We should experiment with Twitter
Academics tend to have an unhealthy relationship with social media, especially Twitter. There are the people who blindly love it to the point of obsession. Then there are people who adamantly declare that Twitter is a bigger waste of time than trying to get a decent coffee from the vending machines on campus. Nothing good will come of doing either.
I gave a talk last week on Twitter for the sceptical academic (read more about the sceptical academic below) where I outlined my experiments with Twitter to date. I found out that you don’t have to use Twitter like a celebrity for it to be useful. I also found out that you don’t need to have any followers and that you don’t need to tweet every minute of every day. But, through my trial and error, I did learn some important lessons.
Here are key factors, as I see them (Click HERE to Tweet this image):
When I became aware of these three parts of this Twitter Triangle, I was suddenly a lot more interested. I started trying to put the pieces together, with the ultimate goals of networking, getting better papers, and getting more grant money.
You can see the results and details of my experiments in the YouTube video at the top of the page. If you don’t have time right now, you can simply flick through my slide deck.
One of the most well-received sections of the talk was how to Tweet at conferences. There was even a question at the end about the ethical implications of doing this, which is a very thorny issue, but something that has to be addressed. The problem, of course, is the fear of presenting brand new data that can be quickly spread before it has been published. I proposed that conferences should do more to lay out guidelines for social media well in advance and that there should be two types of conference: one for promotion where Twitter is encouraged and one for new data where Twitter, social media, and photography are banned. What do you think?
So – what is a sceptical academic and what should they do on Twitter?
Twitter is begging to be used by the sceptics, and especially sceptical academics. Why? Because they question everything. A sceptical academic will ask, ‘why should I tweet 20 times per day and amass a following of 10000 people? How will that help me achieve my academic goals? What is the point?‘
After doing a quick analysis and finding that it is time consuming, difficult and probably not worth the effort, the sceptic dismisses Twitter, possibly for good.
Not the sceptical academic though. You see, the sceptical academic has an important trait which makes them perfect for Twitter: Academics are curious and experimental by nature.
Unlike the standard sceptic, the sceptical academic will question and dismiss ideas that don’t work, but will then set their analytical and creative minds to trying to find a better way of doing things.
Sceptical academics will see that Twitter is actually nothing more than a communication platform, not dissimilar to email. Just because everyone uses it one way now, it doesn’t have to be that way for them.
Experiment and join me @benlibberton on Twitter.
If you need some inspiration to get started, why not try implementing some of the “Twitter Rules” I use to make sure your account stays engaging and professional. Skip to 21:54 in the YouTube video at the beginning of the post for a detailed explanation.