Twitter : Is it a valuable community contribution?

During a conversation with Zahid Anwar at OOW15, the question was asked, is Twitter content a valuable contribution to the community?

The following is *my opinion* on the matter. Other opinions are valid.

The sort of tweets I see fall into the following basic categories:

  • Technical Questions and Answers. When these are done well, they are really useful and a quick way to get to the bottom of something. When answers come as links to content, that’s really cool as there is some depth to the answer. An answer in 140 chars is not always so good, and is often missing vital information that usually starts in a flame/caveat war. Though I do think of this as a useful community contribution, I think this sort of thing is better dealt with in a forum. I guess you could maybe Tweet about the question to raise some attention, but that feels a bit like the “URGENT” prefix to a question, which turns many people off. 🙂
  • Notifications. Tweeting about your latest blog post, article or video is part of getting your message out to your followers, but the tweets have little or no value in themselves. It’s just self promotion, which we all do. It’s the things you are promoting that hopefully have value, not the tweets themselves. In this sense, the tweets are not a valuable community contribution.
  • Content Aggregation. Tweeting other people’s content is a good way to introduce your followers to it and “spread a specific message”. I do this when I read something I really like, or if I am trying to help promote someone who I think deserves more attention. I think you have to be careful not to become a “blog aggregator by proxy” and blanket tweet everything you come across, or the value of your tweets drops. It just feels like lazy way to look busy. Just my opinion though. I’m sure there are people out there that love it.
  • Random tweets. These can give you some insight into the individuals that make up the community, which I like, but there is no long term value in these, even if they are fun. 🙂

If you are trying to get on to a community program, like the Oracle ACE Program, *I would* rate twitter contributions quite low. I would focus on stuff where you are providing original content (blogging, whitepapers, books, YouTube etc) or directly helping people, like forums or presenting. Short-form social media is a nice addition, but it’s value is rather limited in my opinion.

Remember, it’s just my opinion, but I’m interested to know your thoughts.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: I think it’s worth clarifying my point some more. I don’t have a problem with any of these types of tweets. I do them all to a greater or lesser extent. The point I’m trying to make (badly), is the content that is pointed to is the “high value” in my opinion. The “pointer” (tweet) is of far less value. If someone came to me and said, “I tweet a lot about other people’s content, can I join your community program (if I had one), I would probably say no and encourage them to produce their own content. That was the context of the conversation that initiated this post. 🙂

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

17 thoughts on “Twitter : Is it a valuable community contribution?”

  1. My own opinion is that the best use of Twitter is for letting a lot of random people know about a really funny Dilbert cartoon with just a few keystrokes. I have a Twitter account (for yes… self promotion), but I make few tweets (mainly about new articles or book releases) and I don’t follow other people’s tweets — at all. I don’t think I’ve followed anyone new since the day I created the account.

    My opinion mirrors yours. For the most part, it is not feasible to “add value” to the Oracle community in blocks of 140 characters or less. The best that can be done is to point out where you (or others) have added value somewhere else on the Web.

    The only Tweet of mine that I can think of as adding value to the Oracle community was one I made a couple of weeks before OU made the switch on their SQL Expert exam last year. I was finding many people on forums who were unaware that the switch was coming. I blogged and tweeted about the impending change. Oracle Certification and several others retweeted. If that tweet alerted a few people who would otherwise have been blindsided by the changes the day of their test… then it added value. The rest of my tweets… eh — mainly just “Look at me! Read my stuff!”

  2. I’m pretty much in agreement – but as it is *you* I am agreeing with, I’m desperate to find something to argue with…

    I think I view “random tweets” as more “social tweets” and that is, for me, probably the main purpose of twitter. 50% of what I see I’d class as social tweets. I think of it as having the sort of conversation with friends that you would have over a coffee or in the pub, but spread out over more time and with the constraint of short sentences. And knowing that other people in the pub are probably listening in.

    I’d say content tweets (self-promotion & promotion of others) are about 20% of what I see or send and that they are directly relevant and of benefit to the community. This includes following “business” accounts such as those for a technology area or community.

    The final 30% is stuff I see that is not relevant to the community or even often to me – “silly” accounts I follow, spam, strange stuff, people I realise eventually it would be best if I did not follow (not that they are wrong or bad, just not my cup of tea)

    So that 50% of social tweets is not valuable to the community…Hmmm. I think it is – though indirectly. I’ve blogged about it so I won’t repeat here, but via Twitter I’ve got to know a lot of people I would not have come across just by following blogs or going to presentations, especially as I stick mostly to Europe for my conferences. Knowing people virtually is not as good as actually meeting face-to-face, but the virtual contact really helps the physical meeting. I met Zahid at OOW15 (though sadly only briefly, at the end of the last day) but we were able to do the “Oh, yeah! Of course I know you, i follow you on twitter” and then have a proper conversation. Some people you will never meet, so things like twitter allow you to make some sort of connection at a distance.

