Topical & Tangible: Twitter Chats with Zachary Baquet (USAID)
Zachary Baquet, Knowledge Management Specialist for USAID's Bureau for Food Security, recently shared his insights on the use of Twitter as a tool to collect, generate, and share knowledge in a fast-paced environment of constant information. Here are some highlights:
Twitter is one of many important tools for USAID, especially when we consider the constant turnover of staff within the Agency and the challenge this poses to retaining institutional memory. To capture tacit knowledge, we need to become comfortable with a variety of tools, including Twitter. As Dave Snowden called it at the 2012 KM World Conference, Twitter is a “Human Sensor Network” – an open forum for followers and their Q&A.
Part of the skepticism behind the use of Twitter lies with the idea that 140 characters offers little room to convey a well thought out idea. This is perceived by many as a hindrance. Baquet fights this notion by reminding everyone that:
- 140 characters forces you to be succinct and clear in your message, which is highly advantageous for information sharing
- Twitter can be complemented with other tools (it does not have to be the main one, but rather one intended for brief conversations to spur further dialogue)
- Messages on Twitter, through the use of ‘hashtags’, can not only be brief but also reach a critical mass (e.g., under #foodsecurity, there are 200,480 accounts who follow that hashtag; @USAID has 141,000+ followers)
For example, BFS has done four hour-long, moderated #AskAg Agrilinks Twitter Chats with the support of the KDMD project at QED Group, LLC. It began with the Women’s Empowerment Index with gender experts, and moved to Women in Agricultural Trade engaging in Twitter conversations with participants. This process generated a ‘What is Twitter’ 101 Training (with ‘How to Use Twitter’ 102 Training coming soon).