twitter

A guide to joining twitter now it’s an unremittingly bleak document of how awful everything is

burning twitter.gif

As a librarian using Twitter, my experiences follow the classic three act structure of a movie. (Not a feel-good film. One of those more grown up films where you leave the cinema feeling depressed.)

Act 1: Hope and expectation

You take your first few steps into the online world. It turns out to be AMAZING! There are so many like-minded people there, and they’re so helpful! Ideas are shared, collaborations begin. Real life progress is catalysed by Twitter conversations. Cheers!

Act 2: Growing up

Twitter makes more and more things possible. But the community is fracturing. Was this inevitable? Progress still happens, among so much infighting. Nothing is allowed to be unequivocally good anymore – anything previously thought of as positive now comes with a handily placed fellow twitter user who is cleverer than you and so can tell you how actually it’s all terrible after all. It’s better to know, right? Although naivety felt great compared to this. Things got real.

Act 3: An unending garbage fire where joy goes to die

The world is divided into two types of people – those who know how horrible humans really are, and those who steer clear of social media. Twitter is a mirror to society and what it shows is ugly as hell. Twitter shows humans for what they really are in the way that previously Science Fiction stories did. We are past the point of allegory; who needs it?  Brexit, Trump, Katie Hopkins, fear, anger, sorrow. Libraries are in trouble? The WORLD is in trouble. We’re all doomed. “Name something that shows your age, which the younger generation wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about” goes the meme. Everyone tweeting about winding back unspooled cassette tapes with a pencil. And you’re thinking: hope? Decency? The Labour Party? Check Twitter. Go to sleep feeling sick. Wake up feeling sick. Check Twitter again. Rising panic. Repeat to fade.

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So how do you answer this question?

I’ve written guides on ‘if you’re new to Twitter, here’s what you do’ before – they’ve been among the most read posts on this site. But all that seems very quaint and a little moot now. Like reading a guide to the eatery options on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg.

Here’s my attempt at giving this a proper go.

What advice would you give someone who’s just joining Twitter now?

1.      Lay down some ground-rules and stick to them. Twitter works when you are in control of it rather than it being in control of you. It needs to be something you DECIDE to engage with, rather than getting into a cycle of dependence, checking it listlessly until all hours even though you don’t even want to, getting ever more scared or depressed. So, don’t check it after 9pm or before 8am for starters. No one needs to start their day with that shit. Think about whether you really need it on your phone at all – and if you do, consider deleting it (the app, not your account) during holidays and over Christmas.

2.      CURATE. Find the good people. Use the search box to look for people tweeting about stuff you care about. Follow the ones talking sense. Find the community you want to be part of and join in. You need to curate Twitter, proactively following and unfollowing to make it work for you. That said…

3.      Get out of the echo chamber. If you follow 1000 people who all think the same you’ll be in an echo chamber and that’s no good to anyone. Everyone will reinforce your view of the world and then Brexit will happen and you’ll be all, WTF? But if you follow a bunch of people who really wind you up, you’ll be wound-up all the time. So a middle ground must be found. To quote, well, me, in a thing I wrote for the University of York’s MOOC: “Make sure your online social circle doesn’t consist entirely of People Like You - follow and interact with people from different professions, socio-economic demographics, locations, nationalities and ethnicities. This at least builds a more rounded picture of the way the world thinks.” I’ve have learned SO MUCH from people on Twitter. Not just about my profession, but about society, about behaviour. That’s why I still love it even though it’s a shit-show now, by and large. Look to be challenged as well as supported, but if someone is hateful or obnoxious, mute, block, lock your account - do what you need to feel comfortable.

4.      Trust that the right people will find you, rather than changing to please the wrong people. Better to give of yourself, be yourself, present an unvarnished version of yourself, and take your time to find a network who is happy with you as you, than to try and adapt to be like everyone else. I know this sounds like a self-help book. But honestly, Twitter is huge. Your people WILL be there. Wait for them rather than watering yourself down. Everything is fragmented now. Find your fragment.

Twitter, yesterday

Twitter, yesterday

5.      Don’t slow down to look at the car crash. Of course it’s compelling. Of course you want to know what’s going on. But you don’t NEED to see it. You don’t need images that are going to haunt you and still be there when you close your eyes to go to sleep tonight. If certain world leaders are tweeting horrifying things, block them then you won’t see them ReTweeted. Do it. Add a load of words to your mute list – use the advanced mute options. You need to take care of yourself to get the most out of Twitter. Self-care is vital.

