What to tweet?
Twitter only allows you to send 280 characters, which doesn’t seem much when we are used to writing at length about complex ideas. That doesn’t mean that Twitter is superficial or only used to tweet about frivolous things. Many people, especially in a Higher Education context, 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 280 characters.
The tone of your professional twitter account needn’t be overly formal – you can be chatty and conversational, and allow your personality to come through. Even if tweeting on behalf of a service, you need to be engaging rather than formal, ‘passing on information’ rather than ‘making announcements’. Do remember though, if you’re tweeting in any professional capacity, that Twitter is a very public medium, and that tweets can be kept, even if you delete them (more on this on Day 9). As a rule of thumb, don’t say anything you wouldn’t normally say openly in a work context!
If you’ll also be tweeting in an official capacity, think about the balance of your own announcements to other information – Twitter is still a conversation, not an announcement service, and too much one-way, impersonal promotion will turn off your following! The key document offering how to approach social media as a member of Coventry University is the Coventry University Social Media Policy [accessed 1 March 2018] , plus specific advice for researchers: Social Media for Research Promotion [accessed 1 March 2018]
Some examples of what you might tweet about:
- an article you’re reading that’s interesting or a book you recommend
- an online resource you’ve come across
- a workshop, lecture, webinar, 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 good contact for you or others in future
- some insight into your research from an incident that happened today
- advice, tips or insights into how you teach or research for students or other colleagues
- 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 news story relevant to your work
- a funding, project 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 an academic’s life or moral support
- your new publication or report which has just come out (there are ways of mentioning this gracefully!)
Sending a tweet via the Web is really easy:
- Sign in to your Twitter account.
- Type your Tweet into the box at the top of your Home timeline, or click the Tweet button in the top navigation bar.
- Make sure your update is fewer than 280 characters. Twitter counts the characters for you!
- Click the Tweet button to post the Tweet to your profile.
- You will immediately see your Tweet in the timeline on your homepage.
Remember – you’re only able to write 280 characters including spaces. Once you go over the limit, the small counter in the tweet box will start to count in minus numbers to highlight how many characters you need to delete. You’ll soon develop a suitably concise style, and learn the tricks to abbreviate your writing, such as using ‘&’ instead of ‘and’. This all adds to the informal tone.
That’s it! Today’s task is to get tweeting. You can start by posting this tweet (you can copy & paste if you want):
Joining in #CU10DoT with @HJSears
Try sending a few more tweets throughout the day. Your first tweets might be just simple messages to ease you in – what are you up to? What kind of event or activity might your intended followers find interesting, personable or quirky? You could let them know about an upcoming event, a thought about your research or teaching, or just show that you’re approachable and share common experiences. Don’t agonise over it though – Twitter is ephemeral in many ways!