Identify your purpose: Determine what you want to learn and the message you want to convey through Twitter. Make a list to guide you and to give you focus, which is necessary on Twitter. The platform is fast paced, and it is easy to become distracted and lose focus on your main objectives. This is not to imply you should limit your initial searching. I would not recommend that, but eventually you will want to refocus.
Craft your presence: Be sure to add important aspects about yourself in the bio section. Many search engines use this data (as does Twitter) to categorize you as a user. Want to be known for beehive architecture? Make sure that is in your bio. Create your 160-character bio with care; it is your first impression. You should add an image (yourself, firm logo, or other image) to replace the stock placeholder image that Twitter provides (it’s an egg). Nothing will show others a lack of serious interest more than that stock image. Again, this is about first impressions. You should create a custom background if you are so inclined. If not, Twitter has a few options that you can use as your own. Once you become more active, you should create a custom background and imagery. It helps convey your message.
One small note on @ replies that is often misunderstood:
The “@” is used two different ways in conversation streams. One is more private than the other. Start a post with @UserX and only those persons who follow both you and @UserX will see this message. This is a bit more private. Put any amount of text before the @UserX; then this message is broadcast to all viewing your stream. Plain and simple; if it is meant for everyone to see, don’t start a tweet with the “@” symbol.
Start following: One of the first things to do is to start following other users. As an architect, I recommend that you start with these:
@Txarchitect @ your local AIA chapter (Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Brazos)
@AIANational @architectmag @archrecord @archpaper
@ReedConstrData @ArchDaily @Architizer @MHConstruction
Search for your topics: You can search for specific topics within the Twitter stream. You can search for single words, phrases or hashtags (# is a hashtag). Hashtags are used to “flag” words or phrases. It is a method to draw attention to that specific word or phrase. It makes for easier searches, trend spotting, and ease of conversation. Search out topics you are interested in learning more about, connecting with, or just enjoy. The possibilities are endless, trust me. Typical searches go back for 4-7 days through Twitter content. But this may change as Twitter decides. If you don’t get results, try back in another week and see what stirs. Save your favorite searches so you can watch their stream easier in the future. From there, follow those users who provide you with useful information. You can watch their feed for a while before you decide to follow.
Twitter chats: Twitter chats are just organized conversations. They occur on set dates and times and have a specific hashtag that allows for easy following and participation. Most are moderated by a user and present 3-6 questions on a theme, which are discussed among the chat group. These are always a great way to learn and find new Twitter connections.
There are several good Twitter chats about AEC. The most notable being a monthly chat hosted by @AIANational. This chat is on the first Wednesday of each month and deals with topics related to our profession. Participants from all over the country and all areas of AEC usually join in this conversation. It uses the hashtag #AIAchat (You can search for it).
Another chat is AEC Social Media chat (#AECSM). This one is about the different applications and uses for social media in the AEC industry. Again this chat has varying topics and attracts various persons in the AEC industry. It usually meets weekly.
Here is a link to a long list of Twitter Chats
Google Docs Twitter Chat Schedule
Integrate Twitter into your practice: Twitter is an application that requires attention. In order to reap the benefits, you must put in some effort. This is where many users falter in the professional sense. In order to reap the benefits, you must be present. It is a grand prize drawing; you must be present to win! Set aside a time each day for your activities. Then use them to present your message and interact.
Integrate your ideas/expertise: Once you are comfortable, begin to add your input and information to the stream. Share original thoughts, blog posts, interesting articles, or other’s tweets. Begin to craft your message and create your user identity. Remember this takes time. Do not worry about followers. That is not why you are here. You are here to gain knowledge and contribute. As architects, we can integrate many separate pieces into the world of architecture. Do that in a meaningful way, and the followers will come.
Andrew Hawkins, AIA, is the (principal) architect-owner of Hawkins Architecture. He is a graduate of Texas A&M and the University of Oregon. He believes in sustainability, technology, and the power of architecture. When Andrew is not running his firm or testing the latest gadget, he enjoys time with friends, family, and a well-crafted brew. Oh, and Modernism. Andrew is a member of the Texas Architects New Media Committee. Follow Andrew on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/hawkinsarch