream to go back and follow those sessions they were unable to attend. In all, it’s a very useful tool that enhances the learning experience.
Editor’s note: And now INALJ is getting into the Tweet Chat universe with #inaljchat on Mondays at 9pm EST (the last Monday of the month will be at Noon EST and have an international focus).