I have been using Twitter for a while now mainly for work purposes; teaching and researching within a bioscience environment. Twitter has been a useful of means of networking with like-minded colleagues in other institutions primarily on mattters of teaching and learning in higher education and extends conversations beyond those facilitated by face to face networking opportunities at conferences or other events.
I don’t follow a huge number of people neither do I have a huge following and I certainly don’t claim to be a “Twitter expert”. Sometimes I get questions on what Twitter is all about and the occasional admission from colleagues that they “just don’t get it”. With this in mind I supply the list below of my thoughts and tips after just over one year of tweeting.
- The best way to start is to jump right in. Register an account and get going.
- Follow an established tweeter (or lurk for a while if you are feeling shy) to see how the thing works.
- Make sure your profile is informative. If your username is very cryptic (like mine – PlanetChemistry) AND your picture is not of you or has not been updated at all users will not know who they are communicating with. Make sure you provide some information about yourself in the bio – concisely done in less than 160 characters.
- Contribute! Reply to other users’ comments and get involved; that’s the best way to build a network.
- Take a look at the people being followed by the people you follow as possible members of your network.
- Depending on your area of expertise or interest, most professional bodies, journals and funding bodies now have a presence of Twitter. In my own subject area this includes the UK Centre for Bioscience, the UK Centre for Physical Sciences and the Higher Education Academy. Following these organisations allows for early notice of calls for funding or calls for conference papers.
- Don’t rely on automatic tools to update your page. Feeds from your blog are fine so long as your Twitter page is not composed solely of them! Remember that Twitter is better for conversation: not broadcast!
- Use a tool like TweetDeck to help organise your followers and groups and so that you can keep a track of conferences and events through the use of #hashtags. Hashtags are short tags added to each tweet relevant to a conference or topic under discussion and allows relevant tweets to be aggregated together. For example, #edtech10 was the hashtag for the recent Irish Learning Technology Association conference and allowed the conversation around this event to be followed by delegates at the event and others participating remotely via Twitter.
- Following conferences via Twitter has been most useful for me and you can read my experiences of following the Learning and Teaching in the Sciences 2009 unconference at the University of Leicester, the Plymouth e-Learning Conference (PELC10) and the ESTICT (Engaging Students Through In Class Technology) event in Edinburgh on 29th April 2010 on this blog.
- Enjoy it! Tweeting is about “networks not destinations” (@AJCann) so it’s an opportunity for you to collaborate online and extend your network on a regular basis.
You will soon discover that there are numerous things Twitter can be used for. No doubt I will add to the list above as the weeks go by.. but does anyone have anything else to say?