While it is easy to get sucked into following your favorite celebrities on Twitter, the truth is that Twitter is a valuable tool for both personal and professional social awareness. Not only can one share what they had for breakfast, but read about world events and even find a job. For any non-tweeps, technical writer Sarah Maddox gives a great introduction on how to use Twitter in her article, “Twitter as a Medium for Release Notes.” She goes on to suggest the use of Twitter to supply technical product documentation/marketing known as release notes.
So, how does a technical communicator use Twitter? Alan J. Porter’s article, “Tweet Me This,” is a great resource for how to start on Twitter, when and how to post, who to follow, and how to manage a corporate Twitter account. What struck me the most useful was Porter’s simple reminder: “Twitter is not a platform for just marketing tag lines and slogans; it’s about listening and engagement.”
According to Anne Gentle in her article, “Focus on Twitter for Technical Documentation,” before you send a single tweet, you should determine exactly who your audience is, their needs and interests related to your business, and the character (persona) that you wish to convey to that audience. While my first impulse is to say that Twitter uses far less posturing than, for example, Facebook, I think that a more accurate view would be that Twitter requires a consistent character. In order to maintain your following, you must meet the expectations of your audience (whether that is a conservative approach or a continually ranting one).
Still, no matter how good they are or how many followers you have, your tweets are not going to be read by the majority of your intended audience. Rich Maggiani explains why in his Intercom article, “Your Flowing Tweet Stream.”
So, now that you know how to start, how do you continue to manage the flow? You can use apps such as TweetDeck to monitor your tweets on your phone or desktop. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds are also a way to automatically receive tweets from your followers and those you are following, without having to be on the Twitter.com website 24/7. You can also use RSS feeds to subscribe to news sites, notify you of updates to your favorite websites, and channel new blog entries into your chosen RSS aggregator (like Google Reader or FeedDemon). An aggregator functions like an email service, providing you with a list of notifications of these feeds so you can choose what you want to read. It’s like having someone surf the web for you, so you can waste more time on reddit or pinterest.