Like most people when Twitter first became newsworthy I could not see the attraction, what could its 140 symbols possibly offer to the thinking person in the street, it was so obviously a silly idea. I tried Facebook on the urging of my brother and hated it because I genuinely am a practicing curmudgeon, I did not care that my nieces were going shopping (again) or that the cat had been sick. I am not outgoing and would happily settle to a life on a dessert island provided I had my beloved as company, a way to keep bees, could regularly check everyone else was okay AND still had TV. So that is me, genuinely interested in other people but not one to make lots of deep social bonds. This Twitter thing still came and went in the news and people who I admired seemed to find it interesting so I was a tiny bit curious and knew, with some exclusions, you should not condemn until you have tried. Then in a quiet period at work our media guy showed me how to tweet for work purposes and both my own and my other halves addictions began. So what can Twitter and other social media do for you, other than becoming an obsession? Well number one is it does not have to be a two way relationship, you do not have to tweet at all but by following others in the fields which you are interested in you can broaden your horizons and keep up to date with the current trends. Andy Middleton, who has fingers in so many pies I don’t know when he sleeps, told me he thinks it is the best way of keeping abreast of things he has found. It can be more focused than searching on the internet, or if you choose, more diffuse. You chose who you want to follow, journalists, politicians (they are mostly really boring) activists. Or just people who are doing similar things to you elsewhere. They will tweet links to articles about subjects that may interest you and you will see things from all around the world. If they get too heavy, persistent or sometimes just plain weird you can just unfollow, you are totally in control. So method one is; To use twitter to watch what others are doing and to lead you to interesting articles on subjects you are engaged in or which you need to keep abreast of in order to maximise your work. Some people like to get followed by celebrities, to do this they fawn at them patting their already bloated egos. Others of us may want to promote our projects. There is no doubt a celebrity can get your project to millions, yes millions, of people with just one tweet or retweet. However Beyoncé’s followers may not be the people you need to reach. By developing a cohort of twitter friends they will retweet your tweets and spread the word about your projects. Tweets can reach 1000s of people very quickly although obviously, just with a newspaper advert, only a small proportion of people will really engage with it. To do this you have to tweet regularly, sensibly and interestingly and, more important, retweet other peoples tweets not steal them and tweet them as your own – which is very bad twitter etiquette. If you retweet other people then reciprocate by retweeting you and so your message can be spread. To maximise this you put in key words and use hash tags # to help people searching for those key words. So if something is happening in Pembrokeshire and you put #Pembs in your tweet there is a ‘Pembsbot’ which automatically picks your tweet theme up and retweets it to 851 people who are interested in Pembrokeshire. Of course they may all live in Nantucket but you get the idea. You’ll soon realise how efficient these search engines are if you even joke about your weight as you will then be spammed instantly by endless weight loss ‘gurus’. Method 2 is; Tweet your self to cultivate a group of followers who will retweet your tweets about your project and develop support which may be physical, emotional or even hard cash. An example of this in action has just happened. Jemima’s Place, an animal rescue centre in Cardiff, had an active support network already on Twitter which included Dr ‘Rhys to the Rescue’ Jones, 914 followers. Just before the New Year they announced they would have to close as the money was drying up but not the endless stream of things to rescue. Dr Rhys tweeted why not buy them a drink for New year by donating. Then he said lets all tweet after 6pm on Saturday about the place to try and get #@Jemimasplace trending. This worked and got this tiny refuge in Cardiff as the 6th most popular #tweet in the world that day and encouraged Jonathan Ross, (@wossy 2,804,078 followers), to make a small donation and retweet. Not sure where this will go but currently they have about £5k and more will come in. I’m not suggesting this is the way to get funding mind you, just that this is the way to raise profile if that is what you want and need. @Jemimasplace now have 4700 followers. So the other reason to tweet, and the one I kid my self I am doing with my personal tweets on my home twitter account, is to campaign about something you care about. I tweet because I care about our natural environment and the plants and animals dependant on it. So in my very, very small way I am trying to get the few followers I have to be more thoughtful in their lives about how everyday actions impact on our natural environment. I also do this on my work Twitter account, as this is also something the NT supports, but I can be a little less restrained and more political in my own name. (I find however I am a woolly liberal wherever I tweet and no where near as controversial as I’d like to be) They say there is a rule of threes in tweeting, a third should be fairly personal and chatty, a third about your work and what you are doing and a third getting your message across. I try to stick to this but its hard for me because I have become a twitteraholic and end up tweeting all sorts of drivel, this is not good! So method three; Develop an online persona that engages with others and makes you the sort of person whose opinions matter to them so that they will at least think about the serious things you tweet. The downside to this is, if you don’t want to be preaching to the converted, you have to engage with people you may not really want to engage with, whose behaviour’s are not what you feel they should be. Ideally I should be engaging with off-roaders and making them consider their impacts but so far I have picked easier targets, people who, in the face of a 140 symbol relationship, do not offend me. So the first use of expletives and away they go, no questions asked. What has surprised me most is how well you feel you get to know the other twitteraholics on your twitter stream. They feel awfully like friends, I know an awful lot about them, I would dash off to help them if asked. Many are fellow beekeepers, lots are gardeners, a surprising number are bird watchers. Surprising because I did not fully appreciate how interested in birds I actually am until the chance to find out what is happening in Wales and around the world came my way through Twitter, the same goes for insects really. I probably spend at least 4 hours a day on Twitter, this is excessive you say, but you would not if I said I read all evening which is actually what I mostly am doing. TV has become a mild distraction, whole darts matches are passing me by currently as I sit with my tablet of an evening. And if you think you are not technologically savvy enough to do this think again because my partner, who, despite a course and several attempts by me, persists in being totally phobic of computers and is just as obsessed as me. He has his people he follows and I have mine, they overlap on beekeeping and diverge on other interests. We sit side by side exchanging snippets, looking at photos discussing @Sheffieldhoney’s views on open mesh beehive floors etc. Both happily engrossed but together in our obsession and with the world at our finger tips in a way that we could never have believed possible when we were young. Another plus is that getting your message clearly across in 140 symbols using plain speech not text code should make you more concise in your bid writing so you get more successful bids! It would have taken me 60 tweets to say this, and multiple tweets to make up one message is also not good twitter etiquette, so that is why I have also embraced the Blog!