How to tweet in academic life

My first post asked What is the role Twitter in academic life? and explored how Twitter can enrich academic careers. Now we move from thoughtsto action as we explore how to tweet in acadmic life…

It all starts with your Twitter bio

Your Twitter bio enables people to find and recognise you and can be used to tell people what to expect from you should they follow you on Twitter. It contains:

  • Your @symbol – this is used when someone wants to tag (mention) you in their tweet.
  • Name – add your academic credentials such as Dr or Professor for a sprinkle of credibility.
  • Profile image – don’t be an egg (the default Twitter user image looks like an egg) because that implies you are not really into this yet and won’t be worth following.
  • Profile cover – this is large photo appears at the top of your profile page, it must be eye-catching and give other users an idea of what you are about, it could be of something that illustrates your field of work or something you are promoting such as your book or event.
  • Twitter bio – the short description include your broad area of expertise and any research specialisms. Include where you work and any other professional affiliations and on Twitter it is fine to pop in an emoji if that is how you roll. Your bio might look something like this: Sport Scientist accredited @BASES_UK | Lecturer @marjonuni  | Research interests: elitesport, paralympics and disabilitysport | Opinions mine.
  • ‘Opinions mine’ simply makes it clear that you are not representing the views of your employer, clients or students. It is sensible to add this to your bio but be aware that if you are a VC, Dean or other Senior Leader then others will likely regard your opinion as that of your employer anyway.
  • Location – add it!
  • URL – if you blog then enter the address of your blog, if not then the URL of the university you work at, or preferably if you lecture the URL of the web page corresponding to your course.

Right, deep breath, it is now time to start tweeting (woohoo!)…

You’ve now got 280 characters. Twitter just doubled the maximum number of characters per tweet from 140 to 280. As you write, remember that on Twitter, less is more; it was the power of tweets of 140 characters max that made the little blue bird fly. So carefully craft your characters. And add media, either an image, a gif (grab one on or video, because tweets with images are far more likely to be shared than those without.

You can also add a URL to the post and Twitter will preview the page you are linking too, pulling in an image like this:

Next up, what are you going to tweet about? It is good practice to tweet a mix of your own new content and retweets of other good content. Be consistent as people are busy and are looking for go-to sources for information; we grow to trust the people who consistently bring us good content. Good content means on-topic content. Say your audience is made up of people who are interested in Psychology, then as a rule of thumb 70-80% of your tweets should be related to Psychology. It is good to go off topic from time-to-time as this adds a personal dimension and helps people to connect with you. So when your team wins the cup why not tweet about it and see what happens?

To grow your followers you need to tweet regularly, at least once per day. Ideally you would include a hashtag or two with each tweet too. Hashtags are a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol to identify messages on a specific topic, for example #marjongrad is used by staff, students, families and friends at our graduation ceremonies.

Getting started on Twitter is easier than it may sound. Try one tweet per day for the next three days  to get you started, here are some ideas:

  • Tweet about other people’s work – for example share something you liked reading recently (online or offline) and always tag the author, they’ll appreciate it and might even follow you back.
  • Share your own work – put your article, photo, book, conference, event and ponderances out there. Be ready for conversations to ensue and reply constructively to others.
  • Retweet to spread the word. For example when a colleague tweets about their new article or a graduate tweets about landing a great job then retweet it and add your congratulations. Or maybe you’d like to share something with your students – a video on YouTube, a research paper or a mainstream news story.
  • Tweet a great photo – great sunrise on campus? Well we all want to see that!

Remember our duty of care to our students. Ask the permission of any student who appears in a photo before you tweet it. Don’t tag them into the tweet unless they OK that too. Take it down if they ask, always and straightaway.

And the final step to getting set up on Twitter is to find and the people and organisations that are important to you. Follow academic colleagues, not just those you already know and but open up your network to include others who do work that interests you. Follow your graduates to learn what they do in their careers. There could be future opportunities for you both if you keep in touch. You need never miss a beat if you follow higher education influencers, policy makers and regulators as well as media organisation and the journalists who focus on your area of expertise. And for team Marjon here is a list of all Marjon depts and peps active on Twitter. There really is a lot to discover on Twitter, enjoy!

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