Twitter as community: building the utility of new social media

Now that the jet-lag has gone (and been replaced by the hangover from my birthday celebrations), it’s time to think about the practicalities of life, rather than the wide-eyed dreaming of conference-time.

One of the side activities that poked its head around up at ISA was the use of new social media. I attended a very interesting panel with various glitterati of the IR Twitter world, which confirmed my latent ideas about how academics use Twitter and how we can use it with others, be they students, colleagues or practitioners.

Rather than rehash that panel (and thanks to Felix for the Storifying), I just want to briefly consider how we can get the most out of Twitter as a resource.

One of the most intriguing ideas/practices from the panel was Twitter Fight Club (see #TFC14 for a flavour). Essentially, this pairs people up for a day-long contest of ‘who’s best at Twitter’, broadly defined by the quality of their information and comment, their humour and general good value. Winners are chosen by a jury and the public, and go through to the next round. In short, it’s a way for the IR crowd to use all those GIFs they like so much and feel it has a broader value.

Coincidentally, at ISA, I was contacted by a fellow EU Tweep, Matthew Shearman, who wants to run a European version this month, and who now claims that I’ve put him up to it, which I haven’t.

Assuming that we’re not going to be too American about it all, the idea is one that tickles me, as a stimulus to stop simply retweeting stuff and start actually producing more useful content. Even if I have a well-developed sense that I will get my backside handed to me on a plate in the first round, it’s still something that might help to keep on make the most of the medium.

And that’s the more general point. In any communication medium, we find our zone of comfort and stick to it, by and large. If we get opportunities to do new stuff, then we should try it. That’s partly because it’s more engaging for us and we’re likely to give more to it, but it’s also partly because it opens our eyes to new possibilities, that might change our practice for the better in the long-run.

In short, sometimes it’s better to do something that makes you a bit uncomfortable in the short-term, because it might be good in the longer-term.

Now… how to fit that into a tweet.