Last week I posted that Twitter can definitely be used as a form of professional communication. I mentioned how Twitter is just as important as email to me. I discuss library related things on Twitter just as much as I do via email.
How do I do this without it being a huge time committment? Personally I believe a lot of it boils down to the Twitter program I use. I use TweetDeck or Hootsuite. These two programs are very similar and are light years better than the regular Twitter page for everyday Twitter use.
TweetDeck is installed on a computer and can be an app on the iPhone or iPad. I use TweetDeck on my personal PC and really it is my preferrred Twitter program. However, it is a bit buggy my iPhone and iPad and since it must be installed I can’t use it on other PCs. So when I can’t use TweetDeck I use Hootsuite. Hootsuite lives on the web and doesn’t require installation. It also seems to work best with my mobile devices.
Many people like myself have their email program up and running in the background, so when they are working on something a small pop up box flashes on to the lower corner of their work screen. (Shown below)
TweetDeck does something similar in the top right of my screen.
This allows me to go about my daily work without having to switch between applications to try and view tweets or conversations. If the box pops up, I glance at it quickly to determine if I am interested or need to respond, which is exactly what I do with an email pop up. For me, this auto pop up feature has made TweetDeck as integrated in my work flow as email.
Hootsuite behaves a little differently, it doesn’t have a pop up box (which is the whole reason I LOVE TweetDeck) but it does have a little audio alert (much less annoying than TweetDeck) that tells me there was another tweet. (Always be considerate and where earbuds at work if you are going to have audio alerts.)
There are a whole host of features to TweetDeck and Hootsuite that making following groups of people and conversations easier and more effective than the plain old Twitter page. You can sort groups of people and topics into columns, making it easier to follow similar people (librarians) or topics (#medlibs). Below is my a picture of the columns I follow in TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
At first glance this looks like A LOT of information and tweets, but the important thing to know is that only my Home Feed is moving a lot and showing a lot of tweets. The other columns only show a tweet every once and a while.
The Home Feed are the tweets of everyone I follow that is why it is so active. It like view hundreds of chats all at one time. I don’t follow a ton of people so I still have my home feed viewable. Some people who follow thousands of people don’t have their home feed viewable at all. They choose to monitor conversations by creating columns based on people or topics.
The column with #medlibs is every tweet where somebody uses the hashtag #medlib, which has become the standard method about medical librarianship questions, issues, etc. In my TweetDeck image you can also see the column General Health Sci Tweets, this is an example of a column of people I follow. I created a list of people/companies that tweet on that subject. I have a General Health Sci list, Medical Librarians list, and Non Medical Librarians list. I usually always have the General Health Sci list going because that include librarians, doctors, vendors ets. The other lists I check once or twice a day just to see if anything interesting has been tweeted. Creating and lists and adding them as column is a great way to manage your twitter discussions if you follow a variety of different people and subjects.
I hid the DM (Direct Message) column, but that is a listing of all the people who private messaged me. The Mentions feed (@Me on TweetDeck) is a list of every tweet where somebody includes @Krafty in their post. This is very helpful if somebody asks a question and you don’t follow them, this feed will catch it and I can respond to them. It also helpful if a person mentions somebody in tweet because they often include their Twitter name. I use this method often when I am talking about vendor products.
Examples of this are:
- Widgets available for #OvidSP @WKHealthOvid
- Anybody know how to bold a word within the widget screen of libguides @SpringShare
Vendors monitor their @’s on Twitter and they respond quite quickly. I have gotten a quicker response posting on Twitter like this than I have on Medlib-l.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it is quite simple to create the columns because TweetDeck and Hootsuite feature column display. As I mentioned the Home feed is the fast moving active feed and I really don’t sit and stare at it the whole time. I really rely on the pop up box (in TweetDeck) to view things as they come. The other columns have tweets but usually those don’t come that often (at most 1 an hour) unless I am monitoring a very active discussion. For example the #medlibs column is often quiet with about 1-2 tweets an hour, but Thursdays at 9pm that column is very active because that is time when we have a #medlibs tweet chat.
People sometimes tell me that while Twitter is neat they find it hard to follow conversations and discussions. There are several ways to help make that easier. First, use the hashtag like #medlibs if you are tweeting about a topic or something that would be of interest to a group. Second, click on the conversation link that is displayed on TweetDeck. *Note this feature only works if there is a conversation. If it is a single tweet there obviously isn’t a conversation so the conversation link does not show.
Here are two screen shots of how you can follow converstations within TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
Viewing the conversation prevents me from having to scroll around and search for each individual tweet in the conversation thread.
There are several other features to both TweetDeck and Hootsuite that make using them far superior to the plain old Twitter page. I rarely go into the Twitter site because it lacks functionality for everyday use. There are other programs that you might find are better for your workflow. For me the pop up notification of TweetDeck is the most important feature for me, it allows me to do my regular job and just look at tweets as needed.
If you have tried to do Twitter for professional communication but you use it through Twitter’s site and it hasn’t gone well, try TweetDeck or Hootsuite. A perfect way to see if it fits into your work flow is to go to Twitter create an account (if you don’t have one) and then create a Hootsuite account or download TweetDeck. Use it for 1-2 weeks and experiment with it. Maybe it will work for you.
Finally, I know a lot of what I just wrote about can seem pretty technical and in depth for those new to Twitter. My advice is to take it slow, get your feet wet, experiment, and follow some great medical librarian twitters like me @krafty, Nikki Dettmar @eagledawg, PF Anderson @pfanderson, Eric Rumsey @ericrumsey, and Sally Gore @mandosally. We can help you along the way as you experiment.
A great way to experiment is to participate in the #medlibs chat every Thursday 9pm est. Tonight is “Free Range Thursday” where the topic is up for grabs and it can be on anything related to medical libraries. Still nervous about participating in a Twitter chat, here is a great article on The Chronicle, “How (and Why) to Participate in a Tweetchat” to get you started.