Today’s Thing is all about Twitter. Some of the activities are aimed at absolute Twitter beginners (setting up an account, following people, and sending your first Tweet), and thankfully I’ve passed that stage. Therefore I thought I’d use this post to talk a little bit about how I use Twitter professionally, and my feelings about it as a professional platform.
At this point, it should surprise no one that I have a fair degree of ambivalence about using Twitter in a professional context, tying my real name to my professional Twitter account, or indeed expressing strong opinions on anything controversial on Twitter. My last posts should make it clear that I’m still very much feeling my way towards creating a comfortable online space for use in the professional realm. As with everything, my Twitter use in this regard has been a bit of trial and error to find something that works for me. When I teach my students about Twitter, I strongly encourage them to use it in the way that feels most natural and comfortable to them, and that my way of using it should be an example, not a requirement.
I am mostly a Twitter lurker. I tend to pop up during conferences (or workshops that have their own hashtags), when I livetweet furiously, and then disappear into lurkerdom again. That’s not to say I’m not following the conversation at other times, but I tend to do so silently, occasionally retweeting, but mainly just reading interesting links and following the threads of various discussions. I tend to go on following sprees after conferences, when I’ve had a chance to meet new people in person and hear about their work in presentations.
Professionally, I’ve found two main benefits to being on Twitter. The first is that the people I follow often post links to interesting or relevant articles, blog posts or other discussions that I would not otherwise have encountered. I’m also able to follow along with conferences that I’m not attending in person, because so many people livetweet them, which has broadened my knowledge of the field. Secondly, given I tend to tweet most at conferences (and post all tweets to the relevant conference hashtags), I get to know a lot of other people who are also tweeting to, or following, the conference hashtag, so I’ve been able to expand my professional network that way. I also try to write up summaries of the conferences I attend and post them on my blog as soon as possible, as a way of giving attendees (and people who couldn’t attend but followed along on Twitter) a more in-depth report of events in a less ephemeral location. I’ve found that people appreciate these efforts.
For the most part, I’m happy with my use of Twitter, although the 23 Research Things project has prompted me to reflect a bit on the platform, and whether I could be using it more effectively. It also prompted me to follow a couple of people who I met yesterday at an NHS teaching forum, as well as several other accounts who were mentioned as useful at the forum. And so my professional Twitter experiment marches on, one follower here, a couple of retweets there. I’d be really interested to hear from other participants in the programme, especially if they have approached Twitter in a more strategic way.