Inspired by a prompt from a friend on Facebook, I decided to demystify using (and networking on) Twitter for my fellow librarians. This guide is geared towards librarians but you can mentally find and replace librarian with “profession of choice.”
Step Zero: Why So Serious?
People often worry about Twitter. They fear the time commitment (a non-profit webinar I attended said it takes at least 2 hours a week to build your social media brand and involvement), missing what people say and therefore feeling like a bad friend/follower. The important thing is to not sweat it! No one is actively tracking to see if you’re reading their tweets. If someone wants to get your attention specifically, they will either send you a direct message or mention you (using @yourhandle). Sure, I feel a bit overwhelmed when I have been away from Twitter for several days. What cool links did I miss out on? Who did something big that you would have loved to known about? Don’t worry about it. Things/ideas which are very important or interesting will be retweeted (RT) over and over.
Step One: Sign up for Twitter
Using this link: http://twitter.com/.
- You’ll be asked to make a few decisions like a username (pro-tip: keep it short as possible).
- Have a photo or image handy to upload so other people don’t think you’re a spam bot.
- Write your short profile. Try to be authentic in describing yourself and your interests while avoiding spam language like “marketing guru.”
- Are you going to have an open account so everyone under the sun can read your tweets? You’ll gain more followers if you do. All Twitter accounts will be archived by the Library of Congress but only open accounts will be viewable in the future. Leave it open if you can. You want to be able to say that your words will live on in the Library of Congress archives, don’t you? :-)
- Use shortened URLs using a service like bit.ly. You only have 140 characters for each tweet so if you want to share that great link, you’ll need to shorten it! I used bit.ly which is a free site so I can keep track of how many clicks each of my links are receiving.
Step Two: Professional vs. Personal vs. Combination
Every Twitter user will need to make a decision: be personal, be professional, or be both on their Twitter account. There are lots of opinions out there but I use my account as a personal and professional representation of myself. Sure, that gets tricky sometimes. I have to remember to keep my language neutral, try to avoid unleashing my strong political opinions, and remember that my followers are mostly librarians. I try to cater to the librarians but sometimes my other interests seep into my feed as well (such as my new obsession with Batman or my NaNoing in November). As well, I suffered the loss of my Grandpa and best friend this year. I cannot begin to describe how comforting and supportive many of my followers were and how they helped me through such difficult times. This leads to my next point…
Step Three: Be a Good Friend to Others
Did you used to be involved with AOL chat rooms or IRC channels? Do you remember how impersonal your communications often were? On Twitter it is different. When you follow someone, they will often follow you back. You are then on your way to becoming conversational partners. Over time, you will form relationships with these people as you respond to each other’s tweets and share links. When you have frustrations with work, projects, etc. these are people who will listen and give you a place to vent or offer feedback. Many people on Twitter are kind-hearted and generous with their time. They want to be part of your adventure through librarianship. Be a part of their journey as well. Another fun fact: when people start caring about you and recognizing you in their feed, they’ll remember you and can send job ads, freelance work, etc. your way that they thought you would be interested in. This is networking. Repay in kind as often as you can.
Step Four: Dealing with Spammers
From the second you put anything out there, someone (or a robot) will try to spam you. Spammers will try to follow you. They usually include random numbers of nonsense words in their handles and Twitter can email you notifications of your new followers. I recommend clicking through to see the new follower’s feed. Is it random nonsensical or random links? It’s probably a spammer. I recommend blocking them ASAP. Here’s how to block and report spammers.
Step Five: Blocking Followers
Sometimes there will be someone who is just a creeper. They’ll say weird things to you or maybe you just don’t want MarketingGuru84 following you. You are trying to curate a list of followers who are genuine people interested in things that interest you. Using the same link as above, you just go to the profile that you want to block and choose “Block Username” in order to make them disappear from your follower list. Note: If your tweets are public, they can still read your tweets. They just can’t follow you using the name you blocked.
Step Six: Finding People to Follow
Now here’s the meat of this entry’s title: How to Network. After you understand the timeliness of Step Three, you are ready to find people to follow. Here are some suggestions:
- When you first sign up for Twitter you’ll be given the option of searching your email contact lists from Gmail (and others) to find people you already know. Click away on following people you already know!
- When I first got interested in using Twitter, I was a library student. I wanted to join the professional dialogue and understand current issues that my teachers were unable to keep up on and my classmates were not interested in. So I Googled “Librarians on Twitter.” I would then look at the pages Google brought back and click through to look at the profiles of librarians on Twitter. I would then decide who I wanted to follow. It is really as simple as that!
- Once you are following some people on Twitter, look to see whose tweets they are retweeting. Go check out that person/organization’s profile. Are they interesting? Follow them.
- Twitter also gives suggestions of people to follow based upon you are following in the left hand column next to your feed. Check those people out.
- Go look at your own profile (by clicking on Profile along the top or by clicking on your own Twitter name). Who does Twitter suggest is like you under your About Me blurb? Are they interesting? If so, follow them.
Step Seven: Add People You Follow Into Lists
When I first joined Twitter, you could not add people to lists. What are lists? It is a way to categorize the people you follow so you can remember why you followed them, how you know them, or as a way to share with others a hand picked list of people who you recognize as awesome. In addition, when people add you to a list (which shows up on your profile), you gain legitimacy. If 200 people have you listed as a librarian, other people will be more likely to recognize that you are one as well. You become part of the trusted and authentic crowd which is important in mass public social media. Here’s how to create lists. You can also make some lists private so no one knows who your in real life (IRL) friends are while keeping your tweets public.
Step Eight: Say It Privately
There are times when you want to say something to another user without posting it on your public feed. You can send a direct message (DM) to that person