Something Completely Different: Concrete Uses for Twitter

Designers are often told that they should have a Twitter presence; they’re less often told why it will be useful and what they can expect to get out of it. That’s not a very compelling way to make an argument, so I thought it would be useful to be more specific about what Twitter has to offer. It turns out to be a pretty valuable tool–albeit one with some important limitations.

Below are some concrete advantages I’ve derived from Twitter. I don’t use it as actively as others, and based on my experience I would say that anyone can get these benefits with very little investment.

1. Tips and advice. There are great designers on Twitter who post about what they’ve learned, either directly or as links to articles. Reading their messages is a bit like sitting in on a conversation between masters of a craft; just listening can be informative.

2. Updates from organizations & people (that send out updates on Twitter). The Unpub group advertises local playtesting opportunities on Twitter. Cardboard Edison points out quality articles. Some designers use Twitter to announce when their latest games go to press.

3. Advertising. I’ve gotten some readers who found my posts on Twitter. (Welcome!) Posting there is a quick, free way to reach a broader audience when you feel you’ve created something—a game, an article, a podcast episode, a forum post, etc.—of general interest.

Of course, like any tool Twitter has its limits. These are the ones I’ve encountered or become aware of; I’m sure others have found more.

1. Difficult to build substantial relationships. You’ll note that “get to know people and make new connections” doesn’t appear on the list above. I haven’t found Twitter especially useful for that purpose, although that might be a function of my relatively limited use of the platform. As a general matter I would say that Twitter is more useful for finding people you want to build a connection with than it is for actually creating that connection.

2. Not everyone updates on Twitter. It’s still necessary to check many websites individually. Twitter can be a useful aggregator, but it’s not a one-stop shop.

3. The fuzzy boundary between chatting and marketing. In a field where successful designers become to some extent brands unto themselves, the line between personal statements and official ones can be very thin. It’s vital to think about how a tweet might be interpreted by readers, and how those interpretations might reflect back on your work.

4. Hostility and harassment. Although these are, thankfully, not part of everyone’s Twitter experience, they do occur. I wouldn’t blame anyone who looks at recent events and decides that they’d rather not expose themselves to an anonymous public in such an unmoderated way.

Despite the platform’s weaknesses, I think it’s worth having a Twitter account. Even a dummy one under a pseudonym is enough to follow along, which allows one to get benefits (1) and (2). The key is to find a way to interact with the platform that ensures one gets the advantages without running afoul of its pitfalls.


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