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Twitter, and environmental scanning

Twitter (www.twitter.com) is not for everyone. It involves your time and attention, regularly, though in very small portions. Your impression of Twitter may be that it’s a place where someone you care only a little about, or not at all, will update you on the fascinating minutia of his/her daily life: "Eating a bagel at Panera," or, "Wishing Friday Night Lights was back on." But you don’t have to use it that way.

If you consider Twitter’s value for environmental scanning, you might find it worth a second look. For many people, Twitter has become an information sharing place, not information about their daily minutia, but information important to them professionally. 

Consider two parts of this. First, Twitter, used for by following a set of people who share useful things, is an environmental scanning channel. Not only can you tap into thousands of people who do free work for you by following all sorts of developments, news, and events, and sharing web links about them, those people also often add their interpretations to the things they share.

Second, your use of Twitter can represent a first step in your interpretation of things you find. As you "pay it forward," you can and you should add your brief thought to the link you share. Doing that, you have begun to analyze and interpret information. You have made it meaningful for yourself and whomever is following your Tweets. But it can be to your benefit most of all. Most of us see far too much information, every day, without taking the time to find and add meaning to it–meaning for us. Having people following what you post adds a little incentive to do this regular, small task. On Twitter, too, there is plenty of cooperation, sharing, and reciprocation. 

You don’t need Twitter to do this, of course. But you may find that using it adds a bit of discipline to your environmental scanning and, if you can imagine, makes you more efficient. What looks like a trivial time-waster may be a time-saver and may make a difference in keeping a foresight channel open and flowing in your life.

I’ve shared other thoughts on environmental scanning here. See, for comparison, my thoughts on using del.icio.us tagging for scanning and for adding value to the information you discover.

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