Pack Hacks for Faculty: Twitter for Academics

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Welcome to the inaugural edition of Pack Hacks for Faculty. Each month, a member of the NC State faculty will provide quick tips, advice and other insight to facilitate your teaching, research, scholarship or engagement activities. If you are interested in making a submission for a future Pack Hacks for Faculty, please contact provost-communications@ncsu.edu. This month, Maria Gallardo-Williams, teaching associate professor in chemistry and director of undergraduate organic laboratories, gives her insights on making the most of your Twitter account in academia.

Twitter for Academics: A Short Guide to Maximize Your Impact on Social Media

Maria Gallardo-Williams

Higher education faculty continue to flock to Twitter In order to communicate better with colleagues, students and the general public. What do faculty say on the social media site, and should you give it a try?

Twitter is easy to use and customize, maintains a minimal learning curve, and gives you visibility and a place to share your interests and accomplishments. Here’s how to establish your Twitter presence.

Getting started:

First, create a user profile on Twitter. Choose a username that is descriptive of you and your professional focus. Make sure to upload a picture and a short bio. Your bio should highlight the direction that you intend to take with your account, so mention relevant professional interests and affiliations. If you know any trusted colleagues who use Twitter, try following them; this way you can build a network of trusted peers. Try to expand beyond your discipline and follow academics from other fields.

You can take five basic actions on Twitter:

  1. Like a tweet by clicking on the heart icon. This is usually construed as agreement with the post.
  2. Tweet by creating a post with your own content.
  3. Retweet, which is a way to share something from another user.
  4. Quote a tweet. This allows you to retweet while adding a personal comment.
  5. Reply to a tweet, which posts a response to the author of the original tweet.

Shaping your profile:

Decide if you want separate personal and professional Twitter accounts, or a unified presence. In my experience, the most interesting accounts combine the two, but with a professional emphasis.

How to say things in 140 characters or less:

A tweet is limited to 140 characters, but there are ways around this. You can reply to yourself or link to a blog or webpage in order to share more. Another option is to screencapture longer sections of text and post them as pictures. Whenever possible, use a picture to reinforce your text, since images compel users to engage with your post. Keep in mind the visual component when preparing a tweet.

#Hashtags?

If you want to participate in a larger conversation, using a suggested hashtag helps others find your content. Most conferences and symposia share a hashtag at the beginning of the event in order to keep track of what is shared by users. Not every tweet requires a hashtag, but it is a way to get your content to a wider audience.

What to share:

It is a good idea to tweet regularly, but not too often. You don’t want to overwhelm your followers with too many posts. If you find it hard to compose original tweets, start by retweeting what you find interesting. Most professional societies have online content with “share” buttons, so you can easily start there.

On my Twitter account, I don’t tweet about religion or politics, and I stay away from controversial posts. You might find that you would like to take a different approach, but I have lots of students who follow me, and I try to make my account a very welcoming and neutral place. I find that keeping the tweets/retweets relatable to my expertise works best.

This is meant to be a guide for beginners. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out and ask questions.

Maria Gallardo-Williams is a teaching associate professor and director of undergraduate organic laboratories in the Department of Chemistry. Follow her on Twitter at @Teachforaliving or send an email to Maria_Gallardo@ncsu.edu.

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