by Jim Pettiward, on Jul 04, 2014

Why Use Twitter?

Snapshot: Do you use Twitter? Do you think it's just a bunch of tweeting celebrities? Read on to find out why some academics swear by it...


Twitter - what's all the fuss about?


Twitter, like Facebook, seems to be one of those 21st century phenomena which polarises opinion. Read the comments following any article in a newspaper about social media and you can guarantee that they’ll be full of vitriol aimed at Facebook, mostly from people who never use it and don’t really understand it. Twitter seems to inspire similarly strong feelings, but much of what people think about Twitter still appears to hark back to early stereotypes of twitter users all being vacuous celebrities ‘tweeting’ about what they had for lunch etc. 

While Twitter, like every other medium, has its fair share of fools, it is proving to be an extremely useful tool for academics. This article will introduce you to Twitter as a professional tool, provide links to resources to help you get started or make the most of your Twitter account and will attempt to persuade you that, far from being a frivolous waste of time, using this medium effectively will open up a whole new world of research and knowledge to you!  
For a good introduction to Twitter for research, click through the prezi on the left by Andy Priestner (Head Librarian at Cambridge University’s Business School).



What is Twitter for?

Here are some examples of how academics can use Twitter:

  • to keep up with the latest research in their field by following prominent researchers/research institutes/organisations etc. 
  • to request information/suggestions on a particular topic from an online community
  • to publicise their own research/activities
  • to be part of the conversation at conferences
  • to keep in touch with academics from other institutions
  • to search for useful resources/links using hashtags
  • to support your online identity and enable other professionals to find you

These are just a few examples. To start using Twitter yourself, have a look at the panel content below.

Getting Started with Twitter

There are plenty of useful resources out there aimed at academics who want to get started on Twitter. For example, the Educator's Ultimate Guide to Twitter 2014 is a good place to start.

Another particularly useful resource is 'Ten Days of Twitter' - this is a short course which has run a couple of times. The resources provided are easy to follow, relevant and provide a really good way in to using Twitter.

Ten Days of Twitter Resources


LSE maintain an excellent site called the LSE Impact Blog. They have created a great Twitter Guide, but the blog also contains a wealth of information for academics on how to get their research out to a wider audience, connect with others in their field and generally bring their practice into the 21st century. Highly recommended!

Twitter tips

Here's a nice 'mini masterclass' from Sue Beckingham. If you're already on Twitter but haven't really engaged with it, this is a useful reference point to kickstart your use...

Many people when they start out on Twitter are happy to use it in a fairly passive way to follow interesting people / institutions in their field and keep up to date with developments that way. 'Lurking' like this is fine. But if you take the plunge and start tweeting a bit yourself, you might find that you get more out of Twitter - you can tweet to ask for help or ideas about something, post links to research you're working on or interesting articles or resources you've found. Becoming a more active member of an online community this way can be very rewarding...

Managing Twitter with Twitter Clients

Managing Twitter with Twitter Clients

Once you get used to using Twitter and have mastered the basics, you might find that the Twitter interface and the way it is set up doesn't allow you enough flexibility to manage your various feeds, conversations, saved searches and so on. You can also sync between all your devices so you have easy access to all your social media on your phone, laptop, desktop, tablet etc. and use it to simultaneously view other social media such as Facebook, Google + and Linked In.

The two most widely used Twitter clients are Tweetdeck and HootSuite. Both of these are free (although they do also offer Premium services which you probably don't need). If you're reasonably confident using Twitter, the best way to get started with these 'clients' is just to sign up and start learning by trial and error. It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but there are plenty of tutorials out there. e.g. Wikihow - How to use Tweetdeck or let a young person show you how to set up a Hootsuite account

Image: CC-BY-SA 2.0: Flickr/Anne Hornyak

The University of Sussex TEL team have written a great introductory guide to Tweetdeck which nicely demonstrates the benefits of using a Twitter client.


Getting Started with Twitter
Twitter tips
Managing Twitter with Twitter Clients
Managing Twitter with Twitter Clients