Is there value in Twitter?

Certainly Wall Street sees value in Twitter, with its share price sky-rocketing on first day of trading, but is there truly value in Twitter for us out there wandering the Internet ether?

Simply put: Yes

With this caveat: that you are cautious and go into it with clear objectives on what you hope to get out of Twitter.

Prior to creating a Twitter account (@john_chilmark) around 2008/2009, I conducted much of my research/market scanning activities via RSS feeds. I tracked both new sources and various healthcare related blogs. There were a couple of services for which I subscribed to periodic email, including HIStalk, but that has all come to an end with the exception of HIStalk.

Why?

Twitter is a far more useful as a research tool. With Twitter I can now tap a vast array of “experts” on various HIT subjects who tell me what is important to read and what is not. Whereas in the past I had to wade through RSS feeds to eke out what was important, now I just let those I follow do it for me – they have become my adjunct research assistants. This approach has broadened my horizons, helped to inform me as to what areas of research Chilmark analysts should focus and often given me an inside look as to some of the struggles that clinicians are facing in these turbulent times. It also has given me an opportunity to connect and expand my network, an invaluable asset for a young start-up.

However, Twitter, for all its usefulness, can be a colossal waste of time. The trick to making Twitter work for you is two-fold:

Rule #1 Only follow those who are discussing subjects of interest to you. With some quarter of a billion plus users on Twitter, there is a tremendous amount of noise. Pulling the signal out of the noise is your responsibility. My trick: before “following” someone I first look at their tweet stream and apply the 1:20 rule. If they make anymore than one tweet in 20 about some personal issue that does not directly pertain to HIT, I don’t bother following. Having followed that rule, at this point I have roughly a 10:1 ratio of followers to followings.

Rule #2 If you intend to follow rule one above, then by all means do likewise and don’t tweet unless you have something meaningful to say – give back to the community. This is one area where a lot of healthcare brands fall down. They tweet far too much marketing and far too little knowledge. Sad thing is, most of these companies/orgs have a wealth of knowledge to share and could be contributing meaningfully to various conversations.

While some may poo-poo Twitter as the latest social media craze, I beg to differ. Give it a try, start slowly and give back to the community that you are a part of. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much that community will give back to you.