I recently gave a hands-on workshop to graduate students in our department about using Twitter in science. As part of that workshop, I provided some bullet points about this social media tool, and I thought it might be useful to share these perspectives more broadly!
Twitter can be useful for:
- Filtering, accessing science stories relevant to your field of study (e.g., EurekAlert!, news media, science writers)
- Assisting with your career (job ads, getting to know potential colleagues/supervisors)
- Creating a research network
- Doing research
- Forging collaborations
- Attending conferences virtually
- Engaging with a broader audience (e.g. Directly or through journalists, media offices, science writers)
- Social justice, political change, activism
- Being inspired by great thinkers, innovators, writers, scientists etc
- Seeng the human side of science
- Becoming a better writer and science communicator
- Track the reach of your work (analytics)
When using Twitter as a scientist, here are some things to think about:
- What you might want to do on Twitter? (Learn? Engage? Have fun? Grow a following? Do research? Promote your work?). Craft your profile and approach based on these objectives (Note: this can change!)
- If your objectives are about science, find a balance between professional/personal (actually: ALWAYS think about this… And remember that “personal” is seldom completely private with social media tools)
- Don’t overwhelm your followers with self-promotion
- When tweeting try to “Be professional, and Be positive” (note: I learned this advice from Adam Taylor who runs #SciStuChat)
- You don’t have to Tweet to be on Twitter: Watch and learn before jumping in (many months, perhaps!)
- Curate who you follow carefully (Don’t be afraid to unfollow people)
- Don’t obsess about growing your own following: this will happen over time
- Don’t feel you have to read your entire feed: important and interesting content appears multiple times
- If you per objective is to share content, aim for information-rich tweets (links/photos etc)
- Use “draft” features – sometimes it’s good to write Tweets without sending them right away.
- Learn how to use Hashtags effectively (they are, essentially the “magnets” of the Internet)
- Own up to mistakes / apologize
- Give credit where it’s due, especially when thinking about sharing photos or art: ask permission before sharing!
- Curate content! (e.g. “Like” button, or better yet, another program – Pocket, Evernote) – it’s easy to forget about neat things you have seen on Twitter, so it’s important to find ways to save the things you may wish to find later on.
- Twitter can become a time-waster and great procrastination tool: learn to be careful with your use
- Often, your community ends up being limited to like-minded people
- It’s easy to get embroiled in debates and controversy: be careful
- Trolls can ruin everything; people can be jerks.
- Twitter is certainly not for everyone
There are heaps of other resources out there, and I do recommend checking out this page on Science Borealis.
Have things to add? Please comment, below!
8 thoughts on “Using Twitter in science: advice for graduate students”
I would add never engage a troll, they feed on conflict.
Thanks for the comment: I agree 100%
Great lists, Chris. Every point is the beginning of a great conversation. I have some advice about one of them, “Don’t feel you have to read your entire feed: important and interesting content appears multiple times.”
tl;dr – create a Twitter list of people whose every tweet you feel you should read. And read that list always.
Excellent point Peter – and thanks for the link. I know a lot of people use Twitter lists effectively – I’ve never been able to, but I should try! It’s excellent advice.
Great points Chris! One key message I share when give talks on this topic relates to being professional. I have learned that many people read what happens on Twitter but they’re not signed up members of Twitter. I’ve heard on a number of occasions of senior people who are aware of my activity but have never signed up and/or had a profile on Twitter. Be professional, remember that many more people besides your followers may be reading your tweets!
Thanks Cameron! Excellent point – I appreciate you sharing it.
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