Seven top tips for building your professional learning network with Twitter

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Twitter really can take up your whole day! It’s a whole continuing professional education all by itself, if you follow the right people and follow up on links to blogs and websites that people point out. So if you want to have a life as well as reading Twitter (let alone tweeting yourself) then it’s vital to have a strategy for getting the most out of Twitter with the minimum investment of time.

  1. Be selective about who you follow. Just as William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”, it could be said of Twitter: “Follow only those whom you know to be informative or believe to be entertaining.”
  2. Use lists: as often as possible I read all the people that I follow, but when I’m short of time, I have themed lists so that I can read what’s most important to me at that time. I have a current awareness list which is a stream of information and news sources, and a list of friends who I want to keep up with, a list of people who write great blogs, and several subject-related lists.
  3. Don’t feel obliged to respond all the time. I interact with people as much as possible – it’s what Twitter is all about after all! However sometimes it’s fair enough to read and run… Make some time to interact – with a mobile device you can use the otherwise “dead” time on transport or in waiting rooms.
  4. Search – I use search in Twitter and have searches set up to run regularly on keywords that are of interest to me – the keywords may vary with what I’m currently interested in or doing, but that enables me to identify new people who are interesting to read.
  5. Follow hashtags eg for conferences – it can be almost as good as being there, especially combined with blog posts and often recordings of at least the keynote speakers. Use Twapperkeeper or similar to archive the tweetstream to read at your leisure later
  6. Keep your own tweets to the point. If necessary split your tweets into two accounts, e.g., for professional and personal (so you don’t bore everyone at work with the details of remodelling your house) or between strands of professional activity.
  7. Don’t try to do anything with Twitter when the failwhale is around. All services sometimes struggle or do maintenance and Twitter is no exception. Save your tweaks [or even tweets!]  until it’s back up and save frustration!

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