Why should you use twitter?
- To communicate your science directly to the public
- Because tweeting takes less time than other types of blogging
- To create new relationships—or even partnerships—to generate ideas and foster interdisciplinary research
- To broadcast your work to find more people, companies or organizations interested in your work and its applications
- To keep up with breaking (science) news
- To get input from other researchers by asking questions about equipment, fieldwork locations, logistics, etc.
- To both educate and learn from your twitter community
- To follow conferences (live) that you can’t get to in person
How can you make the most out of twitter?
How does twitter actually work? A tweet is a 140 character message (often including links) posted to “the public.” It’s true, the public can search twitter and may see your tweets, but most of the people who will see what you write are your followers. You want to have an idea of who you are trying to reach. Is it other ecologists? Teachers? Millennials? Policymakers? You will know if you’re succeeding when you see those people follow you.
A few key definitions:
- Followers: accounts who can see your tweets and activity in their news feed. These people have made an active choice to follow your account and are interested in your work and what you have to say.
- Re-tweets (RTs): when someone posts another account’s tweet to their account with the account name of the original poster. This helps an interesting post gain more views by being spread to more accounts.
- Home page news feed: gives you updates of posts from all the accounts you follow in reverse chronological order.
- Messages, also known as PMs: private messages between accounts who mutually follow each other. These can only be seen by the parties involved in the message and are also limited to 140 characters.
- Hashtags (#): The search function in twitter works to search everything, people or hashtags. Hashtags denote a specific meaning of a common word or a combination of words with a particular meaning. For the latest in science news, for example, search #sciencenews, but there’s no need to hashtag biodiversity, which will give the same search results as #biodiversity. Hashtags are especially common when live-tweeting events, such as
Types of tweets:
- Share a link. Say something about why an article, video or image stands out to you, then paste the link into the tweet.
- Post short “blog-like” updates about research. If you can’t keep these to less than 140 characters divide the message in different parts and number them eg. (1/3), (2/3) and (3/3).
- Conversation tweets. You can tag another account in your tweet using @[username] in order to ask a question, start a conversation or comment on something they may have posted. These are different from PMs in that they are public, so will be seen on both your account and the other account’s tweets.
If you are careful and attentive about who you follow, it’s possible to build a great network of people with similar interests. Avoid twitter burn-out by checking out the latest tweets of someone you’re thinking of following. Follow only if they are posting material that is relevant to your interests.
Who to follow:
- Make your own twitter network by following scientists, journalists, organizations and science enthusiasts whose interests align with your work – these should be people who would benefit from your posts/research but also people or organizations from whom you can learn.
- See who your followers are also following and re-tweeting.
- Use other accounts’ lists to find influential or interesting people in particular catagories. For example, @USLTER has a list of science journalists and a list of LTER scientist-tweeters. But don’t be fooled — you can follow a list, but you can’t tweet to it.
- Use these websites to shorten links and make the most out of your 140 characters: https://bitly.com/ or https://goo.gl/
- Keep time of day in mind when posting, there are peak hours when more people are likely to see your tweet, usually in the mornings and late afternoons. Keep geographic location of your followers in mind since time difference can affect when people are more likely to see your posts.
- Be more efficient by using tweetdeck (tweetdeck.twitter.com), a free tool that will help you to schedule your posts and see activity on your page in a more comprehensive manner.
- Keep up to date with trending hashtags in your field by googling eg. “trending hashtags in ecology.” But be careful how many hashtags you use, too many can drive others away.
- Keep your twitter active! Engage with your community in some way a few times a week. That can be as simple as scrolling through your feed and “favorite-ing” or retweeting someone else’s post.
- Remember to weed and fertilize the list of people you follow. Search authors of interesting articles or professionals you meet at conferences and add them to your list. Go ahead and unfollow accounts that are no longer interesting to you.
- If you decide to use twitter for personal reasons such as interest in following friends, family or celebrities and posting about your private life, make a second twitter account for that purpose to keep your work twitter professional while also having the flexibility to post about anything else you want.
To get you started, here are a few accounts worth checking out: