The basic principle of Twitter is that if you follow ten people on Twitter, you will only see the tweets of those ten people. Additionally, the only people who will see your tweets will be those ten people. Of course with the advent of the hashtag that has changed. If you add a Hashtag, #Edchat for example, the range of your tweet is extended beyond your ten followers to thousands of educators who follow that specific #Edchat hashtag on a search column. People can now follow specific hashtags that are filtered from the stream.
After all is said and done, in regard to building a Personal Learning Network, who one follows is much more important than who follows back. Most tweeters have their own criteria for following people back. I generally follow people who I engage with in some substantive way. The number of people I follow is almost 3,500. NO, I do not read every tweet, but I am exposed to all of them.
The ideal way to follow someone back is to first examine his or her Twitter Profile, which has public access. There is important information beyond the person’s name and location. Information on not only the number of people they follow, but specifically who they are. Additionally, the number of people who follow them back, as well as who those people are, will be listed. A very important number on that profile is how many tweets the person has tweeted while on Twitter. It speaks to their Twitter interaction. I too often find administrators who claim to be connected on Twitter, but have profiles showing about 100-200 tweets as their lifetime total. Of course that is not limited to administrators, but that is one of my personal hot buttons.
Checking the profile is simply verifying a source. Each selection of a person to be connected to for a Personal Learning Network is actually a collegial source. It stands to reason that his or her credibility should be checked. It is our due diligence as critical thinkers to check this out when possible. I always go back to that old adage: Tell me about a person’s friends and I will tell you about that person.
One of the most important elements of the Twitter Profile is that it shows a history of the last tweets the person has posted. That is probably the best indicator of how each person engages Twitter. The profile allows you to go back in their Twitter timeline.
I enjoy examining profiles of the high-profile “Education Reformers” to see whom they interact with. I wonder if any of their perspective is influenced by their Twitter connections. I have found that many follow organizations, politicians, celebrities, and not regular educators. This is something you can try as well and draw your own conclusions.
I think that there are two very important takeaways from all of this. First, have a clear, concise profile describing who you are as an educator. This way people can quickly identify you as a serious educator to follow. Second, use the profiles of others to determine if they meet the standards that you have set for your own Personalized Learning Network. Do you want that person as a collegial source?
Although I have a huge number of folks I follow, I use TweetDeck to organize that number. I have created lists of folks that can be filtered to specific columns in TweetDeck in order to see those tweets in isolation. I do the same for specific hashtags. These lists that I have created are also available on my profile since I leave them as public.
A great way to expand your own PLN is to find great people whom you already trust and examine their profiles to see the people that they follow, the lists that they keep and follow the very same people. You can unfollow anyone at anytime without him or her being notified.
The more time we spend finding the right people to follow will go a long way in getting to good stuff in less time. Each of us has individual interests, concerns, and needs, so we all need different collegial sources to get to where we eventually want to be. With a little forethought and investigation that destination can be just a little closer before moving on to the next. Use the Twitter Profile to your own best advantage. Check it out: @tomwhitby