Teaching Twitter To Higher Education Colleagues

by Ed Cabellon on January 15, 2010 · 21 comments

Image of twitter classroom

A common theme I read in last night’s #SAchat was that the resistance that some college staff, administrators, and faculty have in using Twitter.  While those on the chat tonight wouldn’t need a “Higher Tweducation“, I thought I would share some thoughts on to how to get those “curious” to give it a try.  My hope is that you will share this with people who are on the fence about using Twitter to push them to give it a try!

Overall, Twitter can feel like a strange new landscape when you first jump in.  It is not always clear what its professional uses are, or what to post in 140 characters or less. But when you start to think of Twitter as a micro-blog (and not just a forum for the personal minutiae of people’s daily lives), you will find that Twitter is the most powerful professional development tool out there (and it’s free!).  If you’re only form of online media has been Facebook up until this point, Twitter will not be intuitive as it is not a “social network.”   Twitter is an “Information Network” that can be social, and you’ll understand the difference as you use it more.

Twitter Basics / Definitions: (You will see examples of these in the sample tweets that follow)

@username: creates a link to that user in your post.
RT: Retweet, to copy someone else’s post in a new update.  It is like “forwarding an email” to someone else.  Give them credit by adding their @username.
#: hashtag, is a digital marker in Twitter.  They can help organize tweets into “digital folders”.  Adding hashtags to tweets can also help amplify its visibility beyond those that are following you.  You may have already seen hashtags during your favorite TV show or sporting event, or even in an advertisement (e.g. #TheVoice, #RedSox, #HIMYM)
DM: Direct message, send someone in Twitter a private message instead of Tweet that all can read.

Initial Steps:
1.  Create your Twitter account and fill in all the information, including uploading a picture of yourself, a referencing website (like a department webpage or maybe your Facebook page) and a quick bio about what you do and why you’re on Twitter!  Without this, it is hard to trust whether you are a real person or just a Twitter robot!
2.  Click on the Find People link and begin following people whom you know in real life or want to add to your Twitter stream (celebrities like @Alyssa_Milano and @JimmyFallon and brands like @DunkinDonuts and @SouthwestAir are some great examples).  Remember, when you read your Twitter stream, you’re only seeing Tweets from the people you follow.
3.  In the search bar, type words or phrases that are interesting to you and see who is “tweeting” about those things, follow them, and introduce yourself!

What Should I Tweet About?
This is all about personality.  You might be a “reader” for a the first few weeks as you glance over Tweets and follow interesting links, or you might decide you want to contribute to the online conversation.  Here are 15 quick ideas on what you could tweet about (think beyond the Facebook “Status Update!”)

1) Ask for recommended books, program/event ideas, or management tools.
Example tweet:  Can anyone share a successful Emerging Leaders schedule of events?  or Does anyone have a Student Employee evaluation that they could share?

2) Thanking the people who respond to you (include their @username)
Example tweet:  Thanks @tomkrieglstein @the_sa_blog @DebraSanborn for another great #sachat
(For new Twitter users, the above tweet is read “Thanks Tom, The SA Blog, and Debra for another great S-A-Chat!”)

3) Ask for help or advice about a professional question.
Example tweet:  Which professional association should I join?

4) Tweet about a useful web resource, a particular blog post, video, website, book, product or service that you find useful
Example tweet:  If you are interested in the most inspirational and educational talks online, visit www.ted.com!

5) Share new studies of interest
Example tweet:  ReyJunco: We still need to run some more analyses; however Twitter use = increased student engagement and higher GPA’s. Are you surprised? #sachat

6) Tweet about your school’s website, blog and/or podcast.
Example tweet:  Check out our new Campus Center Blog by students! http://rccblog.com

7) Invite people to an event (online or offline). Events can include open-house programs,  extracurricular activities, meetings, book clubs, webchat… really anything!
Example tweet:  Join us for #SAChat tonight 6-7p CST!

8 ) Link to photos of projects, places, etc. of things you want to share.
Example tweet:  Photos from last night’s Graduate Commencement are found on our Flickr stream!

9) On Fridays, recommend other tweeters that your followers should check out.
Example tweet:  I recommend following @CindyKane for all your leadership and Student Activities goodness! #FollowFriday

10) Answer someone else’s general question, and reply to those who ask you a direct question.
Example tweet: ATECadvise: @slhealy @edcabellon our Engineering school shares their twitter & FB account amongst advisors. #sachat

11) Schedule to meet fellow Higher Ed folks at a conference, or organize a professional tweet-up in your area.
Example tweet: Anyone interested in a #sachat #tweetup at #acpa in Boston?

12) Ask others for favorites / recommendations… for anything.
Example tweet: What are your favorite iPhone or Android Twitter apps?

13) Post requests for people to come and speak at your events.
Example tweet:  Searching for an Ethics Speaker for our Emerging Leaders Conference.  Recommendations?

14) Post and/or search employment postings. If you see someone else looking for a job, retweet their request.
Example tweet:  Any students looking for summer work? Visit the bridgew.edu/studentemployment

15) Ask for something free. If you serve on the planning committee for any type of conference or event and need donations or gifts-in-kind, ask Twitter!
Example tweet:  Looking for sponsors for our ACUI Region 1 Fall Conference.  @ me if you are interested!

These are just some of many ideas to get you started.  What would you tell Higher Education staff, faculty, and administrators who are not giving Twitter a try?

Ready for more Teaching Twitter? Try “Part Do” and Part 3!