What is the role of twitter in academic life?

I do Digital Marketing here at Marjon and from time-to-time someone mentions to me “I think I should be using Twitter but I’m not really sure where to start”. So I’m writing a couple of posts covering how to make the most of Twitter in your academic life as well as what I hope are some useful tips to help you get started…

Twitter is an amazing tool for learning from others and sharing ideas. If you’d like to know what the the leading lights in your field are thinking about and reading then you may well find the answers on Twitter, you can also get into a dialogue with them and others about it. You can broaden your professional network as you connect with academics who share your research interests as well as other influencers in your field, wherever they are in the world. If your existing colleagues are Twitter users then you can follow their work as well as that of new colleagues you meet (or are going to meet) at conferences. You can open the door to new collaborations and even become a go-to source for journalists, most being very active on Twitter.

You can and should use Twitter to share your own work and engage in constructive conversation about it, this can lead to new opportunities. If your subject area intersects with a topical issue (be this education policy or the next Olympic Games) then contribute to the conversation and you’ll likely connect with an interested audience.

You need to do more than share your own work. You should also share and respond to the work of others. Many people use Twitter as a filter, they can go there to check-in with their trusted experts. It follows that you get more followers when other users come to trust you as a source of informative and insightful content in your field. In the words of  Kevin M Kruse, Professor at Princeton University, it works like this:

“Twitter works best as a conversation. All too often, I’ve seen senior scholars who use it solely to dash off links to the latest media appearance or review they’ve received. To be sure, I do that too, but that can’t be all you do with it. Your tweets shouldn’t just be press releases. You really need to engage with others, to listen more than you speak. You need address the new questions posed to you (directly or indirectly) more than simply repeating your old answers, and ultimately to respond to the interests of others more than you promote your own. Think of them as your global office hours: keep the door open and your mind too.” (Source: ProcessHistory.org)

If you are a course leader or lecturer then Twitter offers you a space to welcome students and to celebrate their successes. You can also keep in touch with your graduates. You can give a flavour of what your students do day-to-day, give the inside track on course facilities, showcase awards or accreditations and share student feedback.

Twitter will make you laugh too, guaranteed. I, like literally hundreds of thousands of other people, loved this tweet:

You might know that a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#) which identifies that the message or tweet is about a specific topic. A couple of popular hashtags relating to academic life include #phdchat and #academicswithcats. You can also search Twitter to find hashtags relating to your field.

Before we go, right now, why not do something to start to make the most of Twitter in your academic life? Are you up for it? Yes, of course you are! Simply sign up to Twitter and follow these accounts to get a feel for Twitter at it’s best. You’ll be entertained, you’ll be informed and you’ll start to understand the value of Twitter and the role it can play in enriching your academic life.

  • @ProfBrianCox – Probably the coolest academic in the world. The ‘Brian Cox’ effect is credited with university physics applications by 52%; he is also great at Twitter.
  • @MarionNestle –  Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, known as a source of the latest new stories in her field.
  • @Write4Research – useful resource for anyone who is research-active.
  • @WonkHE – follow for the latest on higher education policy, people and politics.
  • @TimesHigherEducation – follow for higher education news.

I hope you’re now feeling ready to start tweeting, if so then check out my next post about How to tweet in academic life.

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