“Hey, Let’s Keep in Touch”: Use Twitter

Paul Boag had a great segment on his Boagworld podcast recently that presented some networking tips for geeks. Being the thorough perfectionist he is, he also published the bit as a separate blog post for easy linking. In the segment, he talked about Twitter as a way to keep in touch with people that you meet at conferences and meetups. Lemme let him do the talking for a bit…

Take a moment to think about the problem. You have met somebody for a couple of hours at a meet-up. You get on well and feel it is worth keeping in touch. You could swap telephone numbers but why would you call them? You certainly don’t know them well enough at this stage to call for a chat! You could exchange email addresses but what reason would you have to write? People get enough junk email as it is without you pestering them. What you need is a lightweight and informal way of keeping in touch so that the next time you meet you have something to talk about. Twitter is the answer.

I love it. This is quite similar to how I met a couple folks for the first or second time at SXSW but was able to talk about what’s going on in their lives because of their blogs or Flickr feeds. However, I wish this didn’t stop at just tech folks. I’ll say it now.

I wish everyone used Twitter.

Here’s my other problem. I switched jobs a few months ago. I loved the people at my old company. Quite honestly, there are probably about 40 of them I’d like to keep in touch with. But that’s just not realistic. I’m not going to just send an email every once in a while to 40 people saying “Hey, what’s up?” In real life? More like three people.

Like many, I mix personal and professional notes in my Twitter feed. For example, I’ll mix in:

Manny being Papi.

with

Playing in leaves with Ella.

and

Jason Fried is presenting in Providence today at BIF3. Going to a meetup later on this evening. Should be fun. Gotta go early… overbooked.

So, as you can see, following my feed gives you a good idea of what I’m up to. Nothing obtrusive, just quick little updates to keep you in the loop about my life.

One of the criticisms of Twitter is “who the heck cares about your life?” Maybe it is a bit pig-headed of me to think people might give one half a crap what I’m up to. But the way I look at it is… I give a whole crap what others are up to. Keeps me in the loop. Gives me some context when I talk to them next. None of this “so, what have you been up to” small talk.

I hate small talk. Twitter can help eliminate that.

Similarly, I have a couple of friends who I talk to every couple to few months or so. One of the first questions is “what are you listening to?” I’ve got it all out there in public. And I wish you did, too.

So, this is better than just losing touch with a bunch of people, no?

6 Comments

  1. On October 10th, 2007 at 6:13 pm Jeff said:

    See, this is what Facebook is made for. It consolidates twitter, flickr, digg, and myspace into a single package. It’s like an RSS of your acquaintances. Unlike twitter, you can turn off the things you don’t want to see. So for instance, to solve your ‚Äúwho the heck cares about your life?‚Äù problem you could set Facebook to only update you with shared links and current employment, while omitting status (twits), pictures, relationships, and other personal information.

  2. On October 10th, 2007 at 9:14 pm Adam Darowski said:

    I should have anticipated the Facebook feedback. Truth of the matter is that in five minutes, I figured out what to use Twitter for. I still don’t know what to do with Facebook.

    Basically, if whatever you use can produce an open RSS feed, then you can really use any tool.

    Facebook, of course, doesn’t have an open RSS feed that i know of. They force you to visit the site. To me, that completely blows and is the #1 reason I’ll probably never use it extensively.

    Just in case any other Facebook users read this… WTF is

    • a poke
    • a zombie invitation (I’ve got 5 of ‘em. No clue what they are)
    • a vampire invitation
    • a warewolf invitation

    I attribute it to the fact that the first digit in my age will next be a 3 next year…

  3. On October 11th, 2007 at 10:02 am Jeff said:

    “Just in case any other Facebook users read this‚Ķ WTF is

    * a poke
    * a zombie invitation (I’ve got 5 of ‘em. No clue what they are)
    * a vampire invitation
    * a warewolf invitation”

    1: A poke is quick greeting. Instead of taking the time to send a new message that says “hi, what’s up, how’s it going” etc you just poke the person.
    2: Since Facebook released their overly hyped api, people have been coding the stupidest applications. I get these requests all the time too (you can turn them off). Some facebook apps are useful (for instance the digg app which shows recently dugg stories, the red sox nation app, and a neat app that shows a map of the world and the places you’ve visited), but most of them are time wasters designed for the college crowd. This is logical considering Facebook was invented for colleges.

    3: I completely agree with the rss comment. The problem is Facebook wants you to use their site as your new rss feed. Of course their site isn’t designed to handle the amount of information a professional needs. It’s aimed more towards students who are logging into Facebook as their homepage, or in between classes in a lab (again, created for college students).

    My biggest problem with twitter is that it does so little. I don’t fault them for it, that’s the way twitter was designed. Pownce remedies that by adding file sharing, pictures, and linking… but it’s still not good enough. There needs to be more (put on your web 2.0 goggles) convergence (the goggles, they do nothing!). Recently I’ve been using Tumblr to achieve this. Tumblr will accept feeds from most sites and then put them all into one rss feed. So my friends can subscribe to my tumblr feed and get all of my activity from the sites i frequent (digg, stumble, deviantart, flickr, etc). It also provides the ability to add twits, pictures, links, etc like Pownce. It’s not perfect, but it makes things a little easier.

  4. On October 19th, 2007 at 5:53 am Shawn Weil said:

    I keep in touch with a ton of people, through e-mail, facebook, myspace, livejournal, and old fashioned telephone and snailmail. Sometimes I simply stalk former colleagues on their blogs!

    For me, at least, twitter is not the answer. I have different relationships with different people, and they have different communications preferences based on their familiarity with technology and, in some cases, generational membership. Most of them would find what I would put in twitter inane. Except for my mother…

  5. On October 19th, 2007 at 10:18 am Adam Darowski said:

    I keep in touch with a ton of people, through e-mail, facebook, myspace, livejournal, and old fashioned telephone and snailmail.

    That’s the bummer, really… there are so many options. I don’t expect everyone to use the same tool, but what I do wish is that each was open enough to provide an RSS feed of what is going on with your friends at that site so I can MANAGE them all in one place. Having to go to LinkedIn’s site, or Facebook’s site, or whatever… man, a total pain.

    But I guess each of them want to force you to do that so that it becomes your tool for everything.

    Time to admit. My Facebook usage has gone way up in the last week. Argh…

  6. On November 29th, 2007 at 9:46 pm John Eckman said:

    Twitter is also a great fit for what you describe (folks you’ve only recently or lightly met) because if, a few months down the road, you need to prune your feed you can disassociate quietly and without giving offense.

    It’s sort of like you just stop listening, but the person can keep on talking away without noticing you’ve left the room.