[Update 3/29/13: This post was part of the basis for Lebson, Cory. “Care About Your UX Career? Network Now!User Experience Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 1 (First Quarter 2013).]

By the time Twitter emerged into the public sphere, I was already primed as a regular LinkedIn and Facebook user to the value of social media, so I joined. But I couldn’t figure out the value. I logged on infrequently and rarely tweeted. Even by 2010, I was vaguely aware that there was some value, but still didn’t make a commitment and only had a small number of connections. That year, I spoke at a conference about UX and disasters in San Diego. I noticed that a woman in the audience was on her laptop the whole time. Afterwards, she came up to talk about her own experiences with UX and disasters and she commented that she had tweeted the key points of my talk. As soon as I got back to my hotel room, I logged into Twitter to see what she had tweeted, and sure enough, she had done a great job capturing key points. I publicly thanked her on Twitter – the first time that I had @mentioned anyone, and from that point on, I started using the micro-blogging service.

Who I follow

  • Usability Professionals: I’m clearly centered as a usability professional and follow other usability professionals that either I know personally or that tweet about things related to usability
  • Related UX Professionals: There are a number of user experience professions, and I follow other interesting professionals that again I either know personally or tweet about things related generally to user experience.
  • Follow back? Sometimes I get follows from people in various user experience professions, and I often follow them back. Sometimes I get follows from people I know personally that are not necessarily in usability or related professions, and I usually follow them back too. Sometimes I get utterly random follows from people that seem to have no professional connection. In some cases, I think that these are from automated services, but in other cases, I’m just not sure how they found me. I usually look at their last three tweets anyway, and if I see something interesting, I may follow back, but more likely than not, I won’t. Also, I’m very likely to follow people back who are geographically close to me. I like having a network of real people who are nearby. I will also follow back people from non-English speaking countries, but only if a reasonable amount of tweets are in English so that I’ll understand them.
  • Finding people: When I’m in the mood, I look for interesting people to follow. How do I find them? Sometimes I look for people who use the #ux or #usability hash tag. Other times, I look at the people who other people or organizations that I respect are following.

Twitter Stream

I like creating an interesting Twitter stream. I can only catch a small percentage of the tweets that my network puts out, but I learn a lot this way. Since my Twitter stream is largely professional, I get to see what others in my profession and related professions find interesting, and I also learn what they are up to.

What do I Tweet?

If you want to use Twitter professionally, consider a mix of Tweets that will intrigue those who are in your field professionally. In terms of user experience, my tweets center around the topics detailed below. Social network site Klout considers me a “networker” and gives me a good score, so I guess that means my Tweets are reasonably well received. Here’s new content that I put out in the Twitter stream:

  • Events
    • Talks that I’m giving as a guest speaker
    • Talks that my User Experience Professionals Association DC chapter (UXPA-DC) is hosting
    • Events related to UXPA International
    • Other interesting talks and events that I learn about, particularly those that are local.
  • Place
    • My presence at a conference, which always helps me connect with other interesting people in real time. I’ll also tweet interesting points or interesting ideas that I’ve picked up from the conference.
    • When I’ll be in a city on business travel, particularly when I have some spare time to have spontaneous coffee or drinks with colleagues in that location.
  • Professional Items
    • My blog posts
    • Others’ blog posts that I find interesting (I use Google Reader for a number of RSS feeds that I’m professionally interested in as well as some Google alerts of certain keywords, so I often find new and interesting content to post this way.) I like to add a personal note about what I find most interesting whenever possible.
    • If I see interesting content on Twitter that someone else has tweeted, I’ll also retweet that content, but again I prefer modified Tweets whenever possible – especially if I can add value with a comment or endorsement of an idea.
  • Personal items
    • For the most part, I use Facebook for personal items and try to avoid putting things that are too personal on Twitter, but I think it is important to occasionally Tweet something that shows I am human!

In all, I enjoy sharing information and seeing information from others. And I love when I get to meet people in real life that I recognize from Twitter – as seemed to happen many times per day while I was at the User Experience Professionals Association 2012 conference this month. It’s always a conversation starter!

I haven’t leveraged Twitter too much in broadcasting my own professional needs. That said, similar to the recommendation on my blog post on LinkedIn, it seems useful to remain professionally relevant on Twitter so that many people will be listening when there is a need.