6.      For celebs and politicians Twitter is a broadcast medium. For the rest of us it’s still a conversation. Tweet about your work. Tweet about your life if you’re comfortable doing so. But tweet about other people’s work too. RT stuff. Reply. Get involved in chats. Back and forth. Twitter is the social media platform that is most like just chatting to people in a room.

7.      Make Twitter the best place it can possibly be. While the world falls apart around you, make your part of it a place where good things happen. Be positive but realistic. Be supportive. Don’t RT nonsense or propaganda or lies. GO TO THE SOURCE. Don’t be unquestioning. Think about your role in other people’s echo chambers too. Help people out. Be approximately 30% nicer online than you are in real life to allow for the potential misinterpretations of un-nuanced written text. Don’t make people’s days worse. Make things a little bit more Act 1 (above) and a little bit less Act 3.

8.      Don’t be afraid to quit. No one ever regrets shutting down a social media account. If it’s not having a positive impact on your life, get rid.

The tl;dr version of this post

It's a little late for that unless you've scrolled right to the end, but basically find the right people and Twitter can still be great. I still love it. It's still useful. It's still enriching. And that's because of the people I follow and interact with.

Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries

 

V&R

Visitors and Residents (or V&R) is a really useful way of thinking about how people interact online and use social media. In short, people in Visitor mode come online to complete a particular task, and then leave - with very little trace of their activity remaining. People in Residents mode are more likely to identify as themselves and use the web as a social space, sharing as well as obtaining information. Visitors and Residents is a continuum which all of us are on, moving between the two according to our needs at any given time. It was first proposed by Le Cornu and White, and (David) White has a very useful section of his site to introduce the topic in more detail.

As libraries, it's really useful to think about how we go about catering for users in both modes. Social media isn't all about social networks - we can use social media platforms to provide easy entry points for Visitors seeking information (a lot of the platforms I've set up at York should provide utility even for students and staff who don't use social media at all), AND we can use it to add our voice to a more Residential space and provide help and information as part of a community. Led very much by Donna Lanclos's views on the subject, I now see V&R as a far more constructive lens through which to view peoples' online behaviour than the 'Digital Natives' idea, which is extremely prevalent and asks us to make assumptions about our users based on their date of birth.

I was invited to give a keynote at the Interlend conference, and asked specifically to talk about social media. As I've mentioned before I think a keynote is a very specific thing, and has different requirements to a regular conference presentation where I could, for example, just report back on what my institution is doing to engage users online. A keynote needs an overarching theme which gives people a way of looking at the world, as well as specific ideas and things for people to try out. With this in mind, my #Interlend2015 talk was entitled Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries.

The Presentation

The actual slides I used will be available on the FiL website shortly, but they won't make that much sense without me talking over the top of them so I've redone them to stand alone online. Here they are. (I get really excited about slide design. It's the one part of me that is remotely visually artistic, and I loved using a slightly different style for this slide-deck and learning new tricks. I found new sources of images - listed on the final slides - and a couple of new fonts, used a lot of darkening and blurring of images so I could write directly onto them, and generally tried REALLY hard with these!)

Screw Digital Natives

Inspired by Donna I've become quite militant about the whole digital natives thing.

It can't be left unchallenged - when people use it uncritically we have to pull them up on it! It's dangerously reductive. There's two major problems with it: firstly anyone who's thought about it for more than a second would agree that age doesn't actually determine technological know-how. How exposed we are to modern tools and computers depends on place of birth, environment growing up, privilege, and other socio-economic factors - we know that. So to assume that students entering University now have a set of skills that they just have (how do you Snapchat? You just Snapchat. Hello to Jason) is to ignore the messier reality in front of you in favour of a very simplistic alternative - an imagined present, as Donna eloquently puts it. So we don't assess the students in front of our very eyes on what they can and can't do, we just plough on and risk a dereliction of our educational duty. And secondly, even those that ARE excellent with the tools don't neccessarily know how to use them in the academic environment (or indeed for life-skills type purposes). Technological literacy does not imply digital literacy! Being deft with a touch-screen and quick to find information is a great first step, but then comes all the (again, messy) business of critically evaluating that information, and potentially re-purposing it.

My 1 year old can - genuinely - do things with our iPad which we can't recreate, to do with swiping in a certain way. She's born into the technology. She's what the people who talk about Digital Natives are imagining ALL children are like. But that doesn't mean she can use the tech to achieve goals and complete tasks and understand how information works. Of course it doesn't.

