There are two parts to Twitter: the content and the community.
Because of the 140 character limit Twitter forces people to share filtered content from the start. Ever get one of those 10 paragraph emails where only 2 or 3 sentences actually mattered? Twitter eliminates content clutter.
The most powerful content being shared comes in the forms of links. Links in themselves are content filters, which fit right into Twitter’s micro-economy. One link shared on its own is not very meaningful but if others share the same link or “re-tweet” a link (a feature Twitter has built in to allow someone else to share that tweet/link without having to re-type it) it provides a powerful gauge of what’s popular amongst a larger group of people.
Although Twitter is often ridiculed for the little details people share about their lives (brushing their teeth, walking their dog, going to bed), over time these little details can prove to be important ways for people to share their lives with others. Many times those following you (or vice versa) do not know you very well, or know you from a certain event (like a conference) or role (like your boss). By sharing little details on Twitter with your followers you can build connections, especially over time as people observe the little things about you.
A helpful way to understand the community aspect of Twitter is thinking about relationships on a scale from 1-4, with 1 being those you know best, and 4 being those you know least.
1–Your mom, dad, siblings, extended family, closest friends
2–The people you work and play with
3–The people you are just getting to know
4–The people you have just met, or have heard of from someone else
Here’s how Twitter often works within this scale
1–Not very effective. Most people are not interested in what their mom had for dinner, or what blog post they just read.
2–VERY effective. Your coworkers often like to comment on what you eat, and do not know you extremely well, which makes links/content you share interesting to them.
3–Effective. Since Twitter is non-intrusive (you do not have to follow someone who is following you, you can only receive direct messages when both parties are following each other) it allows you to consume information about a person without the pressure to respond and in small chunks.
4–Not very effective. Although it might be worth following someone that you might meet someday, there is usually not enough in common to make Twitter’s communication tools effective.
Suggestions for Using Twitter as a Ministry Team:
- Have everyone sign up for Twitter at the same time. This will add some momentum and get you started on the right track.
- Follow a couple celebrities: At first you will need some extra motivation to check Twitter–celebrities tweet frequently and share interesting content.
- Follow someone “above” and “below” you in your ministry. Try to send an “@” reply to each one once a week. An “@” reply is a semi-private message; everyone can see it but it’s directed at an individual. This is a great way to publicly demonstrate care for an individual. It shows that you are listening to what they are saying (which can often be rare on Twitter).
- Share 2-3 links per week: These could be blog posts, sermons, resources, and news articles that you have found. This kind of sharing not only encourages others to share what they are finding but also to respond to what you are sharing.
Before you start asking your students to join Twitter make sure you and your team have been using it for at least three months. I personally don’t recommend using Twitter as a primary means of communicating with students–the critical mass is not there and it can be distracting for students to manage especially when they know Facebook so well.