Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Yes, as long as you do it right.
If you aren’t already on Twitter, Jill Heemstra thinks you should be. Heemstra, an extension educator for the University of Nebraska writes for the @LPELC Twitter account. I started following Heemstra’s account when I read her profile. She wrote, “Livestock & Poultry Environmental Learning Center-’spreading’ the science on animal poo. It’s a ‘crappy’ job but…it happens.”
Then I noticed that she has 1,455 Twitter followers. How did Heemstra get all these people to subscribe to Tweets about “animal poo”?
“A lot of people in extension were talking about how Twitter could help with education,” Heemstra said. “I thought I’d try it.”
At first, Heemstra tweeted to promote her own projects. But she soon figured out that Twitter isn’t all about advertising yourself.
“What I quickly learned is that people aren’t interested in what you’re saying until you’re interested in what they’re saying,” Heemstra said. “It really is networking at it’s finest.”
I agree with Heemstra. I tweet using the ASAS @CritterChatter account. Like Heemstra, I started out just posting links to ASAS news and events. Then I realized that the animal scientists and publications I followed were tweeting about fascinating news and studies. I started re-tweeting their posts and reading their articles to learn more about the industry.
Through twitter, I’ve connected with animal scientists around the country. I’ve even found sources for my Taking Stock articles through Twitter.
Heemstra calls this network the “Twitter community.”
“Contribute in return and send out good information that you have,” she said. “It really is a back and forth.”
Even Twitter users who don’t feel like joining in any discussion can still learn a lot. Tweets from those you follow show up as a list, and you can browse through until you find something interesting.
“Don’t think you have to read it all–because you can’t,” Heemstra said. “Find some terms or some people you’re interested in.”
I asked Heemstra if she though Twitter was just a fad. Sure, she said, in ten years we might be using different tools to network, but the desire to network is nothing new.
“Social media and interaction has never been a fad. As human beings, we’ve always looked for ways to connect with each other.”