Twitter as a Foresight Community
Let’s say a few things now about Twitter, the network Ross used for his analysis. Twitter has been called a “social network for busy people”, as it limits posts to 140 characters or fewer, called tweets. Many of us find Twitter a good complement to professional email discussion lists and long-form social media (LinkedIn, G+, Facebook), as each tweet must be brief and to the point, and as discussions are also brief and uncommon. One useful way to use Twitter is to post the most interesting thing you come across, once a day or so, and read the tweets of others once a day or so, retweeting or favoriting any you really like. This way, your tweet stream becomes a searchable public bookmarks list of professional news, ideas, and topics that you have found useful or inspiring and worth sharing. If you’d like to try out this short-form posting and learning community, here is a three-step recipe for how you might use it to generate foresight in your industry or profession:
- Make a list of a large group of stakeholders in your industry or profession whose opinions you value (100? 1000?). Have your staff find their names and emails if possible from respected colleagues, professional associations, trade publications, industry events, social networks, and the open web.
- Search for these folks on Twitter. Follow anyone in your group who tweets profession or industry-related information, not personal status updates. Twitter can be used for both purposes. It’s best to have two Twitter accounts if you tweet both, as your group may or may not be interested in your personal life, and as those who use Twitter professionally will often unfollow, or move to their personal account, users whose posts are personal or “low information content.”
- Email all those good folks on your list that you can’t find on Twitter and invite them to join, and to follow those you’ve found there already. List their names and Twitter links as an incentive. Ask them to consider tweeting their own business-related insights, news, or questions. Recommend they try to share at least one tweet per week, and no more than two or three a day. It takes just five minutes to share interesting news on Twitter. Everyone who skims their feed (once a day to once a week) gets the benefit.
Congratulations, you’ve just built your own focused intelligence community. Staying connected to these lovely people, by tweeting things they might like, and retweeting or favoriting their most useful tweets, can become a great information and advice source for the rest of your career. Feel free to do a network analysis on your group every year or two (or hire Ross’s firm to do it). Those on the periphery of the network will be visually reminded it might be a good time to increase their interaction with their fellow network members. Or perhaps they are happy staying on the edge of your network, and being more central actors in another online network you are not a part of.