Twitter turned 10 last week. While analysts and investors continue to question the viability of an online world limited to 140 characters, I still believe Twitter to be an INVALUABLE communication tool – for the entire Internet-enabled universe. The celebratory highlight reel Twitter shared last Monday (below) provides a quick glimpse into moments shared via the platform that could never have been as impactful if delivered via other networks, such as Facebook or Instagram, that rely on more limited user-defined groups/channels.
Starting in ?? on 3/21 and moving across the ?, we thank you for 10 incredible years.
— Twitter (@twitter) March 20, 2016
But that’s enough about the global value of Twitter. While the social network is officially THIS MANY (picture me holding up both hands, 10 fingers in all), our relationship started 6 years ago next month with what is likely the DUMBEST communication I’ve ever shared with the world …
Dropped a Skittle in my office. And now I can't find it.
— JD Dillon (@JD_Dillon) April 19, 2010
Way to go, slightly younger JD! But after a while Twitter would change my career – and my life.
The Forgotten Period …
Prompted by the Decennial (do I owe Twitter a tin/aluminium gift?), I went digging through my early days on the social network. OMG was I worthless for about the first 18 months! I found myself scrolling through a meaningless hodgepodge of personal commentary and pop culture link sharing – basically the reasons I’m not very into Facebook. After all, I had joined at the behest of my then girlfriend, and my Twitter activity matched that original purpose.
Then I found October 6, 2011 …
Hello #lrnchat-ers … I lead a learning development team in Florida, interested to hear more from industry professionals on today's topic
— JD Dillon (@JD_Dillon) October 6, 2011
Welcome to #lrnchat …
Yup, that was my first #lrnchat. That hour changed EVERYTHING for me regarding both my Twitter habit and overall career trajectory. While I had peeked my head into the larger industry via articles, books, and a few conferences, I was still a part of what I am calling the “Invisible L&D Community” (more in a future post). I had always worked in corporate operations/learning, and I never really noticed that other people just like me were trying to solve all the same problems in other organizations. That changed almost immediately upon joining #lrnchat, where I connected with the core members of what I today call my PLN (personal learning network). My Twitter activity quickly became more consistent and career-focused. My eyes were opened, and the learning began …
26,300 Tweets Later …
I passed 2,000 followers 2 weeks ago during #LSCon. That may not sound like much in a world where Justin Bieber has 78M followers, but it means a lot to me! I take our connection and the responsibility it carries for me to share content with value very seriously. I still participate in as many Twitter chats as I can, and I almost never miss #lrnchat (barring hockey game conflicts). While I fully acknowledge that Twitter isn’t for everyone, I continue to preach the value of social media for professional development – especially during my workshops on digital networking for local job seekers.
Today, Twitter is my window to the professional world. Hundreds of personal relationships with my L&D peers have started on Twitter and then extended into the real world via events, one-off meetings, and Skype sessions. I rarely have the need to Google for new information, as the continuously-manicured list of 600 or so accounts I follow feed me the best online content about my primary interests. Conferences are that much more engaging because I can quickly share thoughts with both physical participants and the global backchannel. I direct message more people via Twitter than iMessage or email. When I learn something new or solve a challenging problem, I can’t wait to tweet about it!
I built not only my online presence but also my professional identity and overall philosophy on social media and content curation via Twitter. I can’t imagine how much more difficult the past 6 years would have been without it, or where I may be had I not joined or failed applied the right focus to my continued use.
So – Happy (belated) Birthday, Twitter! Thank you for everything you’ve done (or enabled me to do)!
PS – No, I no longer consume or microblog about Skittles. 🙂
Are you a Twitter user? How has this (or another) social network impacted your professional pursuits? What would we do without Twitter?
JD Dillon is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. He has spent 20 years designing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. JD is the founder of LearnGeek and Chief Learning Architect with Axonify.