You can’t say a lot in 140 characters – but you can link to other places on the web where a topic can be discussed at greater length, perhaps in an article or blog post. Maybe you’ve seen an item of news or a webpage you want to comment on or pass on to your followers. Perhaps you’ve just posted something on a blog or website and you want to encourage people to have a look. Twitter works really well as a way to bring people’s attention to other, longer things online.
You can simply copy and paste a website’s URL into a tweet. However, many URLs are pretty long, and even if they fit into 140 characters, it leaves less space for you to add a contextualising explanation or comment which will encourage people to click on the link. Fortunately, Twitter has an inbuilt URL shortener, which will cut the link down to 20 characters.
You can also use other URL-shortening sites, which will cut the link down to even less. Try these ones:
- Goo.gl (owned by Google, obviously! If you have a Google+ account, you can track statistics on click-through, useful if you’re evaluating publicity strategies for a new web resource or event)
- Ow.ly (you can also add links to photos, files and videos with this site, useful for spicing up livetweets from conferences or events)
- Bit.ly (you can also track click-throughs with this site)
When tweeting a link, it’s good practice to begin your tweet with a brief comment explaining what it is and why you’re tweeting it. A URL by itself doesn’t necessarily say much about content or provenance, and a shortened one using one of the above services gives nothing away at all about what it is. Your followers will ignore your tweet and the link if they can’t immediately see what it’s about, where it’s from and why they should be interested. Moreover, it might be assumed that by sharing a link, you are endorsing the content, so if not, it would be as well to add a comment stating your stance on it – do you agree, or disagree? Or is it simply that you found it useful and think your followers might too? Another reason to keep the URL as it is rather than use a URL shortener is longevity – if that service is withdrawn, the link will no longer work. It’s a trade-off between keeping it short and having some analytics, and longevity and a bit more context in the URL.
So what might you link to?
- a news story about Higher Education with a comment on how it’s reported
- a conference or funding call that’s been announced
- a book or article you recommend (or don’t recommend…)
- a blog post you found interesting (and whether you agree or not)
- slides or other material from a presentation you attended (or gave!)
- a video on youtube or vimeo, perhaps of a presentation or talk, or public engagement
- something you’ve uploaded yourself. This blog is set to update automatically on Twitter whenever I post something new (which is why there is a hashtag in the blog post title!). Try and personalise the automatic update message yourself if you can.
- your new publication! There’s evidence that tweeting about your research output really helps to increase views, and therefore possibly citations!
You’re not expected to spend time deliberately looking for links to tweet to your followers; this is more a byproduct from anything you happen to be doing online anyway. And with more and more sites including a ‘Share This’ button or buttons for the various social media platforms, it’s very easy and quick to do. This is part of what we mean by being an ‘Open Scholar’ in the digital age – it costs you very little to share your useful daily digital finds with others, so why not?
See what you come across today online, and remember to tweet it to your followers!
As it’s Friday, let’s try using the #ff or Follow Friday convention. Did you follow anyone on Wednesday who’s tweets turned out to be really useful, who you think we should be following? Let us know! A typical Follow Friday tweet might look like this:
Follow Cambridge scientists! #ff @athenedonald @JeromeCharmet @TEMguru @SiljaVoolma @condensedmatter @kirstie_j @drosophilic @paulcoxon