The following PowerUp blog entry was written by Bruce Guetzkow who has been an IT professional for more than 25 years, mostly with Power Systems on IBM i and its predecessors. He is the current webmaster for the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association (WMCPA), an adviser for the Programmer/Analyst Track at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha,Wis., and an independent consultant for GmanTech Consulting in Delavan, Wis.
As a member of a local user group (Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association or WMCPA) I can attest that we are always looking for new ways to promote our organization and events. We are always trying to reach new people, new companies, new organizations. We mail postcards to members and non-members that we know of. We send email blasts to many of those same people, companies and organizations. We've even placed the odd phone call now and then.
Last fall I decided to try something different, for me, at least. I've used email for a long time and participated in several forums. I had not gotten into social media, however. Oh, I have a Facebook page where I share some photos with family and close friends. I also have an account with LinkedIn. But I had not tried the most direct, pervasive social media--Twitter.
I created an account (@gmantechi) and started looking for people to follow. I began searching Twitter for IBMi (and IBM i, iSeries, AS400, etc.). It didn't take long before I began finding some familiar names. Many of the same people whose articles we read in magazines and online, whose sessions we attend at local user group meetings and conferences and at COMMON are also active on Twitter!
What's more, they share lots of exciting information with me (and countless others). I can't count the number of webinars and articles that I've discovered via Twitter that I would not have known about by waiting for an email that would never appear. I even have a few things to say on occasion.
I now follow a few dozen IBM i-related people. You wouldn't believe the number of IBMers with Twitter accounts. But what about people I don't know who also have information that might be of value to me? That's where hashtags come into play.
When people send a tweet they can include a hashtag (or keyword) to identify tweets on a given subject (e.g, the tag #IBMi). The pound-sign (#) identifies the character string that follows as a hashtag. There is no list; you can make them up as you go. Of course, using tags that others are also using means you can get more content related to a given subject. #IBMi is our very own tag.
I also use #WMCPA for obvious reasons and using #IN makes your tweets visible on LinkedIn if you've linked your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Many ISVs are making use of Twitter to get the word out on upgrades to their software and special events that they're hosting. Even IBM Systems Magazine uses Twitter on a very regular basis (@ibmimag and @aixmag).
Twitter is not just about hearing that your favorite actor is eating sushi at 9 p.m. at a certain restaurant. For IBM i it's about connecting with peers, vendors, customers and anyone who might be willing to share information. Create an account and do what we've always done on forums: lurk! Search Twitter for a few people that you know in our industry and follow them to see what they say. You'll be surprised how much valuable information there is. You might even make a few new (professional) friends--I have.