Last week, I put the finishing touches to two proposals for funding: the first for the climate change project and the second that pulls together my interest in enthusiasm and the ways in which people connect with nature (in this instance volunteer waterbird counters). In order to ensure the policy context was up to date, I turned to (amongst other more traditional resources) my iPhone and the very user-friendly ‘Twitter’ app.
For those of you who don’t know, Twitter is a social networking site that allows you to connect with individuals, communities and institutions (as well as celebrities, sporting heroes and musicians) by ‘following’ their tweets. A tweet contains 140 characters (this can also include links to sites, photographs etc.) and in order to maximise impact if that is your game, you really need to target the tweet using the hashtag system.
I follow the National Trust (and its various regional offices), Natural England, Environment Agency, RSPB, BTO, English Heritage … the thing is they are all on Twitter and constantly updating/sharing their latest developments, policy news and agendas. Furthermore, following them on Twitter gives you instant access to an individual within these organisations tasked with informing the public. Last week I followed a link posted by a National Trust regional office to keep up to date on their policy: Going Local, and I messaged the RSPB to find out about an editorial written by their Chief Executive about the value of volunteers. The point I am trying to make is that Twitter allows you access to these organisations and to people who are happy to answer your queries – in my case, identify the editorial I was on about, contact someone in the press office on my behalf to PDF a version of the article, then email it to me. Not bad, eh?
These organisations also have facebook groups too. Through social networking technology, they are making friends with their publics, which in the case of the National Trust is right on message: “we want everyone to feel like a member”.
I follow over 260 people on Twitter, including: RSPB (Natures_Voice), BBC History Magazine (BBCHistoryMag) and Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (RGS_IBG). At my last count I am following only ten geographers … only ten! There must be more of you out there … surely? I suggest more geographers make use of this great resource – it offers a chance for informal feedback on ideas, as well as an up to the minute synopsis of what is going on ‘out there’ in those organisations we are often very keen to make connections with.
In sum then, Twitter is brilliant – well, for this geographer at least. Only the other day, I got a new follower – turned out he is writing about the future of amateur societies – shameless plug for the work of: JTH1 (Joel Hacking). Enthusiasm for social networking is at an all time high, let’s embrace it!