Using Twitter intentionally

March 12, 2009 — 3 Comments

twitterAs many of you know, I have been doing an “experiment” with Twitter over the past couple of weeks. My first experience with Twitter last year were frustrating and disappointing and I became a Twitter “hater”. I could not understand why everyone was getting so excited!  However, I did decide to keep an open mind and give it another chance.

Last week, Cynthia Ware came to my Internet Ministry class here at Biola.  Cynthia shared with my class her vision for the Church and new media. Especially interesting was her presentation of “New Media Values”, which really gave the class, and me, perspective on how our culture and technology are shaping each other.  I won’t present those values here, I will leave that to Cynthia (write that book!).

One thing Cynthia said during her time leading discussion was that understanding new media is critical to understanding what the Church will look like in the future. Just as understanding how the medium of “print” led to the development of a Paul-centered church (thank you, Shane Hipps ), so new media will shape the church through the influence of its values.

Which leads us back to Twitter.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have been back “tweeting” and “getting tweeted” (that just sounds dirty somehow), and I am still ambivalent about it. And the video I posted from the Daily Show didn’t help. But our class discussion with Cynthia led me to make a decision that I would continue to move forward using Twitter, but this time very intentionally. Here are some overriding principles I have come up with, based upon my own experience and Cynthia’s “New Media Values” (write that book!):

  • I need to determine exactly “who I am” when it comes to Twitter and then respond accordingly. I don’t think I can be “@DaveBourgeois the Christ-follower, husband, father of six, researcher, teacher, church elder, Mustang driver, book reader, pizza eater, and watcher of The Office” on Twitter. Though some of those “following” me may want to know my feelings related to all of those subjects, most do not. Which leads to the next point.
  • I need to find the best people to “follow” and follow them.  Just as I won’t be Twittering about all aspects of my life, I only want to follow those whose “tweets” are those I will value. For me, that means, for the most part, those who post about how the Internet and new media are being integrated into ministry.
  • I need to tweet regularly about what I am doing in the area I have chosen. My default inclination is generally to think “why should someone care what I think”. But I need to respect those who are following me and let them in on what I am doing and thinking in the area of Internet and new media research. This will open up conversations and keep my line of thinking in the public view. This also encompasses several of those “new media values” (write that book!).
  • Finally, I need to decide the appropriate place for Twitter vis-a-vis my blog. Some things need more space (such as this post) and they need to be blogged. Some things can be put out as a tweet. And some should have both!

So there you have it. I will be continuing to use Twitter, for a while at least. If this strategy does not produce fruit, then I may re-think it down the road.

Finally, a coule of post-scripts to this. First, this decision has really made me decide that there is going to be a split between how I use Facebook and how I use Twitter. Facebook will be relegated to personal relationships, Twitter for professional.  I will be turning off the Twitter to Facebook updating and the importing of my blog posts into Facebook. The second is that I see Twitter as just the first of many of these SMS technologies. It may not survive competition from newer services, just as MySpace is losing to Facebook.  Yet it is still important to understand how to effectively use it. More on that in a future post.

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Online ministry researcher and educator. Associate Professor and Director of Innovation for the Crowell School of Business at BIola University. Author of Ministry in the Digital Age.

3 responses to Using Twitter intentionally

  1. Seems to me, David, that you’re mostly ‘right on it’. But you give no hint that you’re extensively using your cell/iphone/whatever. On the tiny-screen, everything changes. And if/when the iphone ever plays flash, look forward to a contrasting communications paradigm of 140ch tweets linking to youtube vids for the real content. Just my thoughts.

    And in any event, isn’t Facebook/Twitter a hand-n-glove fit?

    And yeah, the next wave… IMHO… will be texting networks.

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