I’m sure that, if you’re involved with social media & your customer base is primarily engineers & the like, you’ve seen this story by my friend Karen Field:
It is a good article, well written & well researched. You should take 6-minutes & read it yourself, but to “Tweet” the summary:
Engineers hate Twitter b/c it's mostly random/useless garbage ("I ate a burrito")
from people that have nothing better 2 do so #LittleValue
OK, I actually can’t argue with that at all. On the surface, without modification, Twitter is literally as valuable as dirt. HOWEVER, the catch phrase there was “without modification” which is similar to saying:
A hole in a mountain, without any work or tools, has #LittleValue
But, what if you had tools & had picked a good place to put that hole, say next to a rich vein of gold or diamonds or whatever? And you had some folks willing to do a little work to get said gold or diamonds or whatever out of the ground & into your pockets? Then what do you call that hole? That’s right, a gold/diamond/whatever mine. More specifically, what do you call a whole in the mountain that is next to a vein of diamonds BEFORE anyone realizes there is diamonds just 3 inches away? And Undiscovered Diamond Mine (UDM) & that, my friends is exactly what Twitter is for Engineers: A UDM (because we all know engineers ♥ acronyms).
Let’s break down the 3 ways in which Twitter will go from a UDM to an actual diamond mine:
- Twitter is all about Numbers
- Twitter has a fairly open & useful API
- Twitter can be fun, once you get used to it
Twitter is all about Numbers:
According to TechChrunch, Twitter is attracting roughly 200 Million unique visitors a month & well north of a Billion (with a Capital “B”) Tweets a month. So far, big numbers, but so what? A Billion Paper Bags of Dog Poo still aren’t valuable. Unless, of course, 2\% of the originating dogs are fed diamonds, then that means there are 20 Million bags containing diamonds & NOW that is worth something if you can get to it. Fortunately for Twitter, the tools to separate the diamonds from the poo are pretty darn good.
However, let’s go about this the other way. From the perspective of an “Engineer,” of the roughly 1 Billion people online, how many know something that an Engineer would care about? Maybe 2\% or roughly 20 Million people? OK, but now how many different things can they tell you? Let’s pretend there are 10,000 “Engineering Knowledge Gems” (or EKGs), that they can tell you, such as what the “/g” flag means on a RegEx string (/g = global or all instances) or where can I get the latest CM6 release for HTC Hero? Fortunately, we know that Engineers pride themselves on being smart so it is HIGHLY likely that any good engineer would probably know at least 100, like, in Windows 7, if you hold down the <win> key & press the Left or Right arrows, it is übereasy to put 2 different windows side-by-side for comparison purposes. So, now you only need to follow a few hundred people to get all 10,000 EKGs (given statistical distributions) and that is a very accomplishable number. Even better, if you are looking for a specific EKG, you can do a quick search in Twitter for it using:
For example, when is the official release of MeeGo coming? As fast as you can type “MeeGo Release” you can find your answer: October (as said by my good friends @MeeGoExperts). For the interactive part of this Blog, Go ahead & put your own query into Twitter Search. Did you get what you were looking for? If not, post it as a comment below & I’ll see what I can do to help.
