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Twitter for Career Developers

By Christine Gertz

Twitter has been popping up all over lately: the entertainment news regularly sources celebrity tweets—the name for a Twitter posting—and local and national news use Twitter to post news stories and traffic updates. I attended a conference where a presenter ran one screen with slides of the presentation and used another screen to “Twitter jockey” showing tweets from the audience about questions from the presentation, effectively replacing clickers with the cell phones of persons in the audience.

Twitter is an online service that you need to create a profile for and you can access it from any computer, or by text from your cell phone once you have added your cell phone number to your profile. In Canada, depending on your cell phone plan, you will pay per tweet if you text in your tweets. A tweet is limited to 140 characters, roughly a run on sentence. You can also upload links and pictures to your tweets. Contrary to reports, most users are not tweeting about what they ate for lunch, but are reporting on resources that they have found useful, providing links to news stories or even job postings, making Twitter a very simple and efficient resource sharing service. Twitter has been a boon for services that sell items and offer daily sales online, like the T-shirt company Threadless, or for services that travel throughout a city, like a Korean barbeque van in LA that used Twitter to tell its fans where it would be located, ultimately increasing sales. The local CBC Twitter feed that I subscribe to posts breaking news and has recently added traffic updates to its service, which means that if Twitter ever syncs in real, local time with GPS, I could be able to change my route to work based on traffic reports from Twitter and the CBC.

For career developers, Twitter is one way to stay current on news stories, share blog posts and articles, find job postings for clients and to get information about conferences. More than likely, many of the online resources that you currently use have a “Share this” button, which will allow you to post their items to your Twitter feed, or even a “tweet this” badge on the article that you can use to simply retweet the item.  Here are five ideas that you can use to quickly integrate Twitter into your practice.

1.       Twitter account. You can monitor Twitter posts from the homepage without signing in, but you won’t get very much from Twitter unless you sign up for an account and start following—subscribing to—twitterers and getting some of your own followers. I would recommend starting a personal account and testing Twitter out, before launching a professional account, just in case you don’t want your colleagues to know that you regularly follow Ashton Kutchner, a Twitter luminary.

2.       Job tweets. Currently, there are three ways to use Twitter for job postings. One, you follow someone on Twitter who likes to post jobs to their feed. Finding these people is usually serendipity, though you can do a search on Twitter Search, and look for people (HR managers or other career developers) you know who might be on Twitter with a name you would recognize, or you can search for #jobs. #jobs is the hashtag for postings that refer to the subject of jobs, and the hashtag is Twitter’s method for organizing posts by subject. Twitter’s main page will post the most popular hashtags at the moment, but some of them can be joke subjects, might to hijack Twitter. Finally, you can use a job posting service, such as Tweet My Jobs, and encourage your job seekers to search this site for applicable postings that will pop up with Twitter.

3.       Twitter for news. Obviously, for Canadian career developers the CBC Twitter feeds can be extremely helpful, but other services that I have found useful are the Harvard Business Press tweets (HarvardBiz), and SimplyHired, the vertical search engine, which posts job trends news on their Twitter feed.

4.       Use a Twitter organizer. Considering that the rules are 140 characters and hit update, Twitter is not that user friendly for posting links with a comment or even pictures. Twitter organizers, such as TweetDeck, which provides a visual overlay of your Twitter communications, also provide URL shorteners—which keep your links within the 140 character limit for your tweet. There are other tools like HootSuite, CoTweet, Friendfeed and Digsby, which you can use to organize and post to Twitter. If you use Google Reader for your news, you can simply import an RSS feed of tweets from some of the people you follow and read them with your news.

5.       Replace clickers. The first practical use for Twitter in the classroom allows the audience or students to use their cell phones (or a computer with a wireless connection) to replace clickers. To replace clickers, you create a Twitter account for the classroom, or use your professional one, and then students follow your feed, which allows them to post questions, share resources based on what you have just said, or even take a poll. Students can decide whether or not to opt in to your feed, or subscribe to your feed in a reader, to add this resource to their class notes. Extremely useful for conferences where a clicker may not be part of the conference budget. Twitter will also allow you to have a private account, so you can make sure that only students in the course can access that feed.

Twitter has its strengths and weaknesses. Twitter alone, as mentioned above, is actually not that easy to use to do more complex tasks like sharing photos or long links, so you need to use a Twitter organizer to get more power than just posting an update. Twitter can also be hijacked with accounts stolen, spreading malware and spam, nonsense hashtags, and not all Twitter accounts with famous names actually belonging to the famous person. Sometimes people overshare on Twitter, mixed in with professional tweets, so it is difficult to decide: do I persevere in the face of their tweets about the cute server at Starbucks because they have three tweets a day that lead me to valuable resources? Twitter is also not very youthful: there is some evidence that college-age students prefer other social media over Twitter, so Twitter may never take off as a social media mainstay, no matter how many celebrities sign up.

Twitter is a useful tool for news and knowledge sharing and if those are part of your practice, you may want to incorporate Twitter into your regime.

Christine Gertz is the Library and Information Specialist at CAPS, University of Alberta. She has written and presented on the uses for technology in career and student services. Her note-taking blog is available at and she is a very bad blogger.

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