Are engineers tweeting? Should they, or is it a waste of valuable time?
A 2012 study by engineering firm Cal Gavin shows that a whopping 61 percent of engineers use social media for work related activities, and 22 percent report using Twitter. Compare this to a recent Pew Internet & American Life survey which finds that only 18 percent of adult American internet users are on Twitter.
Clearly engineers are using and consuming social media, and are more active on Twitter than the average American.
When Twitter was publicly released in August 2006 there were plenty of skeptics. The idea was to give people an easy way to post very short communications (140 characters or less) about their daily lives. But many people didn’t care about those types of updates. In fact, a 2010 EE Times article titled, “Why engineers hate Twitter,” reported that the statement, “I don’t really care what you had for breakfast,” best sums up most engineer’s feelings about Twitter.
The biggest complaint is that Twitter is a time waster, a distraction that interferes with both personal productivity and leisure time. The analogy of signal-to-noise ratio is often used – there’s too much “noise” and not enough “signal” or useful information.
Despite this, Twitter has become an important player in the social media landscape, and new enhancements and ways to tailor information can improve the user experience. If you are not yet using Twitter—or have tried and abandoned it—here are a few pointers on how you can harness Twitter to gain and share useful information and find some top engineers and resources to follow.
What you can gain:
Three of the main benefits of Twitter are communication, content gathering, and joining in conversations within a community.
Communicate - Twitter can be a powerful communications tool, for both sharing your information and listening to what others have to say. Most people start out by listening. You can follow different people and organizations to stay on top of news in your industry or follow what a particular organization or standards body is doing.
Use the “Discover” tab on the top of your Twitter page to see a tailored list of tweets that may interest you. If you are tweeting, you have the potential to reach your own followers and their followers as well as people following a specific topic.
Content - Engineers use social media in general for learning, finding products, white papers, news, and recommendations. Twitter can be used for all of these purposes. When you search for a particular topic using the hashtag (#) symbol, you can filter results. For example, #STEM, #PLM, #CAD, #MEMS, #hybrid and #engineering are all popular hashtags. Use a topic hashtag together with #video or #whitepaper to narrow your results further.
Community - If you are involved in engineering-based organizations, follow them on Twitter. Follow your colleagues, your college or university’s engineering school, the company you work for, as well as partners and customers. This gives you a good idea of what is important to them, and some of these people and organizations will follow you back. By engaging with them, you can begin to build a sense of community and gain meaningful information.
How to get started:
Adapted from the article, “The 3 Reasons Engineers Will [eventually] Love Twitter,” here is how to get up and running on Twitter:
- Sign-up with Twitter (one of the best things about Twitter is you can change just about everything in your account down the road, from your TwID or handle to your Avatar, background, etc.)
- Get Adobe AIR (needed for most Twitter Clients)
- Get a Twitter Client (TweetDeck and HootSuite are the most popular). A Twitter Client lets you do more with Twitter, such as set up feeds to follow different topics. You can start with Twitter and add a Client later.
- Do a “search” for a topic you are interested in through the Twitter website and look at a few people who are tweeting. Click on their name to see their profile summary and recent tweets and decide if you want to follow them.
- Just find a few folks who seem to really talk about stuff you care about and follow them.
It is easy to get sucked in, but after you are up and running, try using Twitter for just 15 minutes a day (you can log on via a smartphone app as well). You may find that you are serendipitously finding new information or new contacts that are valuable. You can also direct message someone without the message being seen by the entire Twitterverse – just make sure to use the envelope icon, rather than the quill pen (compose a new tweet) icon.
Who to follow:
Here are some ideas on who to follow on Twitter. Take a look at this list of the Top 100 Engineers on Twitter. (A note: a few of these Twitter users no longer exist, but for the most part, this list is a good starting point.)
And, here are some others we recommend:
If you decide you no longer want to follow someone, it’s as easy as clicking the “unfollow” button.
And, if you’re still looking for more, check out these articles: