Now that you’re up and running on Twitter it’s time to grow your network. There’s no magic number of people you need to follow and it depends a lot on what you want to get out of Twitter. You need to have enough people in your network that you receive a decent stream of information but you may find following too many people at first overwhelming, especially if they are very enthusiastic tweeters. Of course you will end up following more people the longer you are on Twitter but don’t worry, there are tools to help you manage your network which we will discuss later in the course.
The easiest way for participants in this course to follow people is to begin by following each other. This link contains a list of those who tweeted yesterday as part of CamDOT. To follow someone just click on their name to bring up their profile and then click the follow button. Please note that if there is a little padlock next to the name this means the person has a protected account and you will need their approval to become a follower.
With Twitter, the best way to develop your network is to let it grow organically:
- Suggestions: Twitter will suggest accounts for you to follow in a box on the right hand side of your screen. When you first register Twitter will start by suggesting some popular accounts so you will see some celebrities or famous figures. As your network grows and Twitter learns what you like these suggestions will become more intelligent so it’s worth keeping an eye on them (although it will probably still encourage you to follow Katy Perry once in a while!)
- Followers: Twitter will send you a notification when someone follows you. It’s worth checking out their profiles to see if you would be interested in following them back. You could also explore their follower list for interesting accounts to follow
- Retweets: If someone retweets your message (shares it with their followers) then this means they have found what you said interesting. Chances are that you have some interests in common so it might be worth following them. We will look at retweets in more depth another day
- Hashtags: These are tags at the end of the tweet preceded by the # symbol. They are used to group tweets on the same topic together and can show that someone has the same interests as you. Again, we will cover these later in the course
- #FF or #FollowFriday: Every Friday people on Twitter tweet the names of people they think are worth following. Watch out for these or ask your followers who else you should be following
Below are some suggestions of people/groups to follow to get you started:
- ‘Celebrity accounts’ and media dons: Following well-known people in academia, especially those in Education, will give you some ideas of Twitter best practice as well as keeping you up to date with developments in the field. You could follow educational researchers such as Tara Brabazon or academics such as Mary Beard
- Professional bodies: These accounts often tweet about events, news, policy or funding opportunitites. You could try CILIP, CILIP East, SLA Europe, the Higher Education Academy or SCONUL
- Funding bodies: For calls for funding and other news, follow bodies such as the Research Councils UK (@research_uk), or JISC
- Academic and professional press: Education press such as @TimesHigherEd, @InsideHigherEd or @gdnHigherEd will give you access to news stories which may interest you or your followers. Following their journalists too might be a way to hear about interesting stories or even raise your own profile in the press. Many journals also have their own Twitter accounts which are useful for updates on calls for contributions or new contents
- Outreach: Following your institution’s account/s can be a great way to keep up to date and get involved. Follow Cambridge University, Cambrige University Library or why not look for other libraries in Cambridge?
- Other librarians: Cambridge librarians are a very active bunch and lots of them already have well-used Twitter accounts. Check out this list for some of the most prolific Cambridge tweeters
- Professional networks: These are useful for finding out about events aimed specifically at the information sector. One of the most popular is the LIS New Professionals Network which has details of many opportunities
It’s worth remembering that you don’t need to restrict your network to those in the same sector as you. The beauty of Twitter is that it can open up conversations with people you might not otherwise get a chance to interact with. Making connections is a valuable way of exploring beyond the library sector so why not consider following people from the wider educational world or people who write on technology?
Once you have an established network it’s important to maintain it and this may mean unfollowing people. Interests change over time, both yours and those of people you follow, so you may find unfollowing people is the best thing to do. To unfollow someone you simply click the unfollow button on their profile. It can feel strange the first time that you do this but it is the nature of Twitter. Remember that Twitter is not like sites such as Facebook where following is reciprocal – you can create your own unique network.
So, the only thing left to do now is go forth and follow! Follow the above suggestions, keep an open mind and you will soon find that your network starts to grow. Then you will be able to start putting the information you get from Twitter to use!