Twitter Challenge: Re-Recruit a Twitter Dropout

twitterLast week I wrote a post on how to get a newbie started off right in Twitter. Then I started thinking about all of the educators who have already fallen through the cracks. The ones who gave Twitter a try, but were really never given a proper demonstration on the ins and outs of Twitter. What about the ones who were left to figure it out on their own and felt so overwhelmed that they gave up?

Here is my challenge to you. Find someone who has tried Twitter, but who dropped out. Send them a message to let them know you want to help them rediscover Twitter. Help them make sure their profile and bio is complete. Invest some time teaching them how to use Twitter. This is something we wrongly assume people will figure out on their own.  Teach them how to do things like send “@” messages, DM’s, and add links and images. Help them bookmark different sites so they can reference them down the road.

Perhaps the most important thing is helping them find people to follow who are the right fit for their PLN. It might look like they are following a lot of people, but what really matters is the quality of information that is coming across. Help them find 30-40 good people to follow. Show them how to find people in different directories such as Twitter4Teachers and WeFollow. The next thing you need to do is help them make some meaningful updates. After a week or so reintroduce them to the Twitterverse! Add them to a Follow Friday list to help them grow their PLN. Once they see that a couple of dozen people care about what they have to say it might just hook them on Twitter permenantely!

What the Heck is a PLN?

I don’t like it when people use acronyms and they just assume that the person they are talking to understands the meaning of them. I just realized I have been guilty of doing this a lot recently and I apologize! I have written a couple of blog posts and sent out tweets where I have referenced my PLN. I have had more than a few people contact me recently asking me to define PLN for them.

I will answer that, but first a little background.

Last summer I wrote a post about how important my PLC had become to me. PLC stands for professional learning community. (People use the terms PLC and PLN interchangeably, but PLN seems to be the term that is more popular.) I slowly moved from using the acronym PLC to PLN which is short for personal (professional) learning network. Anyone who is actively engaged in learning online is part of a PLN. If you are reading this then I am part of your PLN. The people I follow on Twitter make up the vast majority of my PLN. These are the people that I learn from and interact with on a daily basis. A PLN is an incredibly powerful tool to have at your disposal. The flow of information is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.  It has been said that the more time you invest in building and contributing to your PLN the more you will get back from it in return. This is so true! A PLN does not form on its own; you have guide it and direct its growth. You have to invest time in figuring out who you want to include in your network. Don’t feel like you have to include everyone! That defeats the purpose in customizing it to fit your needs.

Do not be afraid to get to know some of the people in your network beyond Twitter. There is only so much you can share in 140 characters or less. Consider using email, Skype, chats, or discussion forums in various Nings to continue conversations that begin on Twitter. You might find you enjoy “working” with some of the people in your PLN. Collaborating on projects with people that you choose to work with is fantastic! It is an exciting time to be in education.

Getting a Twitter Newbie off on the Right Foot

All of us on Twitter know the routine. Someone in our PLN introduces someone and they ask us to say hello. We take a few seconds knowing that someday we will want them to return the favor. We might even go to their profile to see if it is someone that we want to follow. We make a snap decision to follow or not follow very quickly. So what factors determine why we follow some newbies and not others? More than likely we make this decision based on their look and feel of their profile and recent tweets.

The biggest mistake we make when getting someone started on Twitter is we don’t help them complete each step of setting up their profile. For some reason we introduce a new person and ask our PLN to welcome them before they have completed their profile.

Yesterday Glenn Hilton tweeted that 60% of new Twitter users quit within the first month. His tweet was very timely because I had just been asked to welcome several people to Twitter. I said hello to all of them, but did not follow a single one. In fact, I rarely follow people who are new on Twitter? Am I a Twitter snob? Of course not! Why would I follow someone that has not told me anything about themselves? Under most circumstances I will not follow people who violate the following unwritten rules:

1) You must have an image on your profile. The ideal image is one that is a clear shot of your face and you should be the only person in the picture.

