5 Things To Get Your Twitter Network Off The Ground

Just recently I have been advising some visiting colleagues about the benefits of using Twitter as the main protagonist in the story of my learning network. I wish I had such a resource when I was starting out into the world of educational technology or whilst I was training. After showing people how the network interacts, I recently tweeted that it makes you realise the potential expertise that you can be effortlessly connected to.

As I have recently helped a few people begin their network with Twitter I thought I would write about a few ideas to help get started and to make the most of Twitter for teachers.

  1. Profile – for me that is the first port of call for finding out about anyone. I look for involvement with education and teaching. So make sure that your profile, including a picture, is well updated as it helps others who might be looking to connect with you.
  2. Get started straight away – profile sorted, now just get started. Write about how your lessons have gone, a great website you have used today (add the link, everyone loves looking at new web resources), a good digital camera you have in school, problems with your network, revelations from your pupils. Anything really, just make a start.
  3. Follow a bunch of people – for me Twitter is all about making connections with fellow teachers and colleagues in education, so find someone you know or whose blog you may have enjoyed reading for a while and explore who they follow and who follows them. (Look at the Lists they have created too)
  4. Get someone with a big network to put a shoutout for you – give your network a kickstart by asking someone with a whole heap of followers to put in a good word for you. Piggybacking in this way will open up more networks for you to explore and teachers to follow. Just be sure to follow back those that have followed you if you are happy to.
  5. Begin replying to people – along with putting the word out about yourself and your own practice/situation engage with people directly by replying (@ before their username – everyone sees these) and direct messaging (D before their username – private). If you can help or offer advice of your own then do so where you can. It might be you askign for advice/help in the future.

One more thing to remember is that in the early days of Twitter use it can be very quiet, few replies, not much going on in terms of conversation. Do not be discouraged – try to perservere and stick it out and keep using it, as soon there will be a “tipping point” when the connections you have made reap a bountiful information harvest.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of ideas for new users, but will help to maybe get your network off the ground. What are your best pieces of advice for new users of Twitter?


  1. Yes Simon you are right persistence is one of the most important things, with more people helping these days I think networks grow quicker. It is also dependent on how you treat it n those early days. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Yep, good advice here – particularly the sticking at it. The beginning of Twitter is like talking into a vacuum then all of a sudden it becomes a lifeline! My first 1,000 tweets took me about 2 years to write; my second 1,000 tweets about 2 months.

  3. I have been using Twitter for a few months now. If I need advice or information about something I use the knowledge and expertise of those I have added. In turn they use their network of friends to help me. It is a continuous learning journey and yes I am building up a bank of experienced teachers who will help and give me advice. A great resource I am learning from others and in turn people ask me for advice too.

  4. very useful inspiration, thanks for taking the time.

    particularly interested in the idea there will be ‘a “tipping point” when the connections you have made reap a bountiful information harvest’. would be a great data investigation!

  5. Now we have twitter lists, a good way of getting started is to find a colleague you trust already on twitter and check out their lists – they are likely to have an EdTech list or possibly an list of other colleagues in your area/Institution. It provides a quick way of finding likely people to follow.

  6. Now we have twitter lists, a good way of getting started is to find a colleague you trust already on twitter and check out their lists – they are likely to have an EdTech list or possibly an list of other colleagues in your area/Institution. It provides a quick way of finding likely people to follow.

  7. Some fantastic tips there Tom – especially the one about persevering and sticking at it, as it’s not always easy to build followers and join in with the community for everybody.

    My big tip would be “Make yourself useful”. Help people out, they’ll appreciate it and think of you as someone worth telling others about, plus you might get their business when they need one of your products/services.

    I’ve written a free ebook to help people who are new to Twitter, you can get it from Rob-Bell.com. Even if you’re not new you might learn something!

    Twitter’s rapidly turned into a phenomenon – it is probably the best real-time news service available anywhere on the planet, and it’s bringing diverse people from all over together, making the world a whole lot smaller and friendlier place.

    Rob Bell

  8. Hi Tom,

    Great list and more great advice in the comments. The only thing I’d add is that every individual will find their own way to use Twitter.

    Don’t get sucked into following the same number of people as someone else, don’t believe the articles that say you ‘must’ behave in this way, follow everyone back, tweet this many times a day or whatever. And once you’ve found a way to use Twitter, accept that that will probably change over time! I go through spells of following loads of people, and then at other times cut back because I can’t cope with the volume.

    It’s your account, use it how YOU want :0)

  9. I’d also recommend that if you’re starting out, that you select the ‘Protect my updates’ box in the account section. That way you can decide who follows your updates.

    Once you feel more confident, then you can open up your network to anyone in twitterland.

  10. I agree with all of the above. I think the profile is very important, but using Twitter as a 2 way street is even more crucial. Don’t just ask and take, make sure that like what Tom mentioned above, share your ideas, children’s revelations, lessons, and URL’s. I love retweeting great URL’s! One more recommendation is for you to add your name to http://twitter4teachers.pbwiki.com/#ElementaryTeachers. Mr. Tweet helped me to grow my network too. (On a different note, if you skype here is a directory for you to add to too! http://skypeinschools.pbwiki.com/Directory)

    Thanks for your great posts Tom. They are always inspiring.

  11. thanks SO MUCH for the offer- so the first question- how do I DM you my email so I can collaborate with the flip video ideas? (or pocket video!)..

    secondly, if I put Dtombarrett and then type a message, does that message go just to you? Do I need colons or anything?

  12. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for this post – having recently started using twitter I was feeling a bit lost. You’ve given me some great ideas and encouragement to keep going.
    Sue Waters’ links are really good too – thanks Sue.
    I’m taniakennedy on twitter.

  13. Hi Tom –

    As an experienced twitter user I have to confess that I will have days that I struggle – probably no different from the days you struggle to blog. So I find that icebreakers work well — for example the great chocolate debate (which I will win eventually).

    My advice to new people is think of it like f2f conversations and you will struggle less. You don’t walk up to someone f2f and just start asking, asking, or dumping lots of information. Instead you engage in small talk which may seem meaningless but we know that in f2f situations it is part of relationship building. Small talk on twitter is part of this relationship building and builds connections with others. Besides apparently people enjoy my broken toilets, holiday adventures etc more sometimes than other conversations 🙂

    here is a link to the twitter page on my PLN Yourself website. New people are finding it helpful – I believe.

  14. Thanks- I am a teacher in edinburgh and have just started to use twitter. It is so big and I am so small… so any tips on getting up and running are really appreciated. I just need to understand them all now!

  15. This is great advice Tom, thanks for sharing. When people follow me I look at their profile and then I look to see what they’ve been Tweeting about too. I like to see that they are sharing what’s going on -related to education – links, what’s going on in their classroom, anything thing that We might have in common.

    Again – great advice.

  16. Hi, Tom,
    This is a really great list for beginners and even some of us who have been twittering awhile. Thanks.
    Katie (twitter = katiewarren)

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