Twitter and the Progressive Manager

Over the last couple of weeks I have been checking out the latest (?) web 2.0 phenomenon that is twitter.  (As I write these words I am so aware that at some point in the future, like  a week on Thursday this will seem so very dated!).

I mean really checking it out.  Giving it  a thorough workover, experimenting with it.  Seeing if I can use it for anything helpful and productive.

And I love it!  Well, most of the time.

Twitter is a simple blogging site with one very severe restriction.  Each post has to be less than 140 characters.  That is about two short sentences.

Check out my twitter page here www.twitter.com/mikechitty to get a feel for it.

I can choose to follow peoples ‘tweets’ and they can choose to follow mine.  Each time someone I follow tweets – I can see what they are up to.  If they bore me or aren’t relevant then I stop following them.  If they are interesting, relevant, entertaining, resourceful or in some other way they bring colour to my day then they stay on the follow list.

Easy to set up and addictive to use, already twitter has helped to me connect with a whole bunch of people that I would otherwise not have found.  A Llama farmer in North Devon who is passionate about small business; a sheep dog handler in Northamptonshire who loves facilitation; a rugby loving family man from Exeter who earns his living trying to make local strategic partnerships work. I know more about the workings of the #uktrains than the fat controller.

All of these and many more have provided me with information, insight and opportunities.  I am currently following about 200 people and being followed by a similar number.  As I get more efficient in using twitter I will be able to follow more without it taking more time as I get better at filtering and searching for stuff that connects.

Essentially I use twitter as a flow of information and intelligence into me.  It is a great tool for what the strategy bods call ‘environmental scanning’.   I learn a lot of very useful, hard edged stuff that helps with work.  But I also learn some very human stuff that keeps things compassionate and warm.  I know that one of  my fellow twitterers has a son who is hospitalised with asthma at the moment, I know another has just relocated from Seattle to Washington DC.  I learn about the human being as well as the professional which, while it might annoy some, I love.

I am also followed at the moment by a couple of hundred people.  Some of these just follow anyone.  The more you follow and are followed the better is one viewpoint.  I am more discriminating.  I only follow people whose tweets work for me!  Some are following me because they are interested in my work, my ideas and what I am doing.  Some follow me because each tweet acts as a little nudge – perhaps reminding them of something they learned from me.  (I am considering set up a specific PMN account to tweet daily reminders about the power of 121s, giving feedback, coaching etc).

Having a community of followers, albeit small but perfectly formed is very flattering.  And another useful little community for me to test ideas on, ask for help from (yesterday I got a great response for requests for good online whiteboards that allow me to co-create and talk about diagrams with others on the web!) and generally commune with.  A plea for examples of social media being used to good effect in community development has unearthed several leads for me to explore.  Another twitterer has put me in touch with a consultancy looking to showcase great enterprise projects.  As a marketing tool, twitter is working for me.  It  does takes time – I reckon I spend an hour a day twittering – but it doesn’t feel like work – and it ‘fits’ wonderfully into the spaces between bigger pieces of work.

At the moment the twitterverse seems to be overpopulated with techy types. Twittering about twitter the way that bloggers used to (and still do) blog about blogging.  You can always ‘unfollow’ them.  But there are also different themes emerging, such as:

  • How can we use web 2.0 to get better at what we do – whether that is management, education and training, providing services for mental health, starting businesses, researching markets or whatever.
  • How can we use web 2.0 to engage more people
  • What role can the web play in community capacity building, economic and social development.

These themes engage me.  Knowing about them helps to pay my mortgage.  IT is not all about web 2.0 – but if you are not thinking about how web 2.0 impacts on what you are trying to do in life then I think you are missing a trick.

So for the manager twitter can:

  • improve communication with the team, peers, customers and the competition
  • help get early warning of problems and opportunities
  • portray a more human and rounded face of you and your organisation

So at the moment twitter gets a big thumbs up.  I won’t be deleting my twitter account just yet.

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