2) You have 160 characters to make a first impression. Take full advantage of it and make a good one! Use keywords to identify your passions and interests. Take this opportunity to let people know what you teach, what grade levels you work, and other things that might help you build your PLN.

3) Keep your account public. By setting your tweets to private it gives the impression that you are not trusting. This might sound harsh, but if you are one of those people who is scared some weirdo freak might follow you then you are probably not ready for the power of Twitter.

Those of us who love Twitter sometimes get ahead of ourselves and do not remember that it is not about how many people are following us, but it is about who we follow. We need to keep this in mind when introducing someone to Twitter. If we do not help them with this critical step then they will quit! Make sure you share resources for where to find people on Twitter. Liz Davis started a spreadsheet with names of educators on Twitter. Gina Hartman started Twitter4Teachers, a wiki to help educators connect as well. Both are incredibly valuable and should be used by even seasoned Twitter veterans. Follow Friday tweets are also a way to find educators to follow.

After the person you are mentoring has made some meaningful updates and contributions then introduce them! Throwing them to the Twitterverse before they have had a chance to build their network will hurt them much more than it will help them. Not to mention the fact it will overwhelm them! It is also important to remind newbies that they do have important things to contribute. The people I have introduced to Twitter get hung up on the the thought that they have nothing to share. Patience and encouragement are key when using Twitter.

Also, remember to talk to them about Twitter etiquette. When do you send a DM as opposed to an “@”? What is an RT and when do you do it? This is second nature to veterans, but to Nebiews it is very confusing.

I think following these simple rules will help keep more teachers enough to stick with Twitter.

One Year Anniversary

In just a little over two weeks I will celebrate my one year anniversary on Twitter and the beginning of my PLN. This is one of those posts that I am writing more for myself. It is to remind me of why I invest so much time in my network. It is my small way of saying thank you to some of the people in my PLN. I wish I could thank everyone who has made an impact on me, but I don’t have enough room. If you are not on this list please do not think it does not mean you are not an integral part of my learning network. I am picking a few people that I have had some very memorable interactions with over the last year. This has been the best year of my teaching career and it is because of my PLN.

  • mrplough07 You took so much time last spring and summer to make sure I got off to a good start. I could not have asked for a better mentor. I am glad you have returned to your PLN. (I am not sure if I have told you that yet, have I?)
  • StonyRiver You have added a completely different perspective to my PLN. Your work in Australia is so inspiring. I enjoy getting the emails that you send and my students absolutely love hearing about you.
  • woscholar For the last year you have given me great advice on a number of topics which has helped me make a solid case to bring change to my school. You have no idea how large your impact has been on my school.
  • michellek107 and j_allen I have loved getting to know my colleagues from the central and eastern part of Nebraska. You guys have really taken the time to get to know me and include me in things like NETA. I cannot wait to meet you someday, Josh. Michelle and I get to meet Michelle next month.
  • budtheteacher You moved to the top of my list of favorite people on Twitter when you tweeted about your quest to find fresh, hot doughnuts on your family trip last summer. That tweet stuck in my mind because it was one of the first noneducational updates that came across Twitter. (I had only been on for three weeks at that point.) You are the only person who stepped up and questioned the purpose of the Newbie to NECC project. Thank you for challenging me on that!
  • karlfisch I was sitting in the Bloggers’ Cafe in San Antonio last year and someone asked me if I had seen Karl. I said “Who?” and they said “You know, Karl Fisch. The Shift Happens guy.” I could not believe that I was in the same location as one of the people who was responsible for that amazing presentation!  I was a little intimidated. I also wanted to tell you and Bud that the conference you put on in Colorado back in February let to some connections that have changed my life.
  • a_dowling You have been part of my PLN for as long as I can remember. You seem to always know when I need a Starbucks and a hug! I cannot wait to meet you in a few weeks.
  • kyteacher I feel like I already know you because we have so much in common. I am glad that we will finally get to meet in DC.
  • npratt We met quite by chance last year. Who would have ever guessed that being interviewed by Pearson Learning would have helped create a friendship. Guess there is a silver lining in every cloud.
  • bksmith, anschutzrm, marydobro You have all helped make this year the best year of my career so far. I cannot think of three people that I would rather work with everyday. I am so proud of all three you for finding your voice on Twitter.
  • missmarista You have reminded me that not every teacher can be as open and honest with their students as I am. It seems like alt.ed. teachers have a lot of latitude. I am looking forward to following you on your journey to Dubai.
  • TeachaKidd I have looked up to you ever since I started following you last year. You always share such useful information! (Like the pictures of your trainer!) On a serious note…if it were not for you the NECC Newbie project would not have been as successful as it was. Your connection to the great people at VoiceThread helped make the project a success.
  • rmbyrne I am so glad that you believed in my crazy Newbie to NECC project enough to agree to be the focus of it. It took a lot of guts to trust me and believe in this project. THANK YOU!!! You and I have faced some of the same challenges this year and I am so excited to get to meet you in DC next month. In fact, I think there are a few people who are excited about meeting you next month!
  • oswego98 It is hard to believe I talked to you on Twitter for 3 months before finding out your real name. I have learned so much from you since you became an active part of my PLN. And just think….I was supposed to be the one teaching you. Some mentor I turned out to be! The projects we have worked on collaboratively have convinced me that it is possible for people who are separated by distance to work together to share their knowledge and passion to come up with fantastic ideas. Your suggestions, ideas, and energy have helped me more than I can say.

