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As I interact and speak with many IT Pros in the community and at various events, it still surprises me the relatively low number of IT Pros that utilize Twitter for ongoing technical learning and to keep abreast of the technology landscape. I did a blog post two years ago, almost to the day, on how to use Twitter to keep up with everything that’s going on related to Microsoft technology. This post references how I only follow the technical interests I’m interested in and a very few personal interests (local TV station for local news alerts, etc.) At that time, I was only following about 60 people or companies and two years later I’m up to about 130. Twitter continues to be one of the most valuable resources I use to stay on top of the latest news, technical information and other smart technical folks who’s information I value. If you’re an IT Pro and you’re not on Twitter, I strongly recommend that you do. (It is free)
To get started, as I had suggested previously, follow me (@bobhms) and follow some or all of the companies, products, and people I follow to get acquainted with using this tool. As you would expect you can easily search for additional people, products and companies to follow and you can very easily “unfollow” anyone or anything without the whole “unfriending” process that you have to on Facebook when someone gets particularly chatty or heads off in a direction that no longer interests you. Twitter has the ability to direct message or DM someone you follow and who follows you to share non-public information as unlike Facebook all tweets are public for everyone. Having all tweets public is a actually great feature for finding information as you can very easily see comments from anywhere on a particular topic and use a hash tag (#) to allow the topic or comment to be easily found. (i.e. #whymicrosoft)
Now I’m sure many of your are thinking “But I do that sort of company tracking thing on Facebook, and when I post on Facebook I get more characters in my updates!” True you get more characters (only 140 on Twitter), but what I’ve done with Twitter is keep the content I follow essentially business only where Facebook is entangled (for better or worse) with my personal life which has the potential to distract me (once again for better or worse) from the business and technology information I seek when I go there. Twitter has lots of different clients on all the PC and phone platforms as well as the Xbox, so it can be available to you wherever you work (or play) and is always the latest source of information for your favorite technology and the social culture that surrounds it.
Over the years I’ve tried a number of Twitter clients which is also one of the reasons why I prefer using Twitter instead of Facebook, as you can easily customize the look and feel of most of them to suit your needs and prioritize viewing in a way that you like. The clients I’ve tried on the PC side include the web-based Twitter client off of Twitter.com (which actually isn’t half bad) Seemic’s Twhirl, TweetDeck (prior to Twitter actually owning it) and I’m currently using MetroTwit. Some of these clients are full screen (TweetDeck), small screen only (Twhirl), and MetroTwit lets you fully customize the columns, so you have many options available.
On the phone side of things I’ve used the Twitter client that was built into Windows Phone initially, then I moved to the Seesmic Twitter client for Windows Phone and I’m now using Rowi, the mobile cousin of MetroTwit. On the Windows 8 front, I’ve only explored the basic Twitter client there, planning to use the MetroTwit client for Windows 8 and I’m excited for the other Metro-based Twitter apps that appear daily as I continue my Windows 8 journey.
All of these clients give you the opportunity to essentially “go back in time” to when the tweet happened allowing you to “catch up” on anything you missed while in a meeting, sleeping or actually not working. This is one of my favorite features as you can’t stay on top of everything you care about all of the time. You can even go back a week or more when you’re on vacation which gives you a feeling of actually “catching up” from when you were away. Many of the Twitter clients will give you the option of a pop-up on the PC platform so you can see the tweets as they happen you you know in real time. I’m looking forward to more of the Windows 8 Twitter clients being Mobility Center-aware as I’ve made the mistake of leaving my Twitter client active when presenting to an audience and Mobility Center does a good job or suppressing Outlook toasts when PowerPoint is in full screen mode.
Hoping to see more of you on Twitter, you’ll thank me!