Using Twitter for Professional Development

I remember when Twitter was new. This is not my first post about it, having written a post for my Writing I students back in 2012 and other posts on my earlier blog, Techsophist that have now disappeared. I’ve been using Twitter for a long time now, since 2007, and I definitely have a perspective about what Twitter is good at and what it isn’t good at, especially in term of professional development.

Twitter has, I think, entered the social media phase where people don’t openly mock it as much as they used to. That may be because of the Twitter-integration within mass media (Follow us  at @localnews on Twitter!) and business (Follow Snapple at @snapple and be the first to know our giveaways!). It’s harder to make fun of the local news team or a megamillion-dollar corporation than it is a preteen tweeting about breakfast or Justin Bieber. Twitter works for all of these though, forming a social web with a powerful reach.

If you have a Twitter account (or would like to) and haven’t been using it, here are some things you can do to change how you use Twitter and turn it into a professional development tool that gathers ideas for your research and teaching, and better yet, connects you to the people who generate those ideas.

  • Use a Twitter client instead of the Twitter webpage when you use Twitter.  It will update your Twitter stream automatically and have more powerful search functions; you can even save a list of searches and have them on hand for updates. I use Twitterific, but it depends on what device you mainly use for Twitter. If you are an iPhone user and an avid texter, you can integrate those habits with one of the available Twitter apps, such as Twitterific, Twitter, or Hootsuite. The same goes for your iPad. If you center your digital life around your laptop or desktop, keep your Twitter client on in the background as you work, much the same way that some people use Facebook.
  • Do several keyword searches to find like-minded people. I don’t follow massive numbers of people on Twitter, but I do follow 443 people, almost entirely rhet/comp or creative writers. I tend to add people I either know or in the case of graduate students who add me, ones in graduate programs in Rhetoric and Writing or something like it.
  • Check who people you follow are following. Follow likely suspects.
  • If someone doesn’t tweet, don’t add them. Unless its a relative or one of their cats, I don’t add people who tweeted 32 tweets a year ago and then stopped. If they start being active, that’s different.
  • If someone adds you and the profile sounds interesting, add them back.
  • Commit to a certain number of tweets per week or day. I use a RSS reader and try to check what’s new every morning. If I am in the middle of a writing project, that may falter a bit, but that is my pattern. Out of that, I tend to find something worth tweeting about once or twice a week.
  • Be social and reply. I do this a bit more often. I guess I have witty friends who need replies.
  • Have a project. I know people who tweet a photo a day. I’ve had poetry students tweet concrete details, AKA small images.

If you do all this, the next time you go to the CCCC or Computers and Writing, you’ll be amazed by how many people you know, really nice and smart people, that you know through Twitter. Of course, the name tags will be a big help since you’ve never met face-to-face before, but it really will change your conference experience.

Posted by

Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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