The Ecology of Twitter – A How-to Twitter Guide

Ecology of TwitterEcology Defined

According to the book, “The Science of Ecology“, Brewer, R. 2nd Ed., ecology is defined as the study of the relationships of organisms to their environment and to one another. Over the past several decades, many books were written regarding ecology, sustainability, and the role that business plays in this topic.  These books included “The Ecology of Commerce” by P. Hawken, “in Earth’s Company” by Carl Frankel, “Natural Capitalism” by P. Hawkin, et al., and “Mid-Course Correction” by R. Anderson.

Ecology is about learning relationships of organisms and their interactions with each other.  As EHS professionals try to learn the new tools of communication – the social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin – they would benefit by recalling some of the principles of ecology.

Ecology Principles Applied to Twitter

Ecology principles include:

  • Ecological Complexity – Twitter is an example in complexity and that’s why it is so difficult to explain.  In ecology, complexity is understood as a large computational effort needed to piece together numerous interacting parts exceeding the iterative memory capacity of the human mind.  As in ecology, small scale patterns in Twitter do not necessarily explain large scale phenomena.
  • Communities are Created.  In ecology, communities are created by the interaction of the populations of different species in an area.  In Twitter, we often see many different professions begin to follow others in unlike professions.  However, eventually, if the tweets prove to be of no use to each other they will un-follow.  In addition, if the tweets prove to be of value then they will eventually find themselves on community lists dealing with that particular topic – so tweet what matters.
  • As in ecology, expect some Chaos.  In the study of ecology, simple models can produce random fluctuations.  This is termed chaos – the tendency of simple, deterministic systems under some circumstances to exhibit complicated and effectively unpredictable dynamics.  In Twitter, these unpredictable events are usually triggered by some social event or crisis.  For example, who would have thought that Charlie Sheen’s Twitter Followers could grow from zero to 900,000 in just 24 hours, or that the Japan Tsunami / Earthquake crisis could generate 1,200 tweets per minute.  In ecology, I would like to see examples of that kind of exponential growth!

Getting Started on Twitter

  • Create an account simply by going to twitter.com. Use your real name, but your “twitter handle” should be short and easy to remember.
  • Complete your bio, use words and terms that other like-minded people would use to find people to follow.
  • Search for organizations to follow by using terms such as industrial hygiene, occupational safety, etc.
  • Listen in on the conversations to get a feel for the interaction. Don’t expect to read or keep up on every tweet.
  • Start off by “retweeting” or RT other people’s good information.
  • When ready tweet links to original and relevant content.  Make your tweets worth retweeting.  Twitter is all about sharing information.
  • Create lists to follow tweets that matter.  I personally use twitter to follow news alerts from relevant regulatory agencies.  You can follow my twitter list by going to: http://twitter.com/#!/Affygility/ehs-list

Once you get the hang of it, you should probably put an app on your smartphone.  Apps that work well include TweetDeck or Twitbird.  You might want to read a more detail book about Twitter such as Twitter for Dummies.

For those of you that are skeptical about this technology, just remember one other principle of ecology – the principle of succession.  In ecology, the principle of succession is when a new area is produced, the community that initially develops there usually doesn’t persist very long.  In the course of time, various species are lost and others will evade.  Eventually, a community will develop that is stable.

Dean Calhoun, CIH is the President/CEO of Affygility Solutions.  For more information on ecology, and EHS follow Dean Calhoun on Twitter @affygility


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About Dean Calhoun

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Dean is the President and CEO of Affygility Solutions. Affygility Solutions provides environmental, health and safety software, potent compound safety, industrial hygiene, containment validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry. "Dean's Google+ Profile"

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