Bottom Line: There are big numbers involved with Twitter & even if only 2\% use Twitter, or 400,000 from are assumed 20 Million that have anything worthwhile to say. And, with things like #FollowFriday & Search.Twitter.com, dialing the Signal-to-Noise ratio up to a useful level is VERY easy – especially for smart folks like Engineers :)
Twitter has a fairly open & useful API:
Personally, I believe one of the things that made Twitter so successful is they have tried from early on to make it very easy for people to work with them. That would help to explain the almost STAGGERING LIST of Twitter Apps in existence today. If you have ANY interest in all about the Twitter API, here is a great place to start:
When you are done reading all the documentations, you can go right in and get Twitter Libraries, from ActionScript/Flash to VB.NET & nearly everything in-between, including Java, PHP, & Ruby. So, nearly whatever your language of choice, you can get started coding to get whatever it is you want out of Twitter. Plus, there is a bunch of other ways that you can do a little “creative searching” to get other things, such as All Tweeps with “Engineer” in their Bio. Specifically, if you are looking to find people with a “WXYZ” in their bio, use this Google search string:
intext:"Bio * WXYZ" site:twitter.com
Right now, you just get back a big list of >229,000 folks (oddly similar to the answer above), so there is no measure of how popular they are, when their last Tweet was, or other attributes that might make them compelling to follow, but I’m sure a “Twitter Bio Search Tool” will be out by the end of the year because, quite frankly, it’s overdue! Alternatively, maybe just “bio:WXYZ” will get added to Twitter’s official list of operators. Regardless, if you want some more tricks like the above, then read this article.
Twitter can be fun, once you get used to it:
Let’s face it, we all have enough work to do. Just having another way to get information is probably not compelling enough to make an Engineer to want to use it. However, if we can give them something that makes their easier and is fun to do at the same, then we have a winner. Unfortunately, at first glance, to most engineers, the “value” of Twitter is not overly apparent. For example, here’s the current “Trending Topics” on Twitter:
I may not recognize them all, but the ones I do recognize, I don’t really care about. So, if an Engineer wants to “check out” Twitter, the only thing seen is things over very little value to Engineers. Fortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. In the early 1990’s ≈80\% of the people on the “Inter-Net” (remember when it was written like that?) were men. Why? Because for a lot of women that were, shall we say, “Geekly-Challenged,” the World Wide Web was all about geeky topics that held very little interest for them (but not our beloved #GeekGirls – they’ve been rocking the Web since Mosaic!). Like a Redneck at the Opera or a Blueblood at NASCAR – they took one look around and left. BUT, the Web grew. Sites like “iVillage.com” came along specifically to give women a place to feel welcome, a place to talk about what they wanted to talk about, not the best packet length to optimize Fast Ethernet connections. Now, by most reports I’ve seen, women are at least on parity with men & some studies suggest that women spend more time online then men. But, one could argue, that never would have happened if the web continued to only have content that held little interest to most of them.
So, what is a disillusioned Engineer to do? For now, start small. Think of Twitter as just another RSS feed – but one that can be very timely. Also, in the area of “who to follow” – really think about someone before you follow them. Don’t follow people unless their last 20 Tweets were “mostly” interesting.
Here’s the “Simple 6 Steps to Get Started with 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., so no “OMG, this name is for LIFE” fears)
- Get Adobe Air (needed for most Twitter Clients)
- Get a Twitter Client (I recommend Tweetdeck personally, but Seesmic is also popular & Mixero specifically cites that it is “Reducing the Noise”)
- Do a “search” for a topic through the Twitter Website like Linux or Android or WiMAX or PR2 Robot & look at a few people that are Tweeting by opening them up in new Tabs
- Just find 3-5 folks that seem to really talk about stuff you care about & follow them
- Your Twitter Client will automatically add them to your List
That’s it – in between meetings, during boring meetings, or when you just need a little mental break (like a Snickers but for your brain, not your stomach) – switch over to your Twitter Client & see what’s going on. Of someone says some especially interest, go ahead & use the “ReTweet” or “RT” function to share that out – it literally takes 10 seconds to do:
(Screenshot from Mixero Twitter Client)
Time wise, just spend 15 minutes a day doing Tweeter – 10 minutes reading – 3 minutes “RTing” what you found interesting & 2 minutes trying to find just ONE new Tweep a day. Do that for a week, and I’m sure you’ll have learned something new or at least made you laugh. Does that sound like too much work? Here’s a list of folks that I can personally say “bring it” for the Geeky among us:
There – 10 great Tweeps for any Geek to follow. If you have other suggestions – put them in the comments below because “sharing is caring” (rule #1 for social media) :D