Why do I like Twitter?
At the risk of sounding like a shallow person with a short attention span, Twitter really is a favourite of mine. I tweet as cloudaus.
It’s not really Twitter’s fault that people use it for shameless self-promotion, for marketing, or for fighting culture wars. That side of it has probably turned many people off, which is a shame because Twitter has so many practical uses.
Amplification and reach
Twitter is a messaging tool. Put your message out and Twitter can amplify it many, many times. You can put up a poster up around your campus but Twitter will extend your reach exponentially. I used it to advertise Software Carpentry and Library Carpentry workshops, ResBaz events, Library Carpentry sprints, and many other things. The workshops fill up within days, sometimes within hours. Other Tweeters help spread the word. Job done.
Early career researchers generally struggle to be seen and known as they start to build their careers. Using Twitter to establish a social media profile is a step into the light. Once you have a following, you can spread the word about your research and and start to get known within your field. Being ‘social’ is a key part of academic careers now and Twitter makes it easy. Just be sure to avoid the pitfalls that have sunk many people on Twitter. Remember, careless tweets, or tweets that can be taken the wrong way, will be amplified too.
Find your tribe
Twitter is a great place to find people interested in the same things as you. Follow people who share your interests, whatever they might be, and you will find more people through scanning the networks of the people you initially followed. Pretty soon, you will have a feed that helps you stay on top of everything new and exciting in your field. Think you don’t have time for Twitter? Think again. Twitter saves you time by filtering information that matches your interests.
People post job openings on Twitter all the time. If you are hunting for a job in your field, Twitter is where you’ll hear about it first because your network will tell you. Ditto for grant opportunities, PhD scholarships and placements and all kinds of interesting opportunities.
Getting and giving help
People ask questions on Twitter all the time. Chances are someone, somewhere can answer that curly question you have. Some organisations provide help services through Twitter, for example, people can get nVivo help by tweeting to QSR. If you have a beef with a service industry, tweet about it - you will be surprised how quickly that issue will be fixed.
I like to share what I know or have found useful, so I use Twitter to point to interesting reports, or to highlight issues that I think people in my network will care about. Providing a link to something useful is a great way to contribute to your network on Twitter.
I use Twitter direct messaging all the time. It is much more accessible to someone than email if that person is teaching a class or travelling or at a conference where they are tweeting from their phone. Response is usually immediate. DMs can be great for meeting up with people at conferences, especially if you don’t have their email address or phone number. If they follow you, DMs can put you in touch.
Following thought leaders
By following people or organisations working in areas that interest me, I have learned a huge amount and met great people. Some I only know through Twitter, but I can still talk to them there and find out what is going on. Using their Twitter handle, I can address a tweet directly to them. Are there people you admire? Follow them and be part of their conversation.
I can’t get to every conference or event I am interested in. But I can follow the event hashtag and keep an eye on what is happening. I can do that while the event is live or catch up on it later. Either way, I can plug into the event, and possibly find new people to follow from some of the interesting or informative tweets that have come out of it. I can even tweet to the event hashtag myself, and possibly get a question asked. It’s all part of extending your reach.
When momentous events happen, following a hashtag is a fantastic way of keeping up with the latest. Twitter has been a great early warning system for natural disasters, for example, as well as a place to see footage of extraordinary events like floods or cyclones or snowstorms. It’s often the most efficient way to keep up with political events that are unfolding very quickly.
Widen your world
I first heard about Software Carpentry on Twitter. Now I work for them. A whole range of amazing initiatives and communities - rOpenSci, the Dat project, csv,conf - first caught my eye on Twitter. It’s the tool that connects me to my world.
What’s not to love about that?
How does the tool help me in my work?
My work is all about this community. Twitter keeps me in touch with people in the community and the issues that matter to them, so it is invaluable.
What do you wish someone had told you when you first started learning how to use this tool?
That they would switch up to 280-character tweets and ruin it! Limiting tweets to 140 characters forced people to be concise. It takes a lot longer to scan the feed now and extract the nuggets. Bring back 140-character tweets!
Belinda Weaver, Community Development Lead, Software and Data Carpentry