Most of what I’m doing on Twitter on a daily basis is working to build community. I’ve also got several other places where I’m doing similar things, but Twitter is definitely the largest pool where I reach out to new people to grow my personal network and evangelize a vision for government reform through social and collaborative technologies (Government 2.0). Consistently working on a large and closely connected personal Twitter network also helps when I have a need, like when I was trying to help a friend find a marrow donor for his sick daughter a few months back. A point I make frequently is that you always want to build your network before you really need it.
So, today I was doing some pruning of the folks I follow on Twitter. This can be tedious work, but it’s important to my networking efforts. I try to follow back most accounts that follow me, as long as they look like they have live people or organizations behind them. Plenty slip through the cracks, though, and I begin find my feed a bit overrun with people using FriendFeed, Facebook and a slew of other services to pipe content to Twitter with zero interaction there. Unless it’s content highly useful to me – like feeds from a few blogs and news agencies – I generally unfollow those sorts of accounts.
Cutting loose spammy and dead accounts
During this exercise, I also notice two kinds of accounts from people who are obviously trying to use Twitter as a networking tool, but are going astray. There are the accounts obviously auto-following people (look for 1-to-1 follower-following ratios) and having little luck at engagement, and then there are those who’ve simply stopped tweeting.
Reviewing these accounts, it’s often clear that they had purpose in getting started, whether to tweet at a conference, to promote their business, or simple to build that network before it’s needed. Many of the folks who stop tweeting don’t say why, but enough do that I’m guessing it’s because they simple aren’t getting the kind of engagement they were promised or expecting. Sometimes they’re discouraged because they’ve got hundreds of Twitter followers but only a few of those click on the links they share.
My advice for networking on Twitter – and I believe the informational networking there is tremendously valuable – is to be strategic in how you build out your community. For example, if you’re trying to market SEO services, and sign up for a service that auto-follows anyone who tweets the words “social media,” you’ve totally missed any sort of practical audience. Sure, you can all retweet each others’ links and tidbits of wisdom, and yes, that may increase your personal SEO (which is one of the few good reasons to crank out content on Twitter without and personal engagement). But it’s not likely to get you customers. What if instead you identified local businesses and Chamber of Commerce members engaging on Twitter who might be interested in your services? Start interacting with them; build a relationship that will lead to real business.
If you’re the conferencegoer, figure out what Twitter hashtag people are using to tweet about the event, and make connections before, during and after by merging your Twitter and offline networking. Chances are, Twitter connections established there will continue due to shared interest or profession.
Twitter has been an extremely valuable tool for the Government 2.0 movement. Last week, Gov 2.0 consultant Maxine Teller commented on why she thinks it’s important that Twitter is hiring a government liaison, explaining how Mark Drapeau convinced her to start using Twitter actively in 2008 after she’d stopped:
The whole reason that you and I were jazzed about Twitter back then was because it was – and still is – a great way for us to find and connect with like-minded folks who believe – and are using – emerging tools and technologies enable us to more efficiently and effectively achieve our government missions.
To repeat the mantra that we’ve all chanted in our Gov 2.0 conference and event presentations umpteen times, Gov 2.0 (despite its software release naming convention) is not about the tools and technologies; it’s about the collaborative interactions, innovative thinking, and revolutionary approaches that these tools and technologies catalyze and enable.
In late 2009, Gartner consultant Andrea DiMaio published a research noted defining Government 2.0 as “the use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services, processes and data.” His definition is one of the most solid and comprehensive I’ve seen, and it encapsulates many of the reasons social technologies are important to other businesses sectors as well:
The socialization of information has multiple facets (government to citizens, citizens to government and government to government) and the boundaries between these facets are increasingly blurred. The next step will be the socialization of services and processes by engaging individuals and communities to perform part of existing government processes or transform them by leveraging external data and applications.
Commoditization – which has already started with consolidation and shared services to reduce the diversity of infrastructure and horizontal application – will gradually move toward services and business processes.
Government 2.0 has seven main characteristics:
* It is citizen-driven.
* It is employee-centric.
* It keeps evolving.
* It is transformational.
* It requires a blend of planning and nurturing.
* It needs Pattern-Based Strategy capabilities.
* It calls for a new management style.
Food for thought.
Twitter Strategy for Agencies and Causes
Why and How: Local Twitter Lists
Government 2.0: A Gartner Definition
Drapeau: Government 2.0 Movement Seemingly Passes by Twitter, Inc.