twitter tips

Blogging to publicise research


Yesterday I gave a talk to some Music Technology students about blogging. They're using blogs as part of their course, and I wanted to convince them to get the most out of the opportunity, and carry on after their Masters is done, because I think blogging is a fantastic thing.

I wanted the tips below to apply to anyone in academia who blogs, but hopefully also to libraries and librarians and other non-profits who want to get more out of it too.

This isn't the exact presentation I gave to the students - I've annotated it so it makes sense without me talking over the top of it. It covers building a readership, embedding multimedia, using the analytics, and a couple of other things too.

In case you're interested, here's a link to the Twitter Tips and Tricks post, of which there's a screen-shot in the presentation above.

Twitter for Researchers: Improvers Tips + Tricks


I delivered a workshop last week (mentioned in the previous post on hashtags) about Twitter for Researchers - it was aimed at people already on Twitter. There's an HE-centric Introduction to Twitter here, for anyone interested.

This one was at more of an improvers level, and covers setting up lists, saved searches, analytics and so forth. The slides are below.

Two More Twitter Changes: Group DMs and In-Tweet Analytics

Following on from my post on the excellent new Twitter video, there's a couple of other things Twitter have introduced in the last couple of weeks.

The first is group Direct Messaging, where you can set up a group of people (up to 20) and privately message them collectively. The conversations can include pictures and be about specific tweets. This is potentially very useful for taking a problematic conversation or dispute out of the public eye but staying within the platform. From the point of view of libraries, that's great. From the point of view of librarianship, I'm not so sure.

The second feature is and tweet-by-tweet analytics within the mobile app. I mentioned in my previous post about Twitter's new Analytics how what the stats really show you is how few of your followers see each tweet (it's around 11%, and that's assuming it's not part of a conversation or at a weird time of day in which case it's much less, or if it's RT'd in which case it's a bit more). The ability to click on each tweet in the mobile and app and see the stats right away just reinforces this - here's a tweet linking to my last post, which got ReTweeted 21 times, and was still only seen by a number of people which amounts to just over half the total number of followers I have.


I'm not totally convinced the link clicks figure is accurate though - not just because it seems really low! But because it doesn't correspond with my website's own statistics or Google Analytics, which attributes a lot more click-throughs to this particular tweet.

But the total number of impressions I do trust. So what do we take from this as libraries? If something's important, you have to tweet it more than once! And it's also worth tweeting at the peak times for when your followers are online - this is usually around 11am and 3pm, but you can find out more specifically using Tweriod, which I'd recommend you do.

[Edit: Since I wrote that I checked Tweriod and it seems to have gone to a paid-only service, which is a real shame - FollowerWonk should tell you when your followers are most active though, so use that instead.)

Ever wondered why people put a dot at the start of their tweets?


It's for a good reason.

The most common Twitter mistake...

The most common Twitter mistake...

Years ago I wrote a thing on TinyWrite (which sadly doesn't exist anymore) about using a character at the start of a tweet to ensure everyone sees it - when that's appropriate. Later I saw the slide-deck below, on the same subject.

I saw those slides again today, and I feel the same way about the presentation now as I did when it first came out - it is very good (and very popular), but it is also a 44-slide way of making what is quite a simple point! So I made the image above, because it occurred to me that a Venn Diagram could explain it fairly succinctly... I LOVE Venn Diagrams. Any excuse to use one. (Here's my favourite one ever.)

Anyhow here's the deck for a fuller explanation:

You see this problem on Twitter all the time, still. Even experienced Twitter users fluent in everything else on the platform make the error. The reason this matters is that sometimes you want all of your followers to see a tweet with, as I say, sharing content and live-tweeting events being the two main examples. Fairly often people will tweet a link to one of my blog posts with @ned_potter at the start of the tweet - so basically only people following both the tweeter and me will see that tweet, and my followers may already have seen it when I tweeted it anyway...

So it is a basic part of the way Twitter works - Twitter filters conversations so you only see those between people you follow, otherwise it would be completely unusable and overwhelming. (Incidentally, one of the side effects of this system is sometimes you can be tweeting as an organisation, and having a dispute with a user, and it feels like the whole world can see your conversation, which is embarrassing. In actual fact, only people who follow both you and the user will see it, so it's not nearly as problematic as it feels at the time...)

