4: Twitter and microblogging (core)

What is microblogging?
Microblogging is, in essence, a shortened form of blogging. It is a form of online communication that allows you to share messages instantly with anyone who follows your account. Twitter is one example of a microblogging site, you can find examples of many others here.

microblogging word cloud

Why microblog?
People use microblogging platforms for all kinds of reasons. Personal entries might be an update about a person’s day, a photograph, a message sent to another microblogger, a bit of wit and wisdom, or an informative link about a subject they think other people might be interested in. Commercial microblogs also exist to promote websites, services and/or products, and to promote engagement within an organisation. It can increase opportunities to share information and help realise and utilise expertise within the workforce. Microblogging services are used to provide instant information updates, allowing people access to news at their fingertips. A post can be sent within seconds of something happening and that update can be seen by millions of other microbloggers straight away. 

Some microblogging services, including Twitter, offer features such as privacy settings, which allow users to control who can read their posts. In the business world, security can naturally be a concern, since there is potential for sensitive information to be publicised on microblogging sites. To minimise risk organisations can set up accounts with private microblogging platforms such as Yammer so that they can contain information within a specific professional community, rather than share it with the outside world. This is an example of enterprise social software.

Twitter: an introduction
Twitter is a commonly used microblogging site (on 21 March 2013 twitter celebrated its 7th birthday!). It allows each user to send a short update (a “tweet”) on their current activity to a selected group of followers from a computer or mobile phone. Each update is limited to just 140 characters. Users can view “Tweets” via the Web, via an RSS feed, and via text on a mobile phone, or any number of third party apps. (An app is a software application which allows you to do an activity of some kind. These days, it’s particularly associated with mobile phones.)
The Twitter Help Centre contains everything you’ll need to know about twitter. You can take a tour to introduce this platform and learn how to get started. You can also watch this video, how to use twitter.


Libraries and Twitter
Library services are increasingly using twitter and other social media as means of communicating with users. This can be updating users to changes in services, promoting library resources, communicating information about events and providing links to information of interest to library users. More and more libraries in all sectors are now engaging with users online and having a presence on twitter is becoming increasingly important for library services as a means for showcasing both online and offline resources. Orkney Libraries remains a prime example of a library service which despite a relatively small physical presence, has built an online following of almost 8,000 people via twitter. Users can engage with libraries online by tweeting comments, opinions or pictures- since the new Library of Birmingham opened people hundreds of people have tweeted to share their thoughts. Have a search for some library services on twitter.
Here’s a Guardian article about libraries using Twitter.

Professional Develoment and Twitter

Twitter is emerging as a vital tool for communication, inspiring people to become connected at a worldwide level. With its potential to raise people’s profiles both personally and professionally, twitter can also be a useful tool for continued professional development. People within the information professions love to communicate and joining in with this community on twitter is one of the best ways to find out what’s going on. Using twitter professionally is a brilliant way of sharing ideas, research, events information, best practice, services and endless ways of learning. Twitter is all about connecting with people after all!
There are lots of examples people have shared about how twitter has helped them personally and professionally. Check out these lists of tweeting librarians– have a look and see if you’d like to follow any!

Being an active ‘tweeter’ is like entering a stream of conversation. If you’re interested in networking with other library and information professionals, twitter is the most accessible way you can connect. 

#UKLibChat is a monthly based discussion group on twitter which is open to all library and information professionals. It is a great way of being able to connect with fellow professionals, ask questions and contribute ideas. Each chat session is based on a relevent professional topic and people can contribute to an agenda and suggest future topics for discussion. You can also find information on #IreLibChat on LibFocus, the Ireland based communal blog for information professionals.
As a micro-blogging platform twitter requires information to be communicated concisely in 140 characters or less. In a sense micro-blogging is about condensing information and sending out instant, easily digestible messages. With an infinite amount of information available on the internet this is a useful skill and social micro-blogging sites such as twitter are becoming more important for showcasing professional, as well as personal profiles. Reaching fellow professionals and potential employers is an important part of engaging with twitter so it is important that you are saying what you need to about yourself and your skills.
A twitter resume or ‘twesume’ is a way of saying what you need to about yourself professionally in the format of a tweet. Have a look at this article on using your twesume, or twitter resume, for your professional profile. 

If you are interested in microblogging from a position of professional identity, you also wish to read Working the Twittersphere: Microblogging as Professional Identity Construction by Dawn R. Gilpin.

Useful links on twitter for professional development:
Professional Development is only a tweet away
Tweet your Heart Out 
How Twitter Changed my Life

Twitter and the Law

Twitter and the Law

Information on Twitter is public by default. It’s very important to be careful what you tweet about. An inappropriate, menacing or libelous tweet can land you in court. It makes no difference how few people actually read the tweet either, a careless tweeter can get into serious trouble. Some microblogging services, including Twitter, offer features such as privacy settings, which allow users to control who can read their posts. In the business world, security can naturally be a concern, since there is potential for sensitive information to be publicised on microblogging sites. To minimise risk organisations can set up accounts with private microblogging platforms such as Yammer so that they can contain information within a specific professional community, rather than share it with the outside world. This is an example of enterprise social software. 

It’s currently unclear if tweets can be copyrighted. Re-using somebody else’s images posted via Twitter is also a murky legal issue. Here is also an interesting article discussing themisunderstandings of ownership. The popularity of Twitter has meant that it’s become a target for hackers. If your account is highjacked it can cause considerable embarrassment. Good advice would be to always seek permission from the original tweeter before re-posting on a different medium. You can make your tweets private (viewable only by your followers) by going to your account settings and checking the option ‘Protect my Tweets’.

[image credit: [www.melanie-hall.co.uk]

Useful links relating to twitter and the law: 
About Public and Protected Tweets
How to Change Profile and Account Settings on Twitter
Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK
Twitter and the law: what you need to know (Telegraph Article) 
Media law for Twitter users – will they heed it? (Blog post)

Activities

  1. Visit Twitter and sign up for a free account. Try a few tweets. (If you’re already tweeting, is there someone you can show how to set up an account?)
  2. Search Twitter for anything or anyone that interests you. Follow them. What conversations did you find?
  3. Find a library or information service that uses twitter, follow it and have a look at what they tweet about.
  4. Search for an interesting article about using twitter, this could be a blog, newspaper article, slideshare presentation or any useful link. Tweet a link to this article.
  5. Blog about the experience and be sure to post your Twitter username there so others can see it and follow you. Did you like micro-blogging? How else could libraries use Twitter? How could you use Twitter?

Optional/Additional Activities: Twitter for CPD

  1. Search online for an article or presentation relating to professional development and tweet this link to your followers.
  2. Have a go at writing your own ‘twesume’, what would you want to say about yourself in just 140 characters?
  3. Take part in a #uklibchat or #irelibchat session and interact with people in the library community, or have a look at previous discussions. Are there any topics you could suggest for the future?
  4. Blog about your own views on using Twitter as a professional development/networking tool. How has it helped you? How is it shaping the image of the library and information profession?
  5. Blog about how libraries are using twitter. Is there any difference between sectors in how services are engaging with users? How might yours or other libraries take advantage of twitter to improve services?

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