On talking then leaving

I strongly dislike when people give talks at conferences and then leave straight after. It implies arrogance - it says I am here to give out knowledge, but there's nothing you guys can teach ME.

With the Interlend Conference, the timing was awful - it was in a run of the most stressful and stupidly busy 7 days I've ever had professionally. I really wanted to do the talk though - I was supposed to do it last year but had to pull out because of my daughter's illness, and it was an honour to be asked to do a keynote. The only way I could do it was if I went back to work in the afternoon, due to a massive deadline looming - so essentially I did what I hate people doing: I showed up, gave the talk, and left.

I wanted to stay - especially after the really interesting conversations I had with people over coffee after my talk - but I had to choose between talking and running, or not talking at all. I chose to talk and run, but next time I would make a different choice and not do the talk at all unless I'm able to attend the full day on which I'm speaking. I just felt awful - sad to miss out on stuff I would have found really interesting and useful, and my insecurities running wild about what people must think (fired further by a few tweets which confirmed my worst fears).

So huge apologies to the delegates - I wish I could have stayed and carried on the conversations.

CPD as a way to get some learning done

One of things I like most about CPD is choosing paths which force me to invest proper time in understanding something relatively new. Over the years I've often submitted a title of a talk knowing that it would involve some serious work  and research to actually be able to deliver the finished article... What normally happens is I do this and feel excited about it, then about 2 days before the talk is due to be given I curse my past self in great and sweary detail because I'm still learning about a topic rather than planning how to create a presentation on it, and then afterwards I'm really glad I forced myself to do this because I learned something valuable and lasting. That's basically exactly what happened here.

When I was planning this talk and knew it had to be about social media, I was really drawing a blank in terms of an angle for it - I didn't want to just repeat the same old same old. If I read one more conference tweet that says 'social media is a great way to connect with our users!' I will probably despair.

So I asked Twitter what I should call the talk, and got loads of good suggestions, before ultimately realising that this would be the perfect opportunity to go from 'being interested in that #vandr thing I've read a lot about from Donna Lanclos' all the way to 'knowing enough about #vandr to actually talk about it at a conference' so I settled on that, and am really glad I did. (Although it was, as predicted, massively stressful.)

But I wanted to give an honourable mention to the best twitter suggestion in response to my plea for ideas for possible titles for my talk:

I wish I could have used it...

Twitter Hashtags: The Rules

 

Last week I was creating a slide for a workshop aimed at academic staff and research Postgrads, entitled Twitter for Improvers. On the slide I was attempting to explain what worked with hashtags, and what didn't - for example putting in punctuation causes the hashtag to break.

Then I thought, it would be better to actually do these as tweets (show don't tell!) - I did so just with the idea of print-screening them and deleting them, but lots of people joined in with replies and RTs and I added some ranty opinions on hashtag use as well as the factual and logistical stuff...

So here, in Storify form, is what works and what doesn't: The Laws of Hashtags!

(If you can think of any more leave me a comment.)

Creative Commons header image by GeoBlogs.

Two More Twitter Changes: Group DMs and In-Tweet Analytics

Following on from my post on the excellent new Twitter video, there's a couple of other things Twitter have introduced in the last couple of weeks.

The first is group Direct Messaging, where you can set up a group of people (up to 20) and privately message them collectively. The conversations can include pictures and be about specific tweets. This is potentially very useful for taking a problematic conversation or dispute out of the public eye but staying within the platform. From the point of view of libraries, that's great. From the point of view of librarianship, I'm not so sure.

The second feature is and tweet-by-tweet analytics within the mobile app. I mentioned in my previous post about Twitter's new Analytics how what the stats really show you is how few of your followers see each tweet (it's around 11%, and that's assuming it's not part of a conversation or at a weird time of day in which case it's much less, or if it's RT'd in which case it's a bit more). The ability to click on each tweet in the mobile and app and see the stats right away just reinforces this - here's a tweet linking to my last post, which got ReTweeted 21 times, and was still only seen by a number of people which amounts to just over half the total number of followers I have.

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I'm not totally convinced the link clicks figure is accurate though - not just because it seems really low! But because it doesn't correspond with my website's own statistics or Google Analytics, which attributes a lot more click-throughs to this particular tweet.

But the total number of impressions I do trust. So what do we take from this as libraries? If something's important, you have to tweet it more than once! And it's also worth tweeting at the peak times for when your followers are online - this is usually around 11am and 3pm, but you can find out more specifically using Tweriod, which I'd recommend you do.