So if you want all your followers to see a tweet, make sure there's a character of some kind before an @username. It's not the end of the world if people get this wrong - but you may as well get it right!

Edit: A brief follow up on over-sharing via the dot

As part of the conversation that followed me tweeting about this post earlier, Matt Shaw pointed this out:

If you click on the date in that tweet you'll see all the tweets which followed in reply - but essentially it comes down to some people overusing the dot to ensure everyone sees their tweets. There are three main reasons people use the dot apart from the live-tweeting and post-sharing described above.

  1. Because someone asks a question to which the answer has value to everyone (this is, in my view, completely acceptable - as long as you're a good judge of what constitutes value to everyone, and I'm not always confident I am a good judge of that...)
  2. Because your tweet is so hilarious / insightful / clever that everyone simply must see it (this is sometimes okay, I am guilty of doing it on occasion, but when people do it all the time it makes me wince)
  3. Because they want everyone to see the praise they're responding to (this one I have the most problem with - you see people responding to thanks for their talk, as in this example from Chuck G in an article raging against the dot. You also see people saying thank you for people nominating them for a #FollowFriday in this fashion. Why do people do this? Or worse still, ReTweet their FollowFriday nominations?! Everyone who sees the tweet already follows them! Desist!)

So, use the dot with caution! Use it to share blog posts and presentations from other Twitter users - or better still, put a word in there to make it a proper sentence. And as Chuck says, if you're tweeting a conference lead with the hashtag (that's a far better solution than my example in the image at the top of this post). But otherwise, think carefully.

ALL THAT SAID, as I've mentioned before, my number 1 piece of advice to tweeters is to ignore advice to tweeters - unless you're tweeting as an organisation, just do it how you want to...


New to Twitter? Here's what you do

[If you're not already on Twitter, just give up and join. It's really worth it, and it's really NOT like it is often reported to be in the mainstream media. There's a big myth that twitter is just people saying 'this is what I had for lunch today' - it's not like that at all. Celebrities understandably get the bulk of the coverage when Twitter gets into the news - you have to understand that someone like Stephen Fry (or whoever) is followed by literally 1.8 million people; he can't possibly interact with all of them, so his twitter stream reads more like a monologue than a dialogue. But you (almost certainly) won't have that many followers, meaning you'll be able to use Twitter for the purpose for which it is intended: conversation. It's full of useful links, it can lead to all sorts of opportunities, it breaks the ice at conferences, and it adds colour to professional relationships.] A twitter bird holding a 'follow me' sign

Here 10 top tips I wish I'd known about Twitter from the start.

