Using Twitter to cause a stir

Forget LinkedIn, welcome to the “all professionals should be using Twitter” blog. 

Twitter is one of the largest social medias with 187 million users, and an increasing number of those are using it as a professional tool. You have something you want to share, but it’s not a professional achievement suited for LinkedIn? Twitter is the perfect place to put it out there. Or maybe something bad happened: your experiment failed, your milk went off, your outfit wasn’t zoom compatible, share it with you Twitter community and get some support. Also, if you want to see what someone’s like when they’re not trying to present their most professional self, their Twitter is the perfect place to see them complaining about their football team losing or whether their latest grant application was successful. 

Other than insight into other people’s lives, Twitter can be used to discover all sorts of opportunities. I’ve found a couple SciComm or Public Engagement initiatives thanks to tweets (including Letters to PreScientists and coordinating the Global Science Show), several training courses (including putting together my YES20 team) and even been paid (performing at Science is a Drag or blogging for Little Science Co). It’s not only these kinds of opportunities, but I’ve also made friends, joined #SciCommCrafting groups and attended zoom quizzes. A network that’s more personable than professional, but leads to amazing opportunities.

Of course, it’s not just a one-way street, you can be the one posting things and having them noticed. In fact, you should be! Got a paper published? High Altmetric Attention Scores are increasingly counted as a sign of success, so why not give it a tweet? It’s also proven to get more reads, and more citations. Got something you want people to take part in? Give it a tweet – this year’s Leeds Pint of Science team has more members than ever from outside of the University, thanks to the reach of Twitter. 

Twitter can be a great platform for promoting things, for example I won the Social Media prize at the Biomedical YES20 workshop. This involved tweeting information about our business idea, creating an AR face filter and increasing recognition of the need for our idea. I learnt quite a few lessons from this. Quantity isn’t the same as quality; You don’t want to just bombard people with your message, but have them engage with it. It’s also important to try to be eye catching, for example using images and gifs (but make sure they have alt text). You can also use hashtags to get more exposure and picked up by other Twitter communities. And like all good scientists, try to use the data twitter gives you to evaluate what worked and what didn’t so you can improve things next time.

Guidelines and etiquette are just as important on Twitter as anywhere else – you wouldn’t like an old photo on Instagram without good reason, and Twitter has similar faux-pas. For example, if you reply to a tweet with several people tagged, all those people will be notified of your reply, so if you’re having a conversation with just one, untag everyone else. Statements online can be interpreted in ways you don’t intend, so listen if someone doesn’t react the way you expect. As such, Twitter comes with its fair share of drama, even if it seems like it’s all professionals tweeting about their favourite (or least favourite) model organism. In fact, there’s whole accounts dedicated to keeping everyone up to date. Also, following a diverse mixture of people is essential, it can turn into an echo chamber, so make sure you are following people that represent more than just your immediate surroundings. And think about who is follows you. You can only easily reach your own circle, so consider if it’s the best platform for what you want to share. 

With all that advice and encouragement, I wish you the best on your twitter journeys!

Alex is currently the Yorkshire Chapter Manager of Pint of Science and looking for volunteers to help organise the 2022 in-person festival, so get in touch if you’d be interested in this opportunity!