10 Steps to Kick Start Your Twitter Network

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:

  1. Profile
    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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Piggyback
    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. Reply
    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.
  6. 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.
  7. Hashtags
    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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Perservere
    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.
Twitter is whatever you want it to be – it is a great place to start building a Personal Learning Network but not the only place. It is your personal choice how and if you use it.

Your profile is key as it sets your stall out clearly from the outset, especially if this is to be a professional network. I hope you have enjoyed exploring some of these ideas and they help you make a start!

Good luck and see you on Twitter!


  1. Hiya, is it ok if I quote you in my Twitter for CPD presentation this week?  Will acknowledge and reference!  But this is just the kind of thing that I’ve been looking for!  Thanks

  2. Hiya, is it ok if I quote you in my Twitter for CPD presentation this week?  Will acknowledge and reference!  But this is just the kind of thing that I’ve been looking for!  Thanks

  3. I think it’s also important to participate in Twitter chats, examples: #mathchat #edchat #elemcat.  Twitter chats are a great way to view other perspectives, share your viewpoint, and gain resources for your classroom.  I wrote a few posts on Twitter chats on my blog.  Overall, great post!

  4. No problem.
    Hashtags are made by typing # and then a key word, something like: #writing or #science. People on Twitter use them to label their updates. You can search for these specific tags to help you find a specific conversation or topic. The next time you share a web address or idea think about adding a general hashtag to label your tweet.

    RT means to ReTweet – basically to re-submit that message but this time to your network. It implies a agreement or approval of what that message contained.

  5. I am new to twitter and still having trouble understanding hashtags and RT. Please help!!!! Angie (@cutesydolphin)

  6. I never thought of piggybacking. Great idea! Will you put in a good word for me? @teachingfriends
    I have a little article on my blog called Twittering Teachers. I think twitter has become a great way for teachers across the country (and world) to connect, share, and learn. Of course my teenager said that the teachers have taken over twitter and ruined it! LOL! Hashtags are a great way to hold discussions. I participated in a great convo disucussing beginner teaching tips last week at #t2tontpt It’s important for us to bring our thinking together and make things happen.


  7. There are some fantastic points here Tom. I particularly believe hashtags can be extremely useful to schools for learning. Teachers and students can easily create a personal hashtags that they can use to talk about a recent class discussion. For example, a teacher can say  let’s carry this discussion on later via #schoolhistoryclass”

    There’s a blog over at our site about why schools should adopt Twitter here: http://interactive-schools.co.uk/782/about/blog/6-reasons-to-adopt-twitter-in-schools/
    And also how schools can use Twitter here: http://interactive-schools.co.uk/779/about/blog/6-ways-to-use-twitter-in-your-school/
    Hopefully these could be of use to you and your readers.

    PS: I really enjoyed your blog too CreativeEdu.

  8. This is a great post, full of sensible advice put a lot more succinctly than I ever seem to manage!

    I think Piggybacking is an especially good idea that could be made more use of. 

    Some of your readers might also like this post that I put together for teachers, it’s about building a quality PLN on Twitter and emphasises quality rather than quantity and shares some of the ideas here and a few slightly different ones too.  http://www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog/index.php/2011/06/building-your-twitter-network/

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