Twitter boasts an active user-base of three hundred and thirty million accounts, sending over five-hundred million tweets a day on every topic of discourse imaginable. Researchers have been using Twitter to discuss PhD issues, communicate their own research, and consider academic writing almost since it began, and it can be a valuable way to promote your research and engage with academic discourse.
Some basic terminology
Timeline: Often called a ‘feed’, this is the list of tweets you make on your account, which automatically are shown to your followers.
Retweet: Often shortened to RT, means sharing someone else’s tweet on your timeline. Used to amplify someone else’s voice. A ‘quoted tweet’ uses this function but adds your own comment above it.
Reply: As you’d expect, this is a response to another tweet. Twitter nests tweets made in reply into what’s called a ‘twitter chain’, and users often reply to their own tweets to make longer-form arguments.
Hashtag: A designated topic, with the hash symbol in front of it, made to make it easy to search. Research topics with hashtags include #research, #phdlife, and #acwri.
If you haven’t done so already, you can sign up for Twitter at their website. Think about a few key things when setting up your account:
- Choose a Twitter name: This is how people will find you, and it is preceded by an @ sign. Be simple, professional and clear. @SeanRiley, @SeanLRiley, @ProfSeanR or the like would all be good choices, if you were me.
- Choose a profile picture: Most people use a classic professional headshot, but you can also use it to promote a book or conference that you are involved with.
- Cover graphic: This is a great place to promote your works. If you have a new book, or conference you’re organising, then it’s a large, useful space to put an image with the details in it.
- Biography and website link: Be brief, but informative. Keep an eye toward informing potential collaborators or media workers who might wish to find you. Use your link to forward them to your UTS staff profile.
Picking who to follow
Once your account is set up, it’s time to think about the people you want to follow. To make sure your Twitter feed works for you, we have a few tips:
- Resist the urge to follow just anyone; Twitter moves fast, so the more people you follow the less of anyone you’ll be likely to see.
- Start with colleagues, either at UTS or in other institutions. From there, look at who they follow, and see which people they follow are relevant to you.
- Find relevant thinkers and do-ers; you can also get some good hints on useful people to follow by looking at relevant industry leaders and important communicators within your field of research. You can also do some useful searching in Twitter’s advanced search function, which lets you filter in several categories, including geographically.
- Follow your faculty; Stay up to date with announcements in your faculty, and use your presence to boost your colleagues. You can also follow other University accounts like @UTSEngage, @UTSfutures, @UTS_GRS, @UTSResearch and of course, @UTSLibrary.
Building an audience and being involved
Once you’re signed up, it’s time to begin getting involved and building your audience. Here are some tips we’ve found helpful:
- Use that retweet function! It’s a great way to interact with other twitter users either by just signal boosting a good tweet, or by commenting on it using the quote feature.
- Use links and be visual. Need to promote your research and have a good looking chart that makes one of your points well? Lead with the chart as an image attached to your tweet: It can be immediate and punchy, and that’s a great way to get shared. Don’t forget to link to the full paper if you can!
- Conferences are for communicating. These events frequently have unique hashtags for the event and if you’re presenting at one, or even if you aren’t attending, consider looking into the hashtag and using it. If you’re presenting, make sure you promote your presentation with the right hashtag to alert your followers to come along (if they can!) and see what you have to say. If you’re not presenting, use the same hashtag to follow along with the convention and learn what’s going on, and chip in where you can.
Last words, in appropriately 140 characters.
Twitter is a conversation medium. Be genuine. You have knowledge to share and people will value that. Treat it as an opportunity to connect.