Twitter only allows you to send 140 characters, which doesn’t seem much. Academics almost always write at length about complex ideas, so it’s difficult to say something meaningful in such a short amount of text. But that doesn’t mean that Twitter is superficial or only used to tweet about frivolous things. Many researchers who are new to twitter aren’t sure what to say, or why updates about whatever they’re doing would be interesting to others. But there are actually many aspects of your day-to-day work that would be of very practical use to others. Have a look at some Twitter feeds from academic tweeters and see what kinds of information they share, to get an idea of how you really can say something useful and engaging in 140 characters.
- an article you’re reading that’s interesting
- a book you recommend
- a seminar or conference you’re going to – others may not have known about it, may want to meet you if they’re also going to be there, or may want to ask you about it if they can’t make it
- a new person you met today who might be a useful contact
- some advice on research methods from an incident that happened today
- a question asked by a student or colleague that made you think
- slides from a talk which you’ve just uploaded online
- your thoughts on a research news story
- a funding or job opportunity you’ve just seen
- a digital tool or software you’re using or problem you’ve solved with it
- a typical day – an insight into a researcher’s life or moral support
- your new publication which has just come out (there are ways of mentioning this gracefully!)
This bit is important! For this second Day of Twitter, as your first message, please send the following tweet- we’ll explain why later!
Joining in #STEM10DoT with @scholastic_rat!
Over the next week, we’ll be sending the following ten types of tweets. For today, though, send a few of the first type of tweet over the course of the day, using the suggestions above. You could also include the hashtag #STEM10Dot in your tweets – again, we’ll explain why later!
- A simple message – what are you up to? What kind of event or activity might your intended following find interesting, personable or quirky? You could let them know about an upcoming event they were unaware of or might also be present at, a thought about your research or work that’s just occurred to you, or just show that you’re approachable and share common experiences. Don’t agonise over it though – Twitter is in many ways ephemeral!
- An @ message directed to someone. Ask someone a question, comment or reply to one of their tweets, thank them for a RT or welcome a new follower. NB – don’t start your tweet with the @ sign, as then only the people that follow both of you will see it! either include their @name later in the message or add a full stop .@ before the @ if it’s at the start.
- Send a direct message (DM) to someone. What kind of message would need to be private in this way?
- A link to something interesting and relevant you’ve read online, or link to a journal or book. Shorten it using Twitter’s automatic tool or a separate one such as tinyURL, bitly or Ow.ly Add a bit of context or comment on it!
- Ask a question of your followers – crowdsource their views, ask for tips or advice or recommendations on a topic of mutual interest! Perhaps ask them to retweet (pls RT)
- Tweet a link to something you’ve shared online recently- a profile update, slides from a conference presentation, handouts from teaching or public engagement event. Many platforms can be set up to do this automatically when you update, such as a blog, slideshare, Storify, LinkedIn, etc. Add an engaging and contextualising comment!
- A retweeted, quoted tweet from someone else. Don’t just use Twitter’s retweet button – start with your own comment, then add RT and the @name of the originator or retweeter.
- A tweet incorporating a hashtag which links to a wider discussion. Search for your chosen hashtag first, to get a sense of what others use it for and what the discussion has been, and what you can add. Look at tweets from followers for hashtag discussions to join, make one up and see if it’s been used, or try #ECRchat, #PhDchat or #overlyhonestmethods, or add something to our hashtag #STEMD
- Livetweet an event of some kind, even if only for 10 minutes. You might try a research seminar, conference presentation or lecture. It’s polite to ask permission from the speaker. See if there is a hashtag for the event and if so, use it. Practice summarising the event and distinguishing your comments from the speaker’s.
- Take part in a livechat on twitter. #ECRchat and #PhDchat are popular ones.
If you can think of any more academic uses for Twitter, then do add them in the comments!
Think about the writing style of a good tweet. These tips from Meg Westbury, from the Judge Business School Library, are helpful: