A little while back I came up with the idea of an immitter – essentially a twitter account which would deliver appropriately spaced and relevant tweets to those new to twitter, allowing them to gradually see the usefulness of the tool without having to build up an instant and relevant friend network (which takes some time).
In the context of higher education, the immitter might pull in subject- or topic- specific feeds from elsewhere, mixed with comments from tutors or course administration: all focussed on a particular subject cohort.
However, since this idea was formed, the commercial world has woken up to Twitter, and companies and PR agents are now emitting swathes of marketing tweets and – worse – using searches on vaguely relevant words to follow and retweet our own posts (I recently received a horde of lesbian porn followers when I used the word “bi” in a very much unrelated tweet; and the reporting of a toy robot race with my daughter which included the word “scientific” was retweeted to a wide audience by the rather too eager @ScienceTweets organisation). It is now getting more and more difficult to keep your Twitter followers in check, and keep your feed relevant and free from spam – indeed, many people are starting to protect their updates to protect their sanity, which rather goes against the Twitter ethos.
So, I go back to the original aims for the academic immitter, and suggest that some of the companies looking to utilise Twitter for their own marketing emitter should take note:
- volume of information is critical: 1-4 tweets a day depending on maturity of twitter audience;
- content of information is even more critical: all tweets should be either directly relevant, or recipients should be able to see the link to their own interests;
- to achieve the above two aims, the target audience must be a coherent interest group or community;
- may be automated (via relevant feeds etc.), manual or a mixture of the two. Some manual input probably required to ensure relevance of content.