[Edit: Since I wrote that I checked Tweriod and it seems to have gone to a paid-only service, which is a real shame - FollowerWonk should tell you when your followers are most active though, so use that instead.)

Twitter Video is here! And it's going to be great for libraries

 

NB If you're reading this and can't find Twitter video on the app, don't panic, it's being rolled out across all accounts but not everyone has it yet!

I resolutely refuse to include things in my training just because they're fashionable, and for that reason I still don't talk about Vine in any of the sessions I do. I think Vine can be great (some of the 'Vine-magic' stuff is awesome), but I'm yet to see an absolutely essential use for Libraries or in HE, so it gets left out. [Edit: I've finally seen a good example of a Library Vine account! Check out Newcastle Lib's here.]

Part of the problem is that 6 seconds is just too short for the kinds of ideas I have of how to use what you might call 'social video', as opposed to the more permanent videos you find on Vimeo and YouTube. I feel like I've been waiting for something like Vine, but less trendy...

Happily last week Twitter launched an alternative to Vine (which it also owns, by the way) which I do think we can get some proper use out of. You can now take 30 second videos and upload them to Twitter, where they'll play within the tweet without people needing to leave the site or the app. (At the moment you can't use video already on your camera roll.) The videos can be combinations of several shorter clips like Vine, but it won't automatically loop, and it won't play without someone hitting the 'play' button.

If Vine is the short-attention-span but bang on-trend toddler of internet video, Twitter video is its more considered older sibling. Less cool, but maybe with more meaningful things to say.

Here's how it works (email subscribers, click the title of this post to be taken to the web version if the pictures aren't appearing):

Image taken from Twitter's blog - click to be taken through to the relevant post

Image taken from Twitter's blog - click to be taken through to the relevant post

Like Vine it records as long as you hold the button, and you can quickly stitch together multiple clips - as many as you can fit into 30 seconds, in fact.

Note the third screen-shot there - you can delete, and drag to re-arrange the order. So it may be worth recording the most important parts (the start and end) first so you know how much time you have left for the rest, then re-arrange the order - rather than meticulously creating something with 20 clips, only to not have enough time for the ending and having to redo the whole thing.

So how can libraries use it? Before we get onto specific themes, the most essential thing is to think mobile. The whole point of this feature is people watch short videos, where they are, within the app. Twitter offered promoted videos to paying sponsors before this was rolled out to all of us, and apparently 90% of them were watched on mobile devices. So, hit the ground running (1 second intro, max!); shoot from the chest up if you've got people in there so they can clearly be seen on a small screen; if you're speaking make sure you're close to your phone so it's not too quiet; if you use words make the font LARGE; and if possible make the video in such a way as to not need sound to make sense.

I'd love some more ideas in the comments, but here's a few video ideas to start things off:

Customer Service: answering questions with video. If you use Twitter for customer service or a channel for enquiries, you'll know that often when one person answers a question it's worth ensuring everyone can see the answer (hence the twitter dot!) as many will find it useful. There could be even more impact to answering a question with video. So for example, a basic query like 'how do I locate a DVD' gets much more interesting if the answer is a video...

Transient videos. By which I mean, something where a video is appropriate or useful or funny or tapping into some sort of meme, but which you don't neccessarily want a 'permanent record' of on your YouTube channel. It's not that Twitter videos aren't permanent of course - they are - but just that your YouTube vids form a sort of canon which needs to be left alone, so the most important videos don't drown under lesser inconsequential ones. But Twitter video would be a way of getting something out there - news about an event, say - without that feeling of permanence.

If you do need to keep them though, you have the option to embed like I did above, meaning a Twitter video can be seen by and used by those not on Twitter, via the Library website, blog, or LibGuides.

Lightning Tours. Everyone loves a virtual tour! And you need a longer video to tour an entire library, but what about a new building, or new collection? 30 seconds should be doable.

Quick-fire 'Screen Capture'. Narrate a video which tells your users how to do something useful  and then tweet it as a twitter video. So that opens up instant guides to using equipment, finding stuff, getting the most out of databases etc. Here's an example of that, explaining how to make Billboards in Photofunia. (You could even have a #30SecondsOn... series.)

Ask A Librarian. For the brave and camera-confident, get a Twitter Q&A going, and answer the best questions with a to-camera answer from someone who knows what they're talking about.

Previews. Preview a larger video (a full virtual tour, say, or an infolit guide) with a movie-style trailer on Twitter video.

That's all I can think of for now but people are bound to come up with more creative ideas, and I'd love to hear them.

There's more on Twitter Video here. How are you going to use Twitter video in your library?