Saturday, September 22, 2012

Twitter is Not Living Up to Its Potential

On Thursday I wrote about the professional development potential of Twitter.  Unfortunately, though, (just like many of my former students) Twitter isn’t quite living up to its potential right now.  I read an old blog post of Justin Tarte’s (@justintarte) the other day that made me realize that interacting with others is a crucial part of building your Twitter network.  After spending a good amount of time trying to determine exactly how to do this I came to the conclusion that asking questions was the key. 

There are two types of questions that I have tweeted since Thursday hoping to reach beyond my followers – direct (replies asking someone for information about a resource they have shared or an event or organization that they are involved in) and general (inquiries asking the followers of certain hashtags for assistance).  None of them have gotten responses. 
I understand that I am the new kid in town and that to a certain extent I have to prove myself.  However, I am baffled by the lack of responses to the direct questions considering that the network I am trying to build is one of people who are committed to improving education.  If a student raised their hand during class to ask a question, would they simply be ignored?  I am even a little taken aback by the lack of the lack of responses to the general inquiries.  I might not be asking the most profound questions, but it’s also not like I am asking for advice on the charley horse that woke me up screaming in the middle of the night.  Again, thinking about the classroom – when you first use a new piece of technology students often have non-content related questions.

So, I have decided to do an experiment of sorts.  I have three different things that I am going to try and see which (if any) will finally get me some answers:

1.  Tweet again: Max Ray (@maxmathforum) mentioned in a comment to one of my previous blog posts that there is only a 1/3 chance of any tweet being seen.   So, maybe the "teacher" isn't ignoring me, but simply didn't see that my hand was raised.  Therefore, if I don’t get a response within 48 hours I am simply going to ask again.  I wonder, though, at what point I run the risk of becoming the annoying kid because just because the person or people the question was directed at might not have seen it doesn’t mean that others didn’t.  

2.   Purposely time my tweets:  The Social Media Guide (@socialguide) says that 12:00 p.m. EST is the best time to tweet because it coincides with key daily events (beginning of the work day, lunch, and end of the work day) in three different time zones.  Dan Zarella (@danzarella) also says that people are more likely to click on links over the weekend.   I know that I favorited a number of tweets over the past two days to do just that because I wasn’t able to give them the attention that I wanted to at the time that I received them. 

3.   Tweet synchronously: I found that I had the most true interaction during last Sunday’s #21stedchat.   Others asked questions and I answered.  I asked questions and others answered.  People retweeted me and someone even favorited one of my tweets.  It seems that participating once was not enough to really impact my professional network (again, that whole proving myself thing), but I think that if I constantly interact with the same people I will see a difference.


  1. I empathize with you since I have had some of the same experiences. To make things even more complicated, my school blocks Twitter so when I get home after teaching, coaching, dinner, etc, it seems as if the peak Twitter time has passed for anyone to notice my tweets. However, I believe that you are absolutely correct in that participating in Twitter chats is one of the better ways to strengthen your PLN. In addition, I always come back to one of the things I read about how to use Twitter (I forget who said it) which is that in the beginning, you should focus more on strengthening the relationship with the people you are interacting with, rather than "chasing followers" or expecting "everyone" to reply to your tweets. The vast majority of us will never be Twitter superstars, but if we cultivate our relationships carefully, we can slowly but surely build a foundation for a strong PLN. I do believe that patience is a virtue when it comes to Twitter!

    1. I smiled when I read your comment because as I was driving yesterday (I often do some of my best reflection in the car) and thinking about the Bruce Springsteen concert that I attended on Saturday night it suddenly dawned on me that I am not a rock star and accordingly my professional success is not based on building a large following. Rather, as you said, it is based on building the right following. As I referenced in a previous blog post, I think that it can be hard for people who don't know you to get a full picture using only 140 characters. In addition to participating in Twitter Chats, I think that cultivating relationships requires interacting with people off of Twitter. In particular, reading other user's blogs and posting comments helps to strength connections.

      I do still think that people should reply when you ask them a direct question and I am happy to report that the questions I referred to in this blog post were both answered the second time around. One of the responses led to a back-and-forth exchange of a couple of tweets and the other person then opted to start following me. The other response was simply that - a response. I realized that both gave me what I initially sought - specific information - and, therefore, both were of value. One was simply more valuable than the other, so that is the one I will continue to try to build.