I’m a massive fan of Twitter. I have personally found it to be the best source of new ideas and tips out there, and it’s free! It can take time to build up a decent sized network, but once you follow enough people then you begin to see the benefits.
I’ve written a short guide to Twitter for Teachers before, but I’ve updated some of the ideas and added a few more things that you can do to make your Twitter experience much more useful.
1. Follow Follow Follow
Twitter is all about following people. The more people you follow, the more tweets will appear in your timeline. There is a critical mass to Twitter. Early users often give up as the few users they follow may not yield many interesting or useful tweets. You need to start following lots of people (50+) to start getting useful communication.
Once you follow a few people – look at their twitter pages and see who they talk to, or who they follow. If they sound interesting, follow them too. Gradually build up a network of Twitter users who interest you.
Also – take a look at the “Who to Follow” page which will suggest other followers based on who you follow. Very handy.
Hopefully, those people you follow will also follow you back. Which brings me to:
2. Add a Bio to your profile
Whenever I get a new follower I check on their Twitter account to see if they are worth following back, or whether they are an automated spam bot. The first thing I check is their bio – the short piece of information that you add to your profile. If they say they are a teacher, or a teaching student, then I will pretty much always follow them back. If there is no information here, then I am more wary of them, and most likely will not follow unless their tweets look interesting.
It’s important to put something here – even if it’s just that you’re a teacher interested in Twitter.
3. Keep an eye on Hashtags
Hashtags are short codes used to help keep information on similar topics organised on Twitter. You can add a hashtag to any tweet just by using the # symbol followed by a word or acronym. Hashtags are often used during Teachmeets or other conferences to allow everyone attending that event to discuss it, even if they are not following many of the people at that event.
If you want to take part in the regular discussions like #ukedchat then just add that hashtag to your comment and everyone following that tag will see it. If you see people using that tag that interest you, follow them it’s a good way of meeting other educators.
4. Use a Twitter client
The twitter site is OK, but it’s not brilliant. Especially if you want to monitor several different things at the same time – such as several hashtags, plus keeping an eye on who’s talking to you. There are different Twitter clients out there, but a good free one is Tweetdeck. You can set up multiple columns that look for different things. For example mine is set up to show my regular timeline, any mentions of @dannynic, a column for friends/family tweets who might get lost in the general stuff, and then columns for #Scichat and #ukedchat.
It makes following Twitter a lot easier.
Go mobile – get a twitter client for your phone too!
5. Protect or No Protect?
This is decision you’ll have to make for yourself. It is possible to protect your tweets so that only people who you give permission to can follow you and see what you say. I don’t use this myself – I just make sure that I don’t tweet anything too personal that might get me into trouble. But some teachers might prefer to keep their tweets away from the general twitter stream. At least be aware that the option is there should you need it.
6. Dont be afraid to lurk
There’s nothing wrong with just lurking – not saying much but following the stream of tweets from others. It will give you a good idea of the way that Twitter works. But you will get more out of twitter if you start sharing. Share your experiences, share good websites you’ve found. If you have a tip or piece of advice – share it You’ll get more follow backs. Join in when you feel ready!
7. Don’t just broadcast – interact!
Do try and engage with other users out there. Twitter is about communication. There are many users out there who just tweet links or news about their organisation without any kind of discussion with their followers. Remember to use an @ sign in front of their username so they can see your message eg use @dannynic to talk to me.
8. Get an Avatar
The default twitter avatar is an egg. It’s not very exciting. Change this to an avatar of yourself – or, if you don’t want a real photo of yourself up there, something more fun. Here are some ideas for making avatars for online sites.
9. Beware of Spammers
Do be aware that there are a lot of automated accounts out there who will follow or tweet at you, who may not always be benign. If you receive links in messages that you do not trust – don’t click on them. Some can direct you to dodgy websites that may compromise your twitter account. You can also block and report other users for spam if you find their behaviour worrying.
10. Follow Back
Twitter will alert you when you get a new follower. Take a second to check out their profile, and if they sound interesting (and not a spammer) then follow them back. Over time your network will grow.
A lot of people call their Twitter friends their Personal Learning Network (PLN) and I can definitely go along with this. I follow 4000 people, so it is not possible to keep up with all the messages flying past. But when I dip into Twitter I can always guarantee there’s a couple of excellent nuggets of wisdom, or links to new websites/articles out there that I haven’t seen before.
There are thousands of teachers on Twitter already – get on board and join them!
Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below.
Photo credit : The Twitter Bird Escaped by Netzkobold
Also a useful thing to know : How to use the Twitter @ Reply