One of the best ways to learn new teaching techniques, stay abreast of the latest research in your field and to be “in-the-know” about the latest tech is to talk to people in your field or who those who work in higher education more broadly. This kind of professional networking often takes place at conferences or professional meetups, but since most of us don’t have unlimited budgets for traveling to these kinds of events (and with the current pandemic, many things have been rescheduled or cancelled anyway), how can you keep the conversations going when you’re not networking in person with your colleagues?
Twitter is actually one of the best tools for doing this. It makes it easy to connect, read, converse and build a powerful professional network that you can access at any time and from anywhere.
If you don’t already have a Twitter account, now is a great time to set one up. If you’re already signed up, skip the first steps and head right into the tips on how to make Twitter your go-to place for professional development and networking.
Setting Up an Account
Setting up an account on Twitter is super simple. Go to Twitter.com/signup. From there, you’ll be guided through choosing a username and filling in your account information. If you plan to use Twitter for professional purposes, make sure to choose your handle and email address accordingly (though you can change either at any time as long as neither is already in use).
Make sure to fill out some basic information about yourself (it can be REALLY general, so something like “Community College Professor” or “Spanish Instructor in IL” in the bio so people know who they are talking to. It should take only a few minutes and you’ll be set up and ready to go. So now what?
Who to Follow?
One of the first things that Twitter will prompt you to do once you set up an account is to find accounts to follow. So who do you follow? Here are some ideas:
- Your institution. It’s always a good idea to follow your college’s or university’s Twitter account or accounts (don’t forget to follow your friends in Learning Technologies).
- Your colleagues. Keep up with what your colleagues are doing by following them on Twitter. This can be a great way to find shared resources and ideas.
- Authors and thought leaders. Love a particular book in your discipline? Follow the author on Twitter!
- Other colleges. It can be really useful to see what other colleges are doing, especially if they have departmental Twitter accounts that are specific to your discipline.
- Hashtags that interest you. You can follow more than just users! You can also follow hashtags that interest you. There are LOADS of chats and profession specific hashtags out there, so you’re bound to find something that works for you (for example #edchat #highered #EngChat).
- Professional Organizations. Any professional organizations that are relevant to your work can be a great resource.
- Publications. There’s no better way to stay up on the latest articles being published than to get updates straight from the publications featuring them!
All of this is great, but if you’re new to Twitter, you might be wondering, well, fine, but how do I find these people!? There are a couple of different avenues that work really well for this.
Just search. Yep, sometimes the best way to find things is just to keep is super simple and search for relevant names or terms.
Tap into retweets. Found a person you LOVE following? See who they’re retweeting and consider following those accounts, too.
Use hashtags. Look through relevant hashtags to find accounts that might be of interest to you (for example, if you study astronomy, use the #astronomy tag to find people who are tweeting about it.
Google lists. There are thousands of lists of “best twitter accounts” out there. Simply search for one that’s relevant to your interests.
Use your recommendations. Twitter tries to help you find accounts to follow, too. Look to the right side of your account to get your recommended accounts to follow.
See who people are following. One of the best and most simple ways to find people to follow is to take an account you like or find particularly useful, and go through the list of who they’re following. Chances are good you’ll find some people or organizations you want to follow, too.
The best thing about this process is that if an account doesn’t turn out to be of interest you can simply unfollow and stop seeing all those boring tweets. It’s also a good idea not to follow too many people, unless you organize your follows into lists, as this can make it hard to see some of the content that’s been shared. There will simply be too much, you’ll get overwhelmed, and you might turn away from the platform altogether.
What Do You Tweet?
So we’ve covered how to read what other people are tweeting, but part of networking is putting yourself out there, so you’ll also need to compose your own tweets. Twitter limits your tweets to 240 characters, but you can also add in links and pictures. And if you need more than just that allotted amount, you can create a tweet thread. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Ask questions. You have questions, people have answers. Ask people about using tech or techniques in the classroom. Ask about their research. Send your queries out into the Twitterverse. Whatever you’re interested in, ask about it!
Share your own research/ experiences. Working on something pretty cool? Found an amazing way to teach a particular lesson? Sharing these kinds of things is what Twitter is all about.
Talk up things you like. Twitter is a great place to share what you love. This can mean tech tools, articles, amazing colleagues, news about your institution—anything!
Retweet. Can’t think of anything to say? There’s no shame in retweeting! If you find something great that someone else has said or shared, retweet away. This is actually a great way to build relationships and start discussions on twitter.
Offer advice to others. Social media is all about being social, so offer suggestions and advice to those in your professional network, especially when they post requests for help!
Get visual. Twitter also allows users to post pictures, so instead of just talking about something, take a pic!
Live Tweet. One of the fun things about using Twitter is being able to live tweet events as they happen. This works well at conferences, watching movies, presentations, and things where it’s fun to get a running commentary of what’s going on.
And Finally, Some Twittiquette
If you want to be a good community member, it’s key to follow some Twitter guidelines!
Don’t overtweet. You don’t need to tweet more than a few times a day unless you’re live-tweeting an event or engaging in a conversation with someone else.
Know how to hashtag. Hashtags go in the middle or end of a tweet, not at the beginning and should be use judiously.
Keep private discussions in the direct messages. Anything you wouldn’t want the world to know about should stay in your DMs.
Tag with care. Make sure that when you tag people in tweets, that you’re engaging them in a professional way.
And that’s it! Hopefully this inspires you to set up your own Twitter account and to use it to reach out to those in your professional community to stay in touch. If you need any help, please let us know!