Using Twitter in Higher Education

Higher education faculty may find twitter difficult to “get” at first, but give the network some time to become familiar. Twitter offers users the chance to connect in a non-hierarchical environment, with other users in the same industry. Online faculty will appreciate the ability to connect with fellow academic conference attendees using the assigned hashtag. In addition, those wanting to teach online can use the search feature to find universities advertising positions or promoting its online programs using Twitter.

Twitter is hard for some people to “get” but I admit to loving it because it forces people (including myself) to be brief. With a limit of 140 characters, tweets must be reduced to the juiciest nuggets of information to spark the interest of its users. As an academic who likes to write, I admit that such pith is difficult, but I enjoy scrolling through my twitter stream quickly for interesting content.

The Earth is Flat on Twitter

Twitter is also an excellent platform for connecting with high-powered influencers in your field. The reason this is so is because Twitter is completely without hierarchy. People can follow others easily, engage with users without any difficulty, and relationships can build and move into other platforms. In higher education, that might be university chancellors, deans, department chairs, or even researchers you are following. It takes very little to build a relationship on Twitter, and you can follow someone even if they do not follow you back.

Using Twitter at Academic Conferences

Use Twitter at academic conferences to tweet about the keynote address and other seminar presenters. The conference will likely use a hashtag, and you can follow that hashtag by typing it into the search bar of twitter to meet other conference attendees on Twitter and create connections with them there. If you are presenting at a conference, include pauses in your presentation with relevant quotes and the Twitter bird symbol. This will spark your audience’s interest in tweeting what you are showing them. Having dozens of people tweet about YOU gains you attention and even more followers.

Once you are home from the conference you can use Storify to create a Twitter story on a particular topic using tweets from the conference, while including tweets of those you have met. You can also reach out to some members you may have come to know and connect with them on LinkedIn. Now you have an even stronger connection to these influencers on social media.

Creating Twitter Lists

You can also build Twitter lists of people related to a particular topic. For example, I like to find people who like to use Evernote because that is part of my productivity niche. So I did a search on Twitter for productivity and found dozens of users immediately who were tweeting about the app. I then clicked on the users whose tweets I found the most relevant, and then clicked again on the gear icon on their profile. From that drop down menu, I selected “add to or remove from lists” and added them to my Twitter list of Evernote users. I click on that list every day and read a customized Twitter stream just of those users whose tweets are particularly relevant for me. I appreciate that I do not have to wade through all of the other users with whom I’m connected when I just want to read tweets about Evernote and other technology apps. I can select to make these lists private or public. The benefit of a private list is that I don’t need to let twitter users know that I’ve added them to a particular list. The benefit of a public list is that I can tweet when I add someone notable to such a list. If I am part of a membership group, I can post a document asking each member to share their twitter handle, and I can add them to a twitter list just for that group. That’s a great option if you want to get on a list with other influencers. The choice is with the user who creates the list.

Twitter Search for Online Teaching

Another feature that is especially relevant for higher education faculty is the search feature. Type a topic into the search bar to find tweets related to your search query. Search for tweets related to teaching online by trying different search terms such as,

Certainly, if you have the name of a dean or other person of influence at a university where you would like to teach, search for them on Twitter. Follow them, retweet them, and once you begin communicating with them via twitter, include them in a tweet that is relevant by using their twitter handle.

Be creative with Twitter!

Don’t worry about posting content right away; just get started by following relevant people in your field and retweeting what they are sharing. Retweet more than you tweet and you will develop a following of grateful twitter users. Remember to use twitter at academic conferences to connect with people in your industry, and check out the search feature on twitter for online teaching information.

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Tara Ross

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