Working with Twitter

I’ve been chatting to students about Twitter use this week at Wollongong, and on the basis of this, I want to give some general thoughts on how to work effectively with Twitter at this stage in your (future) career.

At the moment, Twitter is a recognised professional environment in a range of different media & communications careers, so it’s very helpful to you to graduate with experience and an existing profile, rather than having to start from scratch. But what I’ve learned this week is that it’s not a widely used everyday channel for students. “I just use it for uni,” was a common response.

Fair enough. I’m a Facebook avoider, so I get why a new platform can feel unfamiliar and not worth the digital labor of building up a following to make it worthwhile.

Here are some practical tips if you want to engage more effectively with Twitter this semester. The teaching team are using the #bcm240 hashtag, so there are resources appearing there — we’ll make it worth your while showing up!

  1. Download a Twitter app to your phone so that you get notifications when you’re @-mentioned.
  2. Treat Twitter like radio that you might listen to in your car: there’s no need to read everything in your timeline, just browse a couple of times a day, and check out the #BCM240 stream
  3. Refresh your following list: follow other #BCM240 people, but also start to follow professionals in the career you’re pursuing.
  4. Twitter’s algorithm values people with reasonable following lists, so help each other out by following other #BCM240 students (even if you unfollow at the end of semester).
  5. Retweet or quote useful tweets from others in your wider professional network; people you RT will genuinely pop over to check you out and some will follow you (obviously, not so much if they’re celebrities with a million followers, but a surprising number of professionals you’ll be interested in aren’t in that category and many are themselves quite new to Twitter)
  6. To prepare your Twitter for people checking it out, have a real think about your bio and recent tweets, because this is what people will check. In particular think about how to present yourself and something interesting about you in a way that is professionally-facing, without saying “Media & Communications student”. Even “Currently studying media and communications” is more interesting, and more relevant. You’re a student, but that’s not all you are. If you’re a figure skater, say so. Remember, you’re looking to be remembered without coming across as weird.

Make curating and finessing your Twitter experience a focus this semester, in a way that makes your world more diverse, thinking ahead to what you might like to be doing within the next couple of years.

A Twitter story: a year ago I followed someone from the Nigerian IT startup world on the basis of a couple of RTs. Before I knew it, curiosity had got the better of me, and for about a year I’ve followed a small group of Nigerian IT entrepreneurs and stand-up comedians who were all following and RTing each other. What has this done for me? Well, I know a lot more about everyday life in Nigeria than I did.

And that’s not nothing.

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