Joining the Twitterati, by Carmel O’Sullivan, Librarian

twitter buttons in nest

Twitter Buttons at OSCON by Garrett Heath (CC BY 2.0)





What is Twitter?

Uses of Twitter in the working world

Why should USQ academics use Twitter?

How to get started on Twitter

Task for this week

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a short messaging service showing real time updates (tweets) that are up to 140 characters long. It’s the home of hashtags, celebrity tweets, news, trends, Q&A commentary, and serious academic discussion. We’re most interested in the serious academic discussion.

For the uninitiated, this video from Common Craft explains how Twitter works – in particular the Twitter search facility.

Uses of Twitter in the working world

Twitter is becoming an essential journalist’s tool as it can track real time reactions to, or observations of, breaking news.

With more than 500 million Tweets sent every day in 35 languages, Twitter is also used for marketing and social research, as by to analyse consumer sentiment. Politicians, sporting clubs and celebrities use “town hall” style sessions where they answer questions from the public live via Twitter.

Why should USQ academics use Twitter?

Academics commonly use Twitter to engage in a conversation with colleagues and the general public about their research interests and more. Twitter is most useful as a two way conversation, rather than a place to just post your latest papers. @davidmpyle’s advice is to use Twitter for informed opinion, news, links to new content, and collegiality. Other advice from academic tweeters is to tweet frequently about your research projects and your life, to posts links, be willing to engage with other users, and not get too political/dramatic.

The point of academic tweeting is to be a generous member of an online community. Give to the community by sharing and commenting on current events and research. Show your own personality. By all means tweet references to your own work, but make sure it’s a small part of what you contribute on Twitter. By using Twitter well, you can build a network of potential collaborators, and perhaps even crowd-source information for your teaching or research.

@mrkempnz is a primary school teacher who is using Twitter in the classroom and taking advantage of his large personal learning network to enrich the classroom experience.

This article from the Chronicle of Higher Education outlines Ten “Commandments” of Twitter for academics.

How to get started on Twitter

Step 1 : Create a Twitter account

Go to to set up your account.

My key recommendations are –

  • Use your real name
  • Use a short, easy to spell twitter handle (the @something that shows up next to your tweets)
  • Add an informative biography mentioning your research interests and University
  • Upload a photo – don’t leave the egg head as your avatar!
  • Upload a header photo that represents you or your research. Make sure it’s copyright free.

Step 2 : Download a Twitter app to your mobile device

More than 70% of Twitter users access it via a mobile device. Twitter was made for mobile, and works well in that environment. You can also use Twitter from the web on your desktop. If you spend a lot of time chained to the desk this might be a good option for you. Try out both to see what works.

Step 3 : Create your network

The key to making good use of Twitter is to establish a PLN (Personal Learning Network) of people and bodies whose tweets will appear in your feed. If they also follow you back, your tweets will appear in their feeds.

First, follow some people.

  • Try following some of these people for starters (you can always unfollow them later). @usq23things, @ConversationEDU, @GuardianAUS, @GdnHigherEd, @digitalsci, @PLOS, @HarvardBiz, @mrkempnz , @USQNews, @USQVC, @KenUdas, @researchwhisper, @lolmythesis

Then check who they follow and follow the most interesting ones.

  • You do this by clicking on their name in Twitter to look at their profile, then clicking on the “Following (number)” link to see who they follow.

Next, follow anyone who follows you.

Repeat to build your network

Tip : Try for a balance – you don’t want lots of inane Huffington Post updates cluttering up your feed and making you miss an important research link.

Step 4 : Start interacting on Twitter

  • Read your twitter feed, and re-tweet those that pique your interest.

o    Tip – You’ll get most value from your re-tweets if you make a comment in the retweet. This stamps your personality and interests on the tweet.

o    Click on the double arrows under a tweet to “retweet”it.

  • Tweet from websites. Start looking for the Twitter or share link on articles, and use it to tweet links to them.
  • Respond to people who mention you in their Tweets – it’s only polite.

Some tips about tweeting

  • Hashtags are ways of organising tweets on the same topic. Conferences often display the conference hashtag so that delegates can tweet using that hashtag, making it easier to follow the conference. Similarly sporting, event, or disaster hashtags are frequently used. Public awareness campaigns such as the #YesAllWomen campaign, or the #knowtheline campaign also use hashtags to good effect.
  • Retweets use the prefix RT, followed by the original tweeter’s handle, and the original tweet. This acknowledges the original source of the information and is good Twitter etiquette. By clicking on the double arrows under the tweet you’d like to retweet, these features are automatically added for you.
  • Modified tweets can be preceded by MT to indicate that the content has been modified, though this is not necessarily a ubiquitous practice. Usually the source of the tweet is acknowledged at the end of the tweet with “via @usq23things”.
  • If your tweet starts with someone’s twitter handle (eg @usq23things) then only people who follow both of you can see that post.
  • Tweet pictures or videos – these are eye-catching and tend to be retweeted more.
  • DM, or Direct Messaging is a way of sending a private message to one of your followers. They need to be also following you for DM to work.

Step 5: Organise your incoming tweets

Tasks for this week

  1. Join Twitter if you don’t already have an account
  2. Follow some new people (see the list above of suggestions)
  3. Click on the button below to send a tweet with the #usq23things hashtag
  4. Find an interesting article and tweet a link to it.
  5. Comment on this post with your Twitter handle so that we can all follow you (and you can follow us back)
  6. Reflect in your own blog about this week’s activities.

9 thoughts on “Twitter

  1. Neil Martin

    Great post Carmel – some really useful advise. I never use lists, but will do so.

    I’ve been on Twitter for about five years. I was initially quite confused by it. Many of my colleagues were joining, but there was a tendency for me to share banal stuff like “Having my breakfast” and I gave up for a year. However, since then it has matured into a space where I get a lot of useful information. I tend to share content related to the web and technology to about 100 followers so not a huge amount. I also receive a lot of information from about 150 accounts – too much to take in – so I actually miss quite a lot. I believe Twitter are adding some new filtering options which no doubt will help. My Twitter username is @neilmart if anybody would like to follow

  2. Mary-Anne

    so now it worked when I went back in… I made my account ages ago and now dont like the name – do I have to make a new account or is there a way to change it @FiebigMary

  3. Kirryn Austin

    Ok, so this took me far too long. Lots of things going wrong etc (I will blog as per your last instruction!) but I think I got there. Great post Carmel. Got me wondering why I didn’t follow through with Twitter when I first signed up (@KirrynAustin) but then rediscovered that it is not all that intuitive at first. Guess practice makes perfect!

  4. Ron

    I first joined twitter a year or two ago to join in MOOC activities. Back then though I got thoroughly lost and confused. Since then I’ve not taken it very seriously as a professional tool – my twittering has been a sporadic and casual exploration following and sharing an eclectic range of topics, but with little regular monitoring.

    With the tools and tips shared above though, I am beginning to see many useful applications to explore further. My current handle is @patchwood17


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