I recently was talking with a friend of mine who is part of the local VMUG leadership and he suggested I write a blog post on the value Twitter has provided in my professional career. The topic came up at a recent VMUG meeting, where he was surprised at the response when the group of participants was asked - 'Who has a Twitter account?' Only about a third of the people raised their hands. He took the opportunity to share how he used Twitter professionally, and went on to explain how he thought that many who don't utilize this tool in their professional career might be missing out. I couldn't agree more.
I shared with him that it wasn't just our community here in Western PA that was missing out from engaging in such an awesome tool. I was personally surprised to see the low levels of Twitter users when an audience was asked the same question at a VMUG in Boston earlier this year. Perhaps Twitter is still seen as a niche, social media platform where people simply post irrelevant things, most of which provide very little professional value. While there are definitely pictures of cats and food (I will leave it to you to determine if these are or are not relevant), I would love to challenge the opinion that there is little professional value to be gained from being active on Twitter. In fact, I believe it might be the exact differentiator you need in order to move your career forward.
Anybody reading this who already has an active Twitter presence knows that it is not the platform, but it is the content and accessibility that the platform provides that makes Twitter special. I remember the days when the only way to gain access to industry experts in your field would be to attend a conference or have them flown-in to be able to receive first hand information. That has indeed shifted in the digital age and there is now more information accessible then ever before via blog posts, knowledge bases, and community forums. Twitter provides a level of accessibility not only to the content itself, but also the the authors of that content - a whole world of experts and experienced professionals in which there is a direct line of communication. You may even be able gain insights and be able to solve problems faster because of the accessibility Twitter provides. It is very powerful tool to be able to connect with people you don't know, and an extremely valuable to stay connected with those that you do. Twitter provides a simple means to get and stay connected to people.
If all you use Twitter for is to gain access to great content and people, then it is already worth it's weight in gold. In fact if you are just starting to explore the merits of the tool, then I would encourage you to sign up for an account and lurk around for a few months. Get to know the basic lingo and overall protocol for how people communicate. Once you have an understanding of the communication that occurs, I would then encourage you to start engaging. Communication is after all a two way street, and active engagement and participation with others on Twitter will increase the amount of people you get to meet. Before long you will have a number of followers, and people will be seeking you out for advice on a particular topic that you are passionate about.
Who is in charge of your career - your employer, your manager, or you? Gone are the days when your company will dictate your career path. Twitter provides me with the opportunity to share and amplify my personal brand. This might seem a bit self-centered, and I apologize if it comes off that way, but it is a reality that we need to be constantly culturing, promoting and improving our professional skills. Twitter provides me with a tool to reach a larger audience with whom I can share my thoughts, ideas and experiences and in turn improve my skills. Good work does get recognized. On the flip side, if I am a jerk and only post items that are self promoting without listening and giving back - then the community will self regulate and unfollow me. After all most people admire and like to hang out with those who are confident and comfortable in their own skin. Not many like to hang with a bunch of self centered, egotistical narcissists. The same applies on Twitter.
DON'T MISS OUT
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” ― Charlie “Tremendous” Jones
I love this quote, and think that the spirit of it sums up for me personally what Twitter provides for me professionally - unmatched accessibility to people and the content they produce, helping me to become the best version of my self.