Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post called 'Modern Procrastination' which caused quite a stir in the twitter community: it got retweeted more than 1150 times! The main message of his post was that idea workers are "misusing Twitter, Facebook and various forms of digital networking to  avoiding difficult (and apparently risky) intellectual labor." (You can read the full post here)

Although I don't fully agree with him that this behavior is driven by social networking (I for example believe that email, IM, or even colleagues can be equally disturbing and distracting than Facebook or twitter) it did get me thinking on my own use of (especially) twitter. One thing is definitely true, it does take a lot of time. I spend easily 30 to 60 minutes a day checking out twitter messages, clicking on links, and reading articles – time I spend differently before I started using twitter (only a couple of months ago).

So what does it bring me? Is this a good investment of my clocked hours? I definitely believe it is. Why? Because although it does require some time investment, it makes me better in my work. Instead of checking out multiple websites to update myself on market research news I subscribe for example to twitter feeds of Research Magazine (@researchlive), Esomar (@ESOMAR), and the AMA (@amamrc). These tweets give me a good idea on what happens in the industry.

Next to this I follow some research providers, news sources or bloggers that regularly have interesting insights related to what I'm working on (technology, marketing, and MR). Companies I follow include Forrester (@forrester) of course, Pew Research (@pewresearch), but also ChinaPrime (@ChinaPrime), ReadWriteWeb (@rww), AdAge (@adage), and iMedia (@imediatweet). 

To keep up to date with the discussions in the market research industry, and to understand what's hot and what's not, I follow some individuals whose opinion I respect and whose tweets and blogs I enjoy reading like for example Jeffrey Henning from Vovici (@JHenning), Cathy Harrison (@VirtualMR), Kathryn Korostoff (@ResearchRocks), Tom Ewing from Kantar (@tomewing), or Joel Rubinson from the ARF (@joelrubinson). And finally I follow some vendors like Communispace, Brainjuicer, Ipsos Mori, and TNS Global.

I feel the time I spend on twitter definitely balances out the knowledge I gain. Twitter makes it easy for me to stay up to date on trends in different regions, on a wide range of organizations and topics. It helps me to get multiple opinions on a topic and gain a lot of new insights. Twitter feeds are also a great way to learn something new, both on a professional level (I found for example the blog, or the interactive graphic website through feeds), but also more personal facts like that there are heavy thunder storms in San Francisco, while it's excellent weather to play cricket in Australia.

Some personal lessons learned during the past couple of months:

  1. Only check twitter a couple of times a day (and couple means not more than two or three times). Seth is right in stating that all the interesting tidbits shared can easily eat away your day.
  2. Keep the number of tweeters you follow ('following') manageable. My personal maximum is about 100, after that the number of tweets becomes overwhelming and I can't find interesting insights between all the updates anymore.

How about you? Do you agree with Seth, are twitter and Facebook the modern way to procrastinate? Do you believe the more people you follow the better or do you also have a certain threshold? And I welcome your opinion on the value of twitter to your role.

As a side note, we're currently working on a research document on how market researchers can use social media to do research – a whole different topic! Tamara Barber (@tamarabarber) is the analyst, and I'm sure she'd love to hear your opinion on this. She'll blog about this in the next weeks.