How to use Twitter in academic life

Three social media icons on iPhone screenI do digital marketing here at Marjon and sometimes people say to me, “I’m sure I should be using Twitter but I’m not sure where to start” so here are my 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.

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.

Twitter makes it simple to stay in touch with colleagues and to connect with 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, as most are 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. You get more followers when other users come to trust you as a source of informative and insightful content in your field.

I really like this description of the value of Twitter by Professor Kevin M Kruse at Princeton University:

“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 connect with students and graduates and to celebrate their successes. Highlight why your course is amazing by showing what your students do day-to-day, giving the inside track on facilities, connecting with external partners and sharing student feedback.


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. Some tips to make it a good one:

  1. Your name – include academic credentials such as Dr or Prof, to help with credibility.
  2. Profile image – add an image and don’t be an egg (the default user image looks like an egg) because an egg implies you are not really into this and won’t be worth following.
  3. Profile cover – this 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.
  4. Twitter bio – the short description include your broad area of expertise and include where you work (e.g. Lecturer @marjonuni) any other professional affiliations (e.g. @BASES_UK accredited Sport Scientist).
  5. On Twitter it is fine to pop in an emoji if that is how you roll.
  6. Many Twitter users add ‘Opinions mine’ to their bio – this makes it clear that you are not representing the views of your employer or students. If you happen to be a Senior Leader then be aware that others will most likely regard your opinions as being those of your employer.
  7. Location – add it!
  8. URL – this could be the web address of your blog, the address of the web page corresponding to your course or simply www.marjon.ac.uk.

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.

Tweets with images are far more likely to be shared than those without, I see great engagement on tweets with a single striking image, try it! You can also add a URL to the post and Twitter will preview the page you are linking too within your tweet.

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 our staff, students, families and friends at our graduation ceremonies. Also check out #phdchat and #academicswithcats.

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 – 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. 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 a news story or video with your students.
  • Tweet a great photo – great sunrise on campus? Well we all totally 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.

Find your people

And the final step to getting set up on Twitter is to find and follow 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!

Why not do something now 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 now, you’ll be entertained, you’ll be informed and you’ll start to understand the value of Twitter in enriching your academic life.

 

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Laura Bell

Digital Marketing Officer
Digital marketing @marjonuni

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