Third day of #SU5DoT: Tweeting URLs and retweeting

Welcome to day 3! Today is all about sharing information on Twitter

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 a new publication, 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, uploaded a resource or published an article 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 22 characters.

You can also use other URL-shortening sites, which will cut the link down to even less. Try these ones:

  • Tinyurl.com
  • 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)
  • Bitly (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 URL using one of the above services gives nothing away at all about what it is. Your followers will likely 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.

A tweet with only a shortened link in it is very likely to be spam and senders of such tweets are likely to be blocked (here’s how to block users if you get such spam tweets). 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 URL shortening service is withdrawn, the link will no longer work. It’s a trade-off between keeping it short, having some comment and 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! It will also become a tweet). Try and personalise the automatic update message yourself if you can.
  • your publications. There’s evidence that tweeting about your research output really helps to increase views, and therefore possibly citations, especially if you follow strategies such as those suggested here.

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. 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?

Task 1: see what you come across today online, and tweet a link to your followers!

Retweeting
You’ve send a few tweets over the last two days – hopefully you’ve found plenty in your everyday routine which would be of interest to others, whether they are your Swansea University colleagues, peers in your field, other professions within or beyond Higher Education such as policy, journalism or publishing, or to the general public.

But it really would be hard work to generate all the material yourself to feed your followers with regular, interesting tweets! Fortunately, you don’t have to – you can retweet the tweets of others. It’s sort of like forwarding an email, but to everyone who’s following you. They see the content of the original tweet, who it came from originally, and perhaps also a contextualising comment from you. By doing this, you’re performing a valuable service:

  • to your followers, by sifting the stream of information available to them, filtering out what’s potentially interesting to them, and also by making them aware of potential new contacts they can add to their network. They may already follow the person you’ve retweeted, in which case you’re bringing their attention to something they may have missed the first time. They may not yet follow the original tweeter, in which case, you’ve made available to them information they may not have had access to, and given them a new contact to follow.
  • to the people you follow, by amplifying their message and spreading it outside their network (and also possibly putting them in touch with new contacts)
  • and of course, you’re displaying to others that you’re well connected to interesting and important people, and that you are a discerning judge of what information is interesting and significant!

We’ve been retweeting items we hoped might be of interest to you and our other followers on @rscsam and @benfelen over the few days. To retweet a message, you simply click on the ‘retweet’ button which appears below each tweet when you hover over it.

TimesHigherEducation timeshighered Twitter

The message will then appear in your followers’ Twitter streams as if it appeared from the original sender, even though they may not follow them (although they might!). The tweet that they see will be marked with ‘username retweeted’ in small lettering, so if they look, they can tell that it was you who retweeted it.

TimesHigherEducation timeshighered Twitter

Sometimes you may want to add your thoughts to a tweet. Instead of just choosing to just press ‘Retweet,’ you can add a up to 116 characters that will sit above the original tweet. You can then add context to your retweet. The result will look something like this:

Sam Oakley rscsam Twitter

You can of course just add ‘RT’ to the original tweet and @name, and possibly quotation marks if you feel you need to clarify any further. Of course, as you only have 140 characters, adding these will eat into the original message!

Elen Davies Benfelen Twitter

Remember that to use Twitter effectively to promote your own work, you need to update frequently with interesting content to gain a following, and you also need to reciprocate and promote the work of others. No one wants to read or retweet a Twitter feed which is just broadcasting announcements about itself!You can, of course, cut out any part of the original tweet you feel is unnecessary, or to make space for your own comment, but to signal that you’ve done so, it’s polite to write MT (Modified Tweet) instead of RT. This is all a good reason to keep your own tweets as short as possible and not use up all 140 characters, so your own tweets can be easily retweeted!

Task 2: have a look at your twitter stream and see if you can find tweets you think your followers might be interested in – funding opportunities, calls for papers, an item of news, a new blog post or publication someone’s tweeted about, a comment you agree with… and start retweeting!

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2 thoughts on “Third day of #SU5DoT: Tweeting URLs and retweeting

    1. I suspect it will vary depending on where the blog is hosted – this blog is on wordpress.com and I was able to set it up to tweet each new post via the “Sharing” settings under “Configuration” (which shows in the list of menu options down the left hand side when I’m logged in). Can tell/show you more in person!

      Like

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