Many things have been written about twitter, what it does, different ways one can use it, what users get out of it, and if it can serve organizations. Several blog posts (for example here, here, here and here) are pointing out the utility twitter can have for non-profits and, recently, the post Twitter is my Village sparked a lot of discussion around the idea of twitter as a tool that builds community. My personal favorite among these “village” posts is When A Bunch of People Become Community.
I have been using twitter for quite a while now and am getting a lot of valuable information from it. Yet, rather than feeling part of a community, I feel more like a tourist who visits the village. Yes, it’s beautiful and I enjoy my stay, but I am glad to go home at the end of my vacation.
Why is this? For twitter (or any other web 2.0 tools) to forge meaningful connections you have to be able to link to people, who talk about the things you are interested in. Both the education and the social media communities are very present on twitter and while I am very interested in these areas and learn a lot of new things by following their conversations, they are not my core networks and I have trouble inserting myself meaningfully. My main topics, rural development and natural resource management, on the other hand, are almost never mentioned, at least if one can trust the keyword tracker, and terraminds.
But how do you get a critical mass of people from a specific thematic community on twitter? I tried to think of strategies to do this but so far have not been highly successful.
The most obvious strategy is to tell your friends and colleagues that you are on twitter. Well, many of them do not seem too willing to invest in new tools they are not sure they will use. Besides, they already know what I am up to and their networks are also not present on twitter.
An idea I have not tried yet would be to broadcast key news of my program or organization through twitter, so instead of inviting friends and people I interact with daily, I offer my wider network a way to connect and stay involved with a program they value. This may attract some in our network who want to receive their news via text message or IM, instead of email or RSS to try out twitter.
I would really love to have people from the CAPRi network on twitter because I think it will lead to more effective information sharing, and it could help network members to directly link up with one another. Plus it might be the way for us to build our own twitter neighborhood.
What other strategies could work? Is twitter maybe not the best platform given that most of our network are in Africa and Asia?