  • Put in a bio. You need a bio, don't leave it blank or just put in a town or your job title. Twitter works because it facilitates conversation - to converse with people generally you need to follow each other. What happens when someone new follows you is you get an email - so and so is now following you on twitter, here's some more information about them. Most people will click on this and read about this new follower, and perhaps check a few recent tweets before deciding whether to follow or not - it's a tough crowd, generally, because popular tweeters get so many followers that you have to stand out for them to take an interest in you; no one wants information overload. If you don't say who you are or give people anything to go on in your bio, chances are they won't follow you back, thus reducing the chances of the two of you conversing, thus reducing the value you're getting out of using Twitter. I don't believe in amassing followers for the sake of it, but of the 40 or so people who I follow but don't follow me back, four or five of them I wish would do so (I'm looking at you, Helene Blowers...). If that figure was really high, Twitter wouldn't be working so well for me. For an example of a good bio, check out Buffy Hamilton's twitter profile - fantastic! No wonder she has that many followers.
  • Use a headshot of yourself. Twitter is a more personal medium than a blog - I started off using the wikiman logo, but changed it because people want to contextualise what you're saying with a picture of your actual face. Even if you're shy, try and go with some kind of picture of yourself if you can...
  • Cannibalise the follow lists of people you like. So for example, if you are an Information Professional, you'll probably know of a few people on Twitter than you can start following right away. But also look at the people they follow and start following the most interesting looking of them, and then do the same again, and so on, till you've got a decent sized group of interesting people. (If you're an information professional, feel free to cannibalise mine - everyone I follow is awesome...)
  • Don't just follow the Queen Bee, follow the workers too. Many, many tweets are @ replies. This means they begin with @[Insert Person's Twitter name here] and are consequently only seen by people following both the tweeter and the person they are tweeting at. So you could miss fantastic conversations if you're only following one of the parties - they simply won't appear in your twitter stream. (64% of my tweets are @replies, according to TweetStats, meaning that the vast majority of my output is only seen by some of my followers.) Therefore, if you really like someone on Twitter, follow the people they interact with too, so you increase your chances of serendipitous interesting conversation overhearing. :)
  • Give of yourself, from the start. If Twitter ends up working for you, you'll end up being yourself. You'll end up sharing more than just work stuff, probably, and being closer to your true personality than you might imagine - more unguarded. You have to make up your own mind if you're happy to be unguarded online, and how unguarded you are going to be. But the point is, don't be shy and don't try and hide your personality - people want personality, they'll forgive quirks if they get more character from you (and therefore more value), and as I say if you're here for the long haul it'll happen eventually anyway. Just be yourself from the start.
  • Tweet links to your stuff. / Tweet links to other people's stuff. Twitter provides a large percentage of hits on this blog. If you blog with wordpress, use a plug-in like Twitoaster to auto-tweet links to your blog posts, and draw the twitter conversation into the comments section of your blog. But don't, whatever you do, just use Twitter to self-promote. People will suss you out and switch off pretty quickly. People will be interested in what you have to say if you tweet links to a broad range of useful, pertinent stuff.
  • ReTweet. Don't assume everyone else will have seen what you've seen. If something's really worth reading, ReTweet it so that your followers can all read it - they may not follow the person who originally said it, or they may not have been online when it was said. Plug people in to the good content. What you want to achieve overall is a blend of useful information, thoughts, links, character and responses to other tweets. Don't be afraid to jump into conversations, either - certain people I follwed for ages without them reciprocating, but as soon as I @ replied to one of their tweets they started following me too because I demonstrated some value to them; we've since gone on to chat all the time.
  • Don't ever criticise your employer. Twitter is personal  - but don't forget that unless you lock down your account, anyone can read it. There's nothing to be gained from venting your frustration at your institution via this medium - just resist the temptation! You never know who may end up reading it. Or who may end up not seeking you out to give you an opportunity later. Generally speaking, unless you are going to tweet anonymously, discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to criticism of all kinds - by all means give an opinion, but always run this test before you tweet something harsh about an individual: would I say this to their face?
  • Investigate clients . I must admit, I've found Twitter's homepage adequate for my needs. But many people use clients, that access Twitter but present the information in a better or different way - try Brizzly, or Tweetdeck (and you can sync those with Twitter on your phone, too).
  • Prune. Don't just follow everyone. Followers are not an end in themselves - don't just automatically follow everyone back because they've followed you. If you are to use Twitter at all it needs to WORK for you - you need to follow a manageable amount of people, or at the very least use lists to sort the essentials from the occasionally interestings. About once a month, go through the list of people you follow, and if any of them are no longer giving you value, unfollow them. It may seem brutal, but you really don't want to end up viewing Twitter as a chore because there's so much irrelevant stuff in your stream.

For more info on the nuts and bolts of it, check out Twitter's official guide.

Happy tweeting!

- thewikiman

UPDATE: since writing this, I've come across a lot of people ReTweeting a link as part of a reply to a person. So for example I might tweet "Check out this presentation [URL here]" and someone else wants to ReTweet it but does so like this: "@theREALwikiman really useful presentation [URL here]". If you reply to someone then the only people who can read the tweet are people who follow you AND the person you are replying to - in other words, no one new will see the Tweet. So - don't do that. Does that make sense?

That's the explanation; the rule is, if you want to draw people's attention to something, make sure there is something - literally ANY character except @ - before you include the name of the person who originally tweeted. So in the example above, the tweet should read "really useful presentation via @theREALwikiman [URL here]." That way, everyone who follows you will get the message. Got it? Good!


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