When you join Twitter it can seem a strange little place, with it’s own rules and secret ways. Having helped many people make a start I wanted to share some of the key things to help you early on so you can tap into the huge potential a Twitter network has. Here are my 10 steps:
This is about setting out your stall and saying to the world what you are about. Personally I look for involvement with education in some form or reference to other stuff I am interested in. Make sure that your profile, including a picture, is well updated as it helps others who might be looking to connect with you decide to follow you or not. Add a link to your blog, if you have one, so we can read a little more about you.
- Jump IN!
Profile sorted, now just get started. Most people will look at your profile alongside what you have tweeted about recently. 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!
- Follow people
For me Twitter is all about making connections with fellow, often like-minded, professionals, 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. Then explore someone else’s follower list etc etc. When you look at someone’s Twitter profile you will be able to see the people they follow and those who follow them, with a few clicks your network will grow.
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.
Along with putting the word out about yourself, engage with people directly by replying (@ before their username) and direct messaging (D before their username – private). If you can help or offer advice of your own then do so where you can. You might be asking for help in the future.
- Where else?
Remember that Twitter is just one part of a broad online network – make sure you spend time exploring other tools such as blogs (WordPress and Posterous) Google Plus, Plurk etc You will see that these social networks overlap, you will see different types of people and conversations taking place. All good.
These are little tags we use on Twitter to label different tweets. By adding a hashtag that update is added to a conversation that may be running in real time like #ukedchat or just a topic based tag that is more of a collection of tweets like #classblogs. By using these labels our tweets will be seen by more people, even if our network is small. If I am interested in science and I search on Twitter for #science I will see all of the tweets labeled with that tag. I may or may not have those people in my network but I will see their updates. Hashtags are a way to organise and filter conversations on Twitter and also a good way to discover interesting people to follow.
- Blog links
Explore the blog links people share on their Twitter profiles and see what these people say about their work in more than 140 characters. Also look out for Twitter badges and widgets on blogs you read regularly. They will normally appear in the sidebar saying “follow me” and will lead you to their Twitter account. I think it is equally interesting to see how eloquent bloggers distill their thoughts to 140 characters as it is the other way around. If you have a blog you should think about adding links on your Twitter profile.
- Worry less
Once things are up and running and you have followed a whole bunch of people you may start to worry what you are missing. Well don’t! Many people have described reading Twitter updates like trying to drink from a fire hydrant! Sometimes it can feel like that, you will no doubt adapt and adjust the ways you interact with Twitter as you continue to use it. I see it as a constant stream or flow of information+ideas which I interact with when I am there. When I turn away… c’est la vie.
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, soon enough there will be a “tipping point” when the connections you have make reap a bountiful information harvest.