Okay – so you listened to all those people who go on and on about their personal learning network (PLN) and signed up for Twitter. You still aren’t sure ‘this is for you’ and so there you sit – with your ‘egg’ profile picture, following 5 or 6 people and you’re thinking “What’s the deal?” How do you make the leap from admittedly passive Twitter newbie to ‘active’ participant? This post deals with some things to keep in mind as you grow your PLN.
Ditch the Egg and Tell Us Who You Are: If you met a new professional wouldn’t you introduce yourself? So please do the same on Twitter. You don’t have to upload your own photo – but at least start with an image. I know many key people – great people to follow – who block ‘eggs’ not knowing who they are. The same goes for a short ‘introduction’. Who are you and why are you on Twitter? Providing some basic information like “French teacher in BC new to Twitter – curious about EdTech” let’s the PLN know that you are safe to have as a follower – and can even result in a follow back.
“Manage” Your Twitter Feed: For me this is two things – “Lists” and “Turn Off Retweets”. If the Twitter stream is the general feed then lists are your ‘channels’. Create lists that are meaningful to you by answering the question “Why am I following this person?” When you answer (to yourself) – they are good with ‘educational technology’ – then that’s your list. (More info on ‘Listing‘ is here). I also ‘turn off retweets (RT)’. I know that I RT and so do many but I find that I am very interested in who I follow and what they have to say – and not so interested in a multitude of ‘retweets’ to wade through. So I make the choice to turn them off. I don’t feel like I miss too much – and it prevents me from being overwhelmed by posts.
It’s Okay to ‘Unfollow”: I know that it is a courtesy to follow back who follows you but – it also has to work for you. If you find that someone tweets the majority of time about things that don’t interest you it’s okay to “unfollow”. Construct your PLN in a way that works for you and provides you with the information that you need. If a person you follow is more about the personal than the professional then they may not be for you. There’s a reason you are their ‘tweep’ (or not) Following takes time, and management to get right – think about your reasons for joining in the first place. You will tweak your ‘following’ list more than once and that’s okay. However the more you step out as a participant in Twitter – the more you will begin find more reasons to follow a person than not to.
To “Public” or “Protect”?: That is a good question. Most people new to Twitter start with a ‘locked’ protected account. It’s safe – and you control it. With the protected account you must approve followers and that keeps you safe from ‘spam’ followers. But there is a downside to the protection. For example, only your approved followers will see your tweets and they won’t be able to share anything you tweet with their PLN via RT’s. Being ‘public’ allows the twitterverse as a whole to benefit from what you share. Sure the odd student or weirdo spammer may find you. But you can ‘block’ anyone you don’t want to have follow you – and the benefits of public tweeting can really outweigh the private.
Find Some Time: Nobody has “time”. We are all busy, with too much to do and seemingly no time. So find some time for this new PLN. Some new users set aside 10 minutes of quiet time (not in the middle of class or the rush at the end of the day) to look through their feed. This is a scheduled amount of time – specifically set to develop this new Twitter habit. Gradually many users find those natural times/breaks in the day when they are receptive to what their PLN has to offer. So recognize that you are developing new pro-d habits and give it a little time to grow.
Welcome to Twitter….we in the worldwide PLN look forward to seeing you there! Next week – a look at leaving ‘lurking’, finding people to follow and stepping into the ‘chat’….