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22nd November 2013
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I really like Twitter. Both for gathering information and opinions, and for engaging people in my work. But it takes a while to get the hang of it. A friend, who’s an eminent academic but is self-confessedly ‘terrified’ of taking the plunge, asked my advice, and this is what I told him. I’d be interested to know what others think: tweet me @bankfieldbecky!

Advice for a twitter newbie:

First, just sign up for an account, follow some people. Trawl through the follower lists of colleagues, friends, people whose opinions you value, and follow who they follow. Try to make it a mixture of ‘official’ – newspapers, organisations – and unofficial – individuals who have things to say. Then read your twitter feed for a while. No need to start tweeting yourself until you’ve got the feel for it.

When you’re ready to tweet yourself, I think there’s one rule for a good tweet.  You know when you’re reading the paper, and you read a great article or you have an interesting thought, and you want to tell the person you’re with – your partner, colleague, whoever – because you think they would want to know? That’s what you should tweet.

So you could pass on (using a link) an interesting article you’ve just read, and say (very briefly of course!) why it’s useful/interesting/funny. Or you could give a short pithy opinion on something everyone’s talking about. For example, I tweeted recently that it’s weird how in all the fuss about energy bills no-one thinks about the £104 a year each household spends on nuclear waste, because it’s done through taxation not energy bills.

Definitely never tweet trivia about what you’ve had for breakfast or that your train is late, however tempted you are. Be sparing about retweeting other people’s tweets, and think before you use twitter to advertise things e.g. events, unless you really think people will want to know.

It’s a slow burn, both in terms of deciding who to follow and building up a good twitter feed; and in terms of gathering followers so you feel you’ve got an audience for what you’re saying. But it’s worth persevering – it’s such an instant, efficient way of gathering and offering news and views.

About author

Rebecca Willis

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