Two years on Twitter

I’m coming up to my 2 year anniversary using Twitter. No, I haven’t been counting the days, there are easier ways to find out. Anyhow I thought I’d share my thoughts on the whole Twitter thing.

The first I’d heard of it was via an American, would you believe. I read in a Marketing Sherpa piece about a Peter Shankman who had set up a Facebook group called Help A Reporter Out, where journalists looking for sources could post their queries. The group soon outgrew the 1200 limit set at the time (or that was the limit on messages that could be sent out, I forget which) and a website was set up called helpareporter.com. In emails sent out there was always a mention ‘for urgent haros follow me on Twitter @skydiver’ . Out of curiosity I signed up.

Like a lot of people signing up without knowing how it works or who to follow, I floundered around for a while I’m sure, probably not talking to anyone but following links etc. I was probably following the social media gurus and blogging experts across the water. Then at some stage I found some Irish folk or they found me. I must admit it opened up a whole new world to me.

I never knew there was such a large online community in Ireland. It was almost like discovering a parallel universe. There were Open Coffees and Bizcamps and all sorts of digital meetups that I knew nothing about. The sad thing is most of these are promoted online, so if you’re not online in the right places you rarely find out about them, in my experience anyhow.

I’ve met loads of wonderful people and learned loads of fantastic things through Twitter. If you want to know something or have a query on how to do something most likely you will be able to find out via Twitter.

Once I got into it I was tweeting like a thing possesed, on my pc, laptop, blackberry and then iPhone. I couldn’t watch TV without tweeting about it and my viewing was often dictated by what others on Twitter were talking about. I’d switch to that program so I could join in the conversation. Ok, that probably sounds worse than it was. To put into context, to date I’ve 7287 tweets over 714 days, that’s an average of around 10 tweets a day. Of course some days there would be a lot more and other days hardly any or none at all.

Lately (as in the last few months) I haven’t been as active as when at my peak (on Twitter that is!). There are a number of reasons for this.

It takes time to tweet. Despite what is often said by the gurus, it does take time. Taking my average 10 a day and multiply it by 30 or 60 seconds (conservative estimate of how long it takes me to type a tweet) gives you 5 or 10 minutes a day simply typing. Now factor in time spent reading other peoples tweets, copying and pasting interesting links and following links to read an article or blog post that someone is sharing. It doesn’t take long before an hour or two is spent. Basically, engaging in conversations online (or offline) takes time, otherwise you’re just broadcasting.

Adverse effect on productivity. Because of the time spent on Twitter, especially during working hours, it definitely meant I was less productive on the tasks I should have been focusing on. It’s very easy to get pulled into reading tweets, following links and chatting away. Mainly because it’s so enjoyable. If major news starts to break, as it regularly does, then it’s very hard to pull yourself away. But now I’m happy to wait until I hear the news on radio or TV. I don’t really care if I’m not one of the first to know about some political scandal or somebody dying.

I like to daydream. This may seem at odds with the previous paragraph but actually it complements my productivity. One of the side effects of Twitter and the Internet as a whole is information overload. In any given day I could read dozens of articles and blog posts across a range of subjects. They would be informative, educational and entertaining. I enjoy reading them and have learned a lot, for which I am thankful. But it meant my brain was soaking in vast amounts of information without getting a chance to rest. Now if I’m waiting somewhere, waiting for something to download, waiting to meet someone or simply just waiting, I let my mind wander. I daydream, I engage in people watching, I think about issues affecting my work or private life. You need to give your brain a chance to wander to let the creative juices flow.

Plancast and Foursquare. These two services have eliminated some of my reasons for logging in to Twitter. Plancast keeps me updated on events that people whose opinions I value are attending. I get a notification email telling me that so and so is attending such and such. It’s a great tool. Foursquare allows me to ‘check in’ at various locations and posts it to Twitter and Facebook should I choose to allow it. So instead of Tweeting ‘I’m getting new tyres for the car’ I check in to the tyre shop on Foursquare and can also add a comment. I have another reason for doing this. If I’m in one of my customers premises, I’ll check in and announce it to my friends on Twitter and Facebook. This gives my customers some extra publicity and hopefully translates into extra business for them. You also get lovely virtual ‘badges’ for regular use 🙂

Family Time. This is the main reason I cut back on tweeting outside of work hours. I have four fantastic children, the eldest of whom is five years, the youngest is five weeks. From the time I finish work to when they go to bed only adds up to a couple of hours. The best gift you can give a child is your time. I try to give them that gift every day. Then when the kids are in bed there’s my wonderful wife who is also equally deserving of my attention. It takes me a good hour to check that she has completed the household chores to my satisfaction! What’s a man to do 🙂

There’s other minor things as well I’m sure, but I’ve gone on long enough. I’m not knocking Twitter, I still think it’s a great tool (if that’s what you call it). Social Media apparently affects the brain like falling in love. It triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains, the cuddle chemical, in other words oxytocin. If that be so, I think my love affair with twitter seems to have come to an end, but we will always remain good friends

Funnily enough when I logged onto Twitter before finishing this post it was down. She must be sulking.

Nowadays I just get the chance to jump in and out occasionally and I find if I’ve missed a few days it seems to take a while to get back into it.

But who knows, maybe someone will come up with virtual twiagra and our love affair can blossom once again.