These are just a few of the people who have been part of the amazing journey that I have taken this year. In hindsight I almost regret writing this because there are hundreds of people that I have learned from over the last year.  I just wanted to recognize a few people that have impacted me or my career. Thanks!

A few months ago I wrote a post about the meaning of the word friend. We tend to use the term so loosely and it has taken on an entirely new meaning in the world of social networking. It is evident to me now that true friendships can be formed with people that we have (and may possibly never) meet f2f. In fact, sometimes these bonds are even stronger than the ones we have with the people we work with everyday. Now that is a topic for another post!

Let’s Do It!

We are now thirteen days into the Send a Newbie to NECC project. I am pleased to announce that thanks the amazing generosity of several dozen amazing educators on Twitter, we have raised enough money to get Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) to NECC and pay for his registration to attend the conference. We have reached the half way mark, but we still need to get donations to offset Richard’s housing and meal expenses. This will be my last call for help on this blog. I am asking one last time for you to donate just one dollar to help with this project. Over the last two weeks thousands of people have read about this project, but relatively few have stepped up to the plate. As a government teacher I cannot help but compare this to the low voter turnout that we see in this country. People have gotten excited about this project much like they do about elections, but when the time comes to cast their vote, they fail to show up. Lots of people think to themselves, “It is only one vote. What difference can it possibly make?” I am speculating here, but I think people are not donating $1 at a time because it seems like such an insignificant amount of money. The ultimate goal of this project is to show how powerful we can be when we work together as a group by raising $1 dollar at a time.

According to the spreadsheet approximately 36 people have dontated to this project which makes the average donation $21. I would like to see hundreds of people donate $1 to knock that average way down. This should not be a burden to any one person. The intent behind this project was to come together as a collective group and unite to reach a common goal. We CAN do this if we work together. Not only do we need your pledge of $1, but we need you to tell everyone you know about this project. Use to power of your PLN to spread the word. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Do whatever you can to help get the word out. I would like to be able to announce no later than April 22 that we have reached the goal, but I have to have your help to do that!

If you are not comfortable using PayPal you are encouraged to send donations directly to Richard at:
54 Top Hill Road
Naples, ME 04055
If you are not comfortable adding your name to the spreadsheet please at least add your state and amount. When we reach the goal I will remove the donation button from the posts where it appears and both Richard and I will immediately spread the word through our blogs and Twitter so that people are not mailing in donations that go well beyond the $1500 goal. Thank you again for your support.