    That to me is a major part of community. It won’t get you onto the ACE program or the Oaktable, but it will get you more into the community which is the main thing. Those badges may or may not come along (and if they do it’s great) but tweeting to get them? I think it will have only a small contribution if any and, if you are tweeting with that as your aim, I’d say you are looking at this all wrong.

    Tweeting adds to the social side of the community and I like the community.

  3. I generally agree, though I’m a bit less negative.

    Notifications have indirect value as extra links to lead people to (supposedly) good content.

    Random tweets enliven things and are part of building camaraderie and mutual trust.

    Content aggregation, however, has an additional danger: if you are officially an “authority” (ACE, Oaktable) and retweet something, you are implicitly recommending it. Those who blanket tweet may retweet something they don’t know enough about and that may not be worth recommending.

    If you really want to talk about things that are not valuable contributions, how about comments on blog posts? Oh, wait…

  4. Actually I find the “self promotion” extremely useful and I find the biggest chunk of “value” there. I know that for people like you (i.e. in the same level as Ace [Director]) lots of those links might not lead to an article/post which is “new” or exciting, but at least for newbies like me they are fantastic.

    Actually such “self promotional material” were the main reference point for me when I was about to decide to shut down my facebook account two years ago (which I did, and I’ve never regretted it).

    The problem with Twitter (which makes debating “value” difficult) is the fact that it’s a stream. You are supposed to use it THERE AND THEN. It’s really hard to use it to refer back to something you’ve found useful. (I “favorite” links that I’d like to read later, but even that’s not much of a help).

    I think you might have missed some lesser valuable tweets: “How did I do on Tweeter last week”, “Thank you @x @y for being my top followers”,…

  5. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the shameless plug tweets. You know I do it all the time. They advertise my content, that could be seen as adding value to the community.

    My point is, if someone was judging community participation by Twitter alone, then I would suggest it is low-value contribution. It’s the material that you are pointing to that is high-value.

    Being a conduit for information is fine, but I would not invite someone into an evangelist program because of that alone. It’s like setting up a blog aggregator, never doing anything again, and expecting to be the community darling forever. 🙂

    Cheers

    Tim…

  6. I think Babak’s point about the ‘THERE AND THEN’ nature of Twitter is quite possibly more damning to it as a community resource than the 140 character limit. I use articles from this site all the time… but seldom right after you have written them — even when I read a blog post mentioning you just finished article ‘X’ and I think “Hmmm… sounds interesting”.

    I read Oracle-Base articles six months or a year or three years after you wrote them when I’m performing X task and I think “What were the steps for that?” I generally throw some keywords into Google, get back hits that include a ‘How To’ article from your site, and read it then. This is value. This helps me to do my job. This is why the number of Oracle manuals and books sitting on the shelf above my desk have dwindled to practically nothing over the years (and the ones remaining largely act as dust-covered cubicle decorations). Twitter simply doesn’t provide anything other than very transitory value.

  7. I don’t think Twitter was ever invented to provide “long term value”.
    I see it as a quick way of reaching a pre-selected audience – which some persist in calling a “Community”.
    As such random tweets are perfectly fine.
    In my book, of course! 😉

  8. Tweeting new content (blog post) that one has created is acceptable as a way to “get the message out”.
    Another type of tweet is to RT someone’s valuable tweet. Don’t RT every tweet that you see but be selective to identify a tweet that you find would be useful to a large number of followers.
    Occasional social posts, self-deprecatory comments, links to non-technical information (“news about the world”), humour etc would be part of one’s social profile.
    A tweet itself is not a way of getting information across. It is a way to provide a link to useful information which the reader can follow up on.
    The major issue with Twitter is “THERE AND THEN” as Babak Tourani has pointed out. I am in a different timezone relative to most of the tweets that would be useful to me, so I don’t get to see them. Trawling through an entire twitter-feed (or is it called “tweet-feed” ?) is laborious.

  9. I think the biggest negative against Twitter for helping people is that it is a one-on-one engagement.

    When you write a blog post, it has the potential to help thousands in a single go/posts

    Twitter adds flavor, helps you separate yourself from the chaff, and of course helps you promote your own and other posts…

  10. I agree with Martin. Twitter, to me, is more about the social. Having access to all these people out there who otherwise would only be available in real life…and even then, too many of us are introverts. That’s Twitter’s value to me.

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