What Does It Mean to Have 500 Quality Twitter Followers?

Reaching the 500-follower threshold on Twitter providers an occasion to reflect on this particular social media journey from January 2008 to July 2011.

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I reached what I consider to be an important milestone this past week-  500 followers on Twitter.

I like to say that really means 500 people or at least 500 Twitter accounts that are registered to track what I have to say.

No, I don’t use any automated techniques (that I know of) to attract followers.  So I believe these are 500 QUALITY followers– mostly people I know and have met.

Should I be excited?

Well, I am happy that I have an audience of those who actually care about what I have to say.   Unlike my fellow broadcast journalists who occupy anchor chairs and never tweet but yet have double the number of followers, I actually do use the resource once in a while.

While I do occasionally post updates on Facebook, I am far more likely to provide useful information on Twitter with a 140-character tweet.

This picture shows University of Florida's Julie Dodd, who here in January 2008 introduced me to Twitter. Today I have more than 500 followers on Twitter.

The Lady Who Made It Happen

I credit University of Florida Journalism Professor Julie Dodd with my being on Twitter.

It was her  “Staying on Top of Technology” session at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Midwinter Meeting of the Scholastic Journalism Division where she introduced the concept of microblogging and the Twitter tool.

After that introduction at The Poynter Institute  in January 2008, I came back to Alabama and started my account.  Three-and-a-half years later, I finally know how to use Twitter and people are following me.

Tightening Up on Twitter as You Teach It

I frequently quote my colleague, Sybril Bennett (Belmont University) who says Twitter is about research, relationships and reputation.

Dr. Syb (as she’s known in the Twitterverse) is right on!

This summer, I’ve strengthened my understanding of Twitter thanks to people like Robin Ware of  The Ware Agency, who showed me how those in the faith-based community are using Twitter.

In 2011, I’ve been sending more direct messages and engaging in exchanges with followers.

After a project earlier this year where I tracked Brian Stelter’s tweets in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, I learned how a very busy media reporter for The New York Times takes the time to respond to Tweets.

He and National Public Radio’s David Folkenflik have taken the time to respond.

If they can respond, so can I.

An Ambitious Twitter Class Project

This week we’re going to another level with Twitter as my University of Alabama students in a short summer course on  Race, Gender and Media class are forming a network on Twitter to engage in the Twitterverse.

I suggested that we all follow each other.  (No, that’s now why I’m at 500 followers.)   To date, I can only count two of my 500 followers from this particular class exercise.

We’re hoping that in addition to extending class discussion, we can engage some of those who have created the documentaries and news products we’re screening in the class.

Researching  Tweets

I just learned today that there’s some interest in a research project I’m doing to look at how we as mass media researchers MEASURE our tweets.

An abstract on that topic has been accepted for presentation at an academic conference in October.

I’ll be re-linking with my colleague, Natalie Brown, to look at one of those measures.

So, 500 Followers– just an indication of what is to come for me in this medium.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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