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Do you Twitter? September 22, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Tools.

I’m pretty new to the social networking arena, so I’m a little confused about what the benefits are and how I can make social networking work for me. It took me forever to join LinkedIn, but I certainly don’t use it for anything other than a place to post my resume and network with colleagues (but even that seems kind of lame – I get the impression that a lot of people there are simply trying to collect as many connections as possible instead of linking up with friends and good acquaintances). The one thing I really like about it is that I have been able to catch up with old friends and co-workers from Germany – and discovered that my friend and colleague in Seattle is good friends with one of my old Translingua co-workers. The world is getting really small…

I haven’t signed up for Facebook, MySpace or Friendster, because it seems too social – and, as we know, we translators are not big on the social skills. 🙂 But seriously, it’s a bit too much information for my taste. Sure, I have a blog and share bits and pieces of my life on it, but I don’t let it all hang out like some folks on Facebook do.

However, I think Twitter could be useful to a freelance translator if enough of our clients were also using it. Instead of sharing the mundane details of your life (as most people there do), you could post that you are translating a 19,000 word job this week and are unavailable for new projects. This could save project managers from skyping or calling me to see if I am available for their 6,000 word job this week. Or maybe I have misunderstood what Twitter is all about. So, if you use Twitter I would really appreciate it if you could share your experiences with me (us) and tell us how you use it.

There is going to be a presentation on social networking at the ATA conference in Orlando that I am really looking forward to attending (Social Networking: How to Practice One of the Most Effective Marketing Tools Today, Saturday from 4 to 5 PM), but I have no patience and want to know about Twitter now 🙂


1. Corinne McKay - September 22, 2008

I think that with social networking sites, either you don’t really get the appeal (I think I’m in that category!) or you can’t live without them. One of the writers whose blog I read called LinkedIn “one of the mainstays of her business,” and when I saw how she uses it, I agreed that she is getting a lot out of it. For example if you are looking for direct clients, you could browse the questions and answers section for questions related to what you do, then contact the person who posted the question, or you could look through the Jobs boards, or all kinds of things that I never do! I think that if I were just starting out and really needed work, I would use these tools more; as it is, it feels like just another thing to check/update/etc. Great post!

2. Éric Léonard, trad. a. - September 22, 2008

I did try Twitter for a while and I did see a use for it. Imagine you have a workgroup spread out over the globe, but you like to stay in touch, help out with terms, etc. You could Twitter “Looking up French for ‘HIS, non-integrated ignition module’.” If somebody in the group got your Twit and knew the answer, they could help by Twitting the answer. My problem is most of my contacts are social networking Luddites 😉

I basically do the same using IM with one of my freelancers. She asks me questions about the text, I shoot back an answer. It is highly distracting and you have to be a multitasker to manage it without totally losing your concentration.

As for the idea of broadcasting your unavailability, you can already do that using LinkedIn’s “What are you working on feature”. Just type in “translating 19,000 words before Thursday 2” and your profile will show “Jill Sommer is translating 19,000 words before Thursday 2”. Anybody who takes the time to look will know and may choose not to bother you.

Keep up the good work!

3. Irishpolyglot - September 23, 2008

I use twitter as a means of practicing my languages 🙂 Anything I “tweet” about in English, I do so in my other languages too (I use twhirl to manage multiple accounts), so it forces me to think constantly about how to write things.

Also, I linked twitter to my facebook status update, and I have my close friends’ status updates come through my RSS feed reader. It helps me keep up to date with friends and let them know how I’m doing, while almost never actually logging in to that time-sucking blackhole

It’s also a very popular blog promotion tool, and amazing for networking – I “followed” some people I found interesting and they followed me back likewise and we talk regularly now. And people I’m a fan of or good friends of, I actually am interested in the mundane things they do every day…

Yet another use that’s popular is to pose a question that’s on your mind to your followers and to the community in general, like Éric says. You get some amazing answers very quickly. I’ve only been using it for a couple of months, but I find it a very useful tool to be honest.

If anyone would like to add me, here is my English version – I tweet about interesting places I travel to and things related to my blog and other curiosities. It’s a sort of outlet for “microblogging” so you don’t have to clog your actual blog with small things you want to get off your chest etc. The character limit is what makes it such a great tool really. 🙂

4. Fabio - September 23, 2008

I take advantage of social networking sites to advertise my translator profile: youtube, orkut, flickr, dailymotion, authorstream and of course linkedin. But I think I’ll never use Twitter. It goes just too far for me. I mean, if you want to disclose your life on the net, OK. Publishing what I do (even if it’s only my work life) every minute and every day just doesn’t make sense to me. For quick communication with clients and colleagues, I prefer MSN, Skype and GoogleTalk. Twitter is just too distracting, too indiscreet, too… pointless. At least in my opinion.

5. Sarah Dillon - September 23, 2008

The whole Twitter debate is really interesting! I’ve scheduled a post on this for next week too, so stay tuned… And well done on asking the question, people can be so quick to dismiss new technologies without ever really getting a good understanding of them.

To be honest I was resistant to Twitter at first because I couldn’t see how it would be relevant to me and what I wanted to achieve for my business. (I have very specific and separate business and personal goals when it comes to using social networking tools. I have a firm policy that a bad workman blames his tools!)

But like you, I have enough of an interest in new things in general that I like to understand how these things work, and keep up with how other people are using them. So after a couple of months of not really trying, I found myself thinking of ways I could use Twitter in a way that was useful for me… so I started to dip my toe in and now I’m really enjoying it. The minute it becomes a drag or a time suck then I’ll stop – no biggie. It’s not a mainstay of my business nor do I expect it to be, as it currently stands. And incidentally, I don’t happen to use it to keep in contact with anyone I know offline because I have other ways I prefer to do that.

I mainly use it to ‘flesh out’, or get some more context around, the online personas of other translators, small business owners or ‘internet characters’ who interest me. I only log in every other day or so and have a quick scroll through what people have been discussing, and then use it as a starting point for conversations to be carried out in other arenas, should I so wish. As an initial benefit, I’ve found it’s opened up my world a bit to some really interesting people in fields that I don’t normally have contact with, which I’m pleased about. But I’m still very much in experimenting mode.

You could definitely use it in the way you describe, Jill, but you’d probably have to establish an explicit procedure for this and then get buy-in from your work providers, other translators, etc. I think that would be the biggest barrier. I mean, you couldn’t just sign up and expect it to work that way, you know? As with all new tools, people are still feeling their way about with it so it’s use is pretty informal and basically anything goes. You just have to try and strip away the hype and figure out what goes, if anything, for you! Personally, I wouldn’t like to use it the way you describe because I have an aversion to anything that makes me feel obliged to be at my computer at a specific time, including anything that shows up when I’m online (e.g. “Skype me now!’ etc)… but that’s just one of the little endearing quirks of my personality!

But Twitter certainly doesn’t have to be mundane and boring, unless you make it so. There are enough people out there using it in so many different ways, if you’re interested then the thing is to find them, then watch and learn.

I find this is often what happens with me when new tools and technologies come along. I take my time, I keep an open mind and if it’s relevant and fun to use, my marketing and work plan will naturally evolve to include it! If not, then at least I don’t get the feeling that I’m missing something, and I know I’m making an informed choice based on what’s best for me.

Hope the ATA talk is good! Let us know how it goes, it’d be great to hear some translator-specific advice on its use!

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