Welcome to Twitter, and to #SU5DoT
Our first day is all about setting up and sending your first tweet!
Task no.1: Create your Twitter account
To start off with, you’ll need to sign up to Twitter. You can see people’s tweets without an account, by viewing their profile or by searching for a keyword, as it’s a very public social media channel. However, without an account you won’t be able to join in the conversation, and that’s the first and main thing to learn about Twitter:
Twitter is a conversation.
Setting up an account on Twitter is the easy part! There are still a few things to think about, though, in terms of creating an engaging and effective profile using
- your handle (@name), which people will use to identify and direct messages to you
- your avatar or profile picture, which is how people will pick your tweets out of their twitter feed, on a quick glance
- your identifying information, such as your location and personal website or webpage
- your ‘bio’ or strapline, which will sum up who you are and why people might want to follow you
- the overall look of your twitter profile, which makes it distinct and memorable when people view it
- and additional accounts, which you might want to set up to appeal to different audiences (you will need to use different email address to do so though, as each is linked to a separate account)
What purpose do you want to set up an account for? With Twitter, you can have more than one account (each linked to a different email address), as it is not limited to single real life identities like Facebook or LinkedIn are. Many people will start off with a personal, individual account to get used to Twitter, and then think about other ways in which they might use it to represent a group or service.
Visit twitter to set up an account.
- You’ll need to enter a real name, email address and password to sign up and create an account. Different accounts will need separate email addresses.
- At the second stage, you need to think of a username, which will be your @name. This might be some version of your real name or, if your name is common and most variations of it have already been taken, you might think of a professional and memorable pseudonym which people associate with you in some way. Don’t worry – you can change this later without losing your followers or tweets, and you can also add your real name to your profile so that it’s identifiably you. If you want to set up an account to represent an activity or group, then something which will be memorable, clearly be identified with any known branding of your activity, and work well on publicity will be essential.
- The next steps of signing up on Twitter take you through finding people to follow, but you can skip this step for now – we will look at it on Day Two! Twitter will ask you to follow at least six people before you can skip on to filling out your profile – I would suggest you follow these accounts as a good start:
The next thing you should do is start to fill out your profile, so that when people look at it, they will feel more encouraged to follow you.
- Upload a profile picture. When skimming through a twitter feed of all the people they follow, an eye-catching profile picture will help them pick your tweets out. It could be of you, if you have a good, clear shot of your face (useful in identifying you when you meet followers in real life at conferences! Full body pictures work less well as at the size of a thumbnail image, it’s hard to pick out your face!). It could also be an abstract image which somehow reflects your @name, as long as it’s striking. If you are setting up an account for a service then the service logo is an obvious choice, but do check the policy on the use of University logos with the corporate marketing team. Make sure the image is clear enough, as it appear as a small icon. Don’t leave your profile picture as the default Twitter ‘egg’ – this suggests that you are either very new to Twitter or a spammer! You can also add a ‘Header’ image which customises your profile page a little more.
- Add your real name, if you wish. This will appear on your profile, so if you use an abstract pseudonym and picture, your Twitter account can still be identifiably ‘you’ – again, useful at conferences! If you use Twitter to represent a department or group, then the ‘full’ version of its title, especially if your @name is an acronym, would be something to add here.
- Add a location (this could also be an institution or other affiliation). Your followers might be from anywhere in the country or the world, so this gives people a bit more context about which university or HE body you are affiliated with, lending you credibility and authority.
- Add a URL to a personal website or webpage. You can have only one, so perhaps your university webpage, if you have one, would be most appropriate here. People can then find out more about you than is possible in your Twitter profile.
- Add a ‘bio’. You have 160 characters to sum up who you are and what you might be tweeting about, to encourage people and give them a reason to follow you. Again, a blank or minimal bio isn’t very inviting, and suggests that you are too new to be interesting, that there is little to be gained from following you, or you are a spam account. A well-thought out bio is an important part of gaining new followers. Have a look at the bios on other tweeters’ profiles, and see what you find inviting or off-putting. If you intend to tweet in a professional capacity, then avoid too much about your hobbies and family or quirky, cryptic statements about yourself. It tells potential contacts nothing about why they might want to follow you or what kinds of information you are likely to be passing on to them, and therefore why they would want to network with you professionally. Some people like to add that they are “tweeting in a personal capacity” or that the “views are my own” to clarify that their tweets do not reflect the views of their employer, although you may feel that this is clear enough anyway.
- You can connect your Twitter account to post automatically to your Facebook account too, if you have one. Think carefully about the two audiences for Facebook and Twitter- is this something you want to do? Or would you rather keep them separate?
People will often view your profile page when deciding whether to follow you, and you might give out the URL to your profile page (e.g. on your email signature or business card) if you want to ask someone to follow you, so it is worth making it informative and distinctive. It will also be an important part of your publicity if you’re tweeting in a group capacity for your service. Today, we’re mostly looking at the information in the tab at the top labelled ‘Me’, which is where people will find your profile:
Explore customising your Twitter profile page in the Settings.
Click on the Profile Picture at the top, and select Settings. In the Settings, you can:
- Change your Header image – the one that sits behind your avatar. Go to Profile to upload an image.
- @Benfelen has customised the Header of her profile – have a look and see what you think.
You can create more Twitter accounts from other email addresses for other aspects of your life, and it’s best not to mix content and audiences too much – for example, if you use Twitter for a hobby, then a separate account for professional purposes means that you aren’t filling people’s Twitter feeds with things that don’t interest them or confuse them. It’s fine to add a personal touch to your professional tweets though!
Task no.2: Send a tweet
For this First Day of Twitter, as your first message, please send the following tweet – we’ll explain why later!
Joining in #SU5DoT with @rscsam and @benfelen
Twitter only allows you to send 140 characters, which doesn’t seem much. In academia, we 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 people, especially in an HE 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 140 characters.
The appropriate tone for a professional twitter account needn’t be overly formal – you can be chatty and conversational, and allow your personality to come through. In fact, you’ll have to be a bit informal if you want to fit everything in, using abbreviations and even textspeak! Even if tweeting on behalf of a department or group, you need to be engaging rather than formal. Do remember though, if you’re tweeting in any professional capacity, that Twitter is a very public medium, and that your tweets can be kept by others, even if you delete them (more on this on Day 5). Don’t say anything you wouldn’t normally say openly in a work context.
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 stumbled across
- a workshop, 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 on academic work 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 or lecture which you’ve just uploaded online
- your thoughts on an education or other 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 is really easy – when you’re logged into Twitter, you’ll see a box in the middle of the screen at the top, which says ‘What’s happening?’ If you click in the box, you’ll be able to write your tweet and then click the ‘Tweet’ button. You can also use the feather quill pen icon in the top right of the screen to compose.
Remember – you’re only able to write 140 characters including spaces, and there’s a small counter below this box which tells you how many characters you have left. It will stop you once you go over and 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.
Over the next week, we’ll be sending the following ten types of tweets. For today, though, just send a few of the first type of tweet over the course of the day, using the examples above. You could include the hashtag #SU5dot 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 ephemeral in many ways!
- (no’s 2-10 are examples of what we’ll be moving on to over the rest of the week) 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 (i.e. ‘pls RT’)
- Tweet a link to something you’ve shared online recently – a profile update, slides from a conference presentation, handouts from a workshop. Many platforms can be set up to do this automatically when you update, such as blogs, SlideShare, Storify, LinkedIn, and so on. 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 adding something to an existing hashtag such as #studychat or #infolit
- 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. #UKedchat, #ECRchat and #PhDchat are popular ones.
We’ll look at nos. 2-10 over the next few days. If you can think of any more professional uses for Twitter, then do add them in the comments, or tweet about it!
If you’re thinking of tweeting in an official capacity for your research group or department, then 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!). This presentation from Library Marketing Toolkit has some good tips:
Ultimately, your tweets will look a bit like this, but we’ll work up to that!
From edtechsandyk‘s blog
So – send a few tweets, now and perhaps throughout the day, following the suggestion no. 1 from the list above! Watch for tweets from us and tweet back! And remember to tweet Joining in #SU5DoT with @rscsam and @benfelen