To start off with, you’ll need to sign up to Twitter. You can see people’s tweets without an account, by viewing their profile or by searching for a keyword, as it’s a very public social media channel. Without an account, though, you won’t be able to join in the conversation, and that’s the first and main thing to learn about Twitter:
Twitter is a conversation.
Setting up an account on Twitter is the easy part! There’s still a few things to think about, though, in terms of creating an engaging and effective profile using
- your handle (@name), which people will use to identify and direct messages to you
- your avatar or profile picture, which is how people will pick your tweets out of their twitter feed, on a quick glance
- your identifying information, such as your location and personal website or webpage
- your ‘bio’ or strapline, which will sum up who you are and why people might want to follow you
- the overall look of your twitter profile, which makes it distinct and memorable when people view it
- and additional accounts, which you might want to set up to appeal to different audiences
If you already have a Twitter account, then you could use this post to refine your profile and your overall aims and audience, including if you feel you need a second account for different audiences and purposes.
If you don’t yet use Twitter, visit the site to set up an account. We’ll also look at using Twitter to represent a group such as your Learning Development service, but in the first instance, it might be best to explore Twitter in a personal capacity first.
- You’ll firstly need to enter a real name, email address and password to sign up.
- At the second stage, you need to think of a username, which will be your @name. This might be some version of your real name or, if your name is common and most variations of it have already been taken, you might think of a professional and memorable pseudonym. Don’t worry – you can change this later, and you can also add your real name to your profile so that it’s identifiably you. Useful at conferences! If you want to set up an account not for yourself but to publicise your service, or other institutional group such as a conference, then something which will be memorable, clearly reflect your service, and work well on publicity will be essential.
- The next steps of signing up on Twitter take you through finding people to follow, but I recommend you skip this step for now – we will look at it in a future post!
- The next thing you should do is start to fill out your profile, so that when people look at it, they will feel more encouraged to follow you.
- Upload a profile picture. When skimming through a twitter feed of all the people they follow, an eye-catching profile picture will help them pick your tweets out. It could be your face, if you have a good, clear shot of your face (useful in identifying you when you meet followers in real life at conferences!). It could also be an abstract image which somehow reflects your @name, as long as it’s striking. Don’t leave your profile picture as the default Twitter ‘egg’ – this suggests that you are either very new to Twitter or a spammer! You can also add a ‘Header’ image which customises your profile page a little more. If you are setting up an account for a service then the service logo is an obvious choice, but do check with your institution’s policy on the use of logos with the communications and marketing team.
- Add your real name, if you wish. This will appear on your profile, so if you use an abstract pseudonym and picture (as I do – I have a common name!), your Twitter account can still be identifiably ‘you’ – again, useful at conferences! If you use Twitter to represent a service or group, then the ‘full’ version of its title would be something to add here.
- Add a location (this could also be an institution). Your followers might be from anywhere in the country or the world, so this gives people a bit more context about which university you are affiliated with.
- Add a URL to a personal website or webpage. You can have only one, so perhaps your university webpage, if you have one, would be most appropriate here. People can then find out more about you than is possible in your Twitter profile.
- Add a ‘bio’. You have 160 characters to sum up who you are and what you might be tweeting about, to encourage people and give them a reason to follow you. Again, a blank or minimal bio isn’t very inviting, and suggests that you are too new to be interesting, that there is little to be gained from following you, or you are a spam account. A well-thought out bio is an important part of gaining new followers. Have a look at the bios on other tweeters’ profiles, and see what you find inviting or off-putting. If you intend to tweet in a professional capacity, then avoid too much about your hobbies or quirky, cryptic statements about yourself. It tells potential contacts nothing about why they might want to follow you and what kinds of information you are likely to be passing on to them, and therefore why they would want to network with you professionally. Some people like to add that they are “tweeting in a personal capacity” or that the “views are my own” to clarify that their tweets do not reflect the views of their employer, although you may feel that this is clear enough anyway. Check any social media policy that your institution has developed.
- You can connect your Twitter account to post automatically to your Facebook account too, if you have one. Think carefully about the two audiences for Facebook and Twitter- is this something you want to do? Or would you rather keep them separate?
People will often view your profile page when deciding whether to follow you, and you might give out the URL to your profile page e.g. on your email signature or business card if you want to ask someone to follow you, so it is worth making it informative and distinctive. It will also be an important part of your publicity if you’re tweeting in a group capacity for your service. Today. we’re mostly looking at the information in the tab at the top labelled ‘Me’, which is where people will find your profile:
Explore customising your Twitter profile page in the Settings.
Click on the cog icon at the top, and select Settings. In the Settings, you can:
- Change your Header image – the one that sits behind your avatar. Go to Profile to upload an image.
- Change the Background of the whole page, using one of the premade themes or design and upload your own
You can create more Twitter accounts, associated with different email accounts, if you wish. These might be for other facets of your online life, such as personal contacts, or to represent your learning development service rather than you as an individual. It’s best not to mix audiences too much – for example, if you use Twitter for a hobby, then a separate account for professional purposes means that you aren’t filling people’s Twitter feeds with things that don’t interest them or confuse them. It’s fine to add a personal touch to your professional tweets though!
Now, to let us know how you’re getting on, why not leave a comment on this blogpost with your twitter handle and a link to the URL of your profile? Or if you have any other comments or questions, let us know by leaving a comment!
S0 – you have an account on Twitter now, with an engaging profile which invites others to follow your tweets. That’s enough for day one!