Lessons learned from 10 years on Twitter

Twitter was 10 years old last month.  On March 21st 2006 Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter set up his twttr. This was the first tweet, ever.  Twitter has undoubtedly changed the way we communicate and network.  From the Hudson River plane crash, to Obama’s four more years and JeSuisCharlie. Many important, world changing moments have often unfolded on Twitter, in real-time for all to see, react to and engage with.

On March 21st 2006 Jack Dorsey set up his twttr.

In September 2007 I signed up to have a play, as always being inquisitive to see what this new online platform was about.   In those days it was a very quiet place, no wonder when, a few years later someone informed me that, I was the first physiotherapist to Tweet.

Rachael Lowe first tweet on twitter

It’s been nearly 10 years since those first lonely days on Twitter when my tweeps were a few techie physios in the USA and e-learning colleagues. Over this time I’ve fallen in and out of love with Twitter but I have also watched how it has changed and how our profession has responded.

Our profession is slow to adopt new technology

In 2009 I presented on social media at the annual conference of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).  I remember telling people that this was going to be big and that we should all make the most of what these tools have to offer for networking and professional development.  The room was busy but in general people didn’t ‘get’ it.  I also tweeted from that conference, there were plenty of physios on Twitter by this time but little engagement, even some scoffing. It was too early, people thought that we didn’t need to know about technology, there was little it could do to help us. The physiotherapy profession is very slow to adopt new technology, and this adoption varies dramatically between countries.  It has only been in the most recent years that we have seen Twitter take off in our profession, now it’s all anyone can talk about, investigate and present!

Twitter has become a very busy place

In those early days of Twitter we were a small bunch of physiotherapists and physical therapists, me in the UK and a few fellow early adopters in the USA.  We all knew each other, we chatted, we shared, we broke international barriers, it was fun and you didn’t miss a tweet.  Now it’s a busy world of information overload.  There are more updates than you can read (or even ever get displayed to you), more people than you can keep track of, too many promotional posts, tweetchats all over the place, and cliques.  Yes it is still a great place to learn, communicate and network, but compared to earlier years the noise makes it hard to navigate the value any more.

It has become a game

In the beginning it was simple – chat, share, laugh.  A bit like a face to face small gathering of friends over a cup of coffee.  Now there is a lot of jostling for position and the objective of many is to raise their profile, sell their services and to gather followers.  There is nothing wrong with this but, with all the noise, it’s not as easy as it used to be so people have had to up their game to be seen.  Of course you can pay, you can also schedule repeated tweets, ask for retweets, or ask popular people to share your message.  None of this ‘gaming’ is pretty.

Don’t get comfy, things will change

Twitter is not here to stay.  Celebrities are leaving and the service has recently seen a decline in active users, falling revenue, and plummeting stocks.  Yes, it will be around for a while as they try to find a way to succeed and we will continue to see our profession engage for some time to come, but ultimately things will change.  Technology will progress and attitudes will adjust.  Content is key and reading between the lines we’re moving back towards content driven platforms.  At the end of the day having your own content on a platform that you can share however you choose and wherever you choose is the best long term objective.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter! It’s a very positive story, I like seeing people connect, communicate and learn from each other.  It’s fascinating to watch the profession engage, relationships develop and learning take place.  It has been an amazing experience but for me, now, it’s a bit too noisy and time consuming.  I will continue to engage when I can and we will continue to share through @physiopedia, but I’m wondering what’s around the corner…..