Twitter is a microblog - that is an application where you can post short messages which other people can then choose to follow. It can be used to keep your friend informed of what you are doing or it can be used professionally to disseminate information.
There is growing interest in the use of Twitter as a business tool in different areas. For example Phil Bradley recently wrote a piece in Library & Information Update about Twitter and librarians (April 2009). I will look at how Twitter might be a useful tool for the business information librarian.
One advantage of Twitter is that each post (tweet) has to be short, no more than 140 characters. As information overload and information obesity are major problems this enforced brevity can be very useful. Many people use Twitter to tell their followers about items they have posted on their blogs or websites so tweets can be seen as an alternative to RSS feeds. Regular checks of your Twitter feeds can keep you in touch with a wide range of useful sources of information.
Twitter is a form of social computing so it can be used not just for a one-way flow of information but as a networking tool to maintain a dialogue with colleagues. You can make use of this yourself and you can promote this to your users (e.g. small businesses which may feel isolated).
A probem with Twitter is that it is a very informal means of communication with many tweeters indulging in personal comments and asides. This is fun in small doses but can be a problem if you are trying to use it as a source of hard information. The business librarian probably needs to look at Twitter in three ways. First there are those tweets that are useful to you as a source of information. Second, tweeters that it would be useful for you to network with. Third, the wider world of business tweets that may be of interest to your users.
Sources of Information
(It is usual to prefix Twitter user names with @. When searching for people on Twitter do not use the @ prefix.)
@BIPC. British Library Business and Intellectual Property centre. Provides links to the new BIPC website.
@PATLIBUK. Supporting the UK's Inventers and Entrepreneurs with specialist patent and IP information and services
@baplig. Business and Patents. Leeds Library providing information for business, companies, inventors & students on patents, trademarks, copyright, designs, market research and much more.
@karenblakeman. Karen Blakeman. Karen is well known for her business information blog.
@intutebusiness. Intute Business. Covers the Intute Business website.
@BusinessLinkGov. Business Link
A useful way of developing a network using Twitter is to find someone of interest and look at who is following them and who they are following. Useful starting points might be:
@baplig (listed above)
@cityinfogroup. CiG A community for .people who work in and around the City of London, and utilise business and commercial information.
@tadpole99. Alison Williams. Business librarian by day. Haiku librarian by night.
General business tweets
There are of course thousands of these! Just Tweet It (http://justtweetit.com) is a directory of people who tweet organised by categories. However many of the categories contain hundreds of entries and most will be US based. There is a Twitter for Business section which includes "50 ideas on using Twitter for Business".
Here is a small selection of tweets I have come across:
And last, but not least - don't forget @SINTOcarl for keeping up-to-date with all things SINTO.