Not following the Twitter leader
Posted August 22, 2015on:
In July, the press fell over themselves when the interim-CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, responded to Kim Kardashian’s suggestion on how to improve Twitter. Here is one example of a report.
That not committal reply received four-figure retweets and four-figure favourites. So do tweets by celebrities, social media superstars, and prominent people even if they said they just ate a bagel or farted gold dust.
OK, the gold fart might actually be newsworthy. But for the large part, people will fawn over and adore mundane navel-gazing as long as it comes from a famous navel.
Lesser lights who actually share something worthwhile, particularly in education, might get double figure retweets and favourites if they are edu-stars. The rest of us generally shout into the ether.
So it was no surprise when I asked @TwitterSG a question three weeks ago and did not receive a reply. After all, why should @TwitterSG bother with me if I am not a KPI or PR opportunity?
It made Twitter sense to acknowledge @mrbrown as he is Singapore’s blog-father and well-known in local social media circles. The Prime Minister has even mentioned him as an example.
That is not how we (should) behave as edu-tweeters. Visit any vibrant #hashtagged educational ‘live’ or slow chat and you will experience creative and critical thought 140 characters at a time.
We do not have that in Singapore because there is still so much fear and ignorance about educational social media in general and Twitter specifically. Many teachers here still do not seem to possess a global view or wish to be part of something larger than themselves. If they did, they would not say they have “no time”.
If there was a PISA-equivalent for teachers learning, unlearning, and relearning on Twitter, we would be a failing nation. We would then overreact by paying big money to visit foreign lands, attempt to recreate those cultures, and hold teachers to new one-size-fits-all standards.
Thankfully no such PISA-for-edutweeting exists. But if it did, it would at least create action. The inertia we have is so palpable it might take the form of a couch potato: It sits and watches and stuffs itself silly.
So what might @TwitterSG and teachers who say they tweet do? They might learn something from this simple exchange I had with a vendor of vending machines in London.
To date, that Twitter account only has 69 followers and been around since February 2011. However, it is a very good example of what to do in social media — being social.
I tweeted just before 1pm Singapore time, which was 5am UK time. But I received a reply just 20 minutes later. I sent a follow-up question and received a reply just three minutes later.
I was very impressed with the person who handled the vendor’s social media account. I have tweeted various groups here in Singapore (for example, banks and telcos) and I do not get such quick and satisfactory replies. More often than not, I get no replies at all.
If you are going to be on social media, you cannot just disseminate information. Whether you like it or not, it is a two-way street. Social media is about having meaningful conversations, not just perfunctory and easy ones. If you want to broadcast, go back to Web 1.0. While back there, see how you will lose relevance to and respect of the people you are reaching out to.
Edutweeting is not recreating traditional teaching behaviors online. It is not just about broadcasting, only showing up for class or meetings, or providing answers devoid of context and connection.
Edutweeting is about conversing, challenging, and reflecting. If someone asks an honest question, take the trouble to reply. If someone makes a comment that is not trollish, offer your thoughts.
Apple listened to Taylor Swift when she lamented how artistes were not paid during the free, three-month trial period of its streaming service, Apple Music. That was because she had clout. But this cannot be the only strategy for those in charge of social media channels to emulate.
@TwitterSG might chose to follow the example of its interim-leader. It has every right to. But it also needs to recognize the problems it is facing with its apps, its users, and its behaviour (I shared some thoughts on these yesterday).
Educators have a voice. We live in a world now where everyone can publish, broadcast, and dialogue. We do not have to follow some leaders. If we do, they will lead us down the wrong path in edutweeting because they only respond to the results of popularity contests. We do not answer to the celebrities; we are accountable to each other and to our learners.
We need to find our path. We need to be authentic and personal on social media.