I get really excited when I hear about people using social media for more than just mindless entertainment or an update on the contents of their stomach. Some churches (including Seattle’s Mars Hill) are encouraging their congregations to tweet. A taco truck in LA tweets its location. A man in England delivered his fourth child after watching a video on YouTube. Some of these examples are more significant than others (though if you’re from California you know the loyalty people have to their taco trucks) but the principle is the same: social media serves a constructive purpose in society. The use of social media to enhance our education in this program is living proof of that.

I recently took over my work’s Twitter account. This experience has taught me a few things.

1) TweetDeck is a necessity. It allows you to simultaneously view tweets, @’s, direct messages and searches; the page even automatically refreshes to ensure you get up-to-the-minute information. When you follow 30 people, it’s easy to periodically refresh your homepage to see what the people you follow have tweeted. When you follow 1300, it’s a little harder: you don’t have time to switch back and forth between messages, searches and the feed. You need everything side by side.

2) Friend or Follow is a nifty resource. It shows who you are following but is not following you. This is useful to weed out people who have not updated in while or who obviously are no longer using the service. Twitter is a popularity contest: you want to be followed more than you follow, but at the same time you need to follow relevant people in order to ensure proper communication and interaction. I have found Friend or Follow to be very relevant in keeping these numbers in the proper ratio.

3) 140 characters makes everything black and white; you cannot casually mention a great service your company offers in the middle of a conversation. Promoting this service directly in a tweet comes off as a sales pitch and drives people away. Twitter is an excellent tool for engaging people in conversation and hoping that will draw them to the website, not direct marketing.

4) Finally, you can’t tweet all day. After an hour or so of reading tweets for relevant content and searching for new followers, your brain is fried. Read a magazine. Make a sandwich. Wash some dishes even. Give your eyes and brain a break after a hardcore tweeting session. My goal is to put in an hour a day of solid work then periodically check in every few hours, respond as necessary and move on. I will see how this strategy works. Suggestions are appreciated.