In a previous post, we shared a few social media tips to start a Twitter account for even the shyest among us. So now that you’ve taken a deep breath and joined, what next? We thought we’d help out with the basics. Here are our first five of ten steps to get started on Twitter as an academic and creating a positive representation of yourself that you’re comfortable with and confident in.
1. Choose your Twitter handle
From the very beginning, you need to ask yourself why you’re joining Twitter. Are you joining as yourself or are you starting an account for your journal or organisation? If you’re joining as yourself, is your account going to be professional, personal, or a mix of both?
Using your name (or the name of your journal or organisation) is the simplest way to go. Both my names are hugely common but I found a handle by adding my middle initial (@kathymmckay). Some people who use Dr or Prof in their handles, advised that this identifies them more obviously as an academic.
Whatever you choose, your Twitter handle is going to be what identifies you and what initially attracts people to follow you.
2. Write your biography
After deciding on your name, you then need to answer “who are you?” What you write here will again depend on why you’ve joined Twitter.
My biography (or bio) is a mix of the professional and the personal – my (recent, smiling) picture in the corner, my cat in my banner; my research interests listed, as well as my dreams. I’ve added my locations as well as a link to my blog, which is also a mix of academic and general thoughts. In this way, you can easily see, in the limited amount of characters allowed, what I do as a researcher and a little bit of my personality.
3. Find people to follow
Follow your supervisor – follow your colleagues – follow people whose work you admire. Follow journals you publish in, and want to publish in. Follow academic blogs and cartoons. Follow us!
See who these people follow and, if they’re someone you’ll find interesting, follow them. As you continue to use Twitter, other people will find you and your Twitter circle will keep on expanding. Everyone starts small so don’t worry.
4. Write your first tweet
1500+ tweets later, it’s easy to forget how shy I was writing my first tweet – and how many drafts I wrote! And it was the simplest tweet in the world, as well as the easiest first-tweet to write. I introduced myself and said hello to Twitter.
Thanks to the fact that one of my very kind friends had already followed me back, I got my first like and my first reply. I was able to start my first conversation on Twitter and that helped me start to get into the swing of it.
5. What makes a good tweet
This is contentious. If we are to believe Kim Kardashian, nude selfies break the Internet. I’m not sure that this is the path academics should take though. Pictures attached to your tweets are more enticing than text alone, even if you’re tweeting about your new journal article. Remember to include links so people can get to the whole article that you’re talking about.
A lot has been written about the importance of hashtags but a tweet that is more hashtag than actual words is difficult to make sense of and less likely to be engaging.
At the end of the day, sometimes people surprise you. I’ve tweeted about important and serious issues that I am passionate about – and few have made an impact like the photo I recently tweeted of my little cat helping me type a Teaching Philosophy.
Hopefully, these five steps will help you get started on your Twitter journey. Stay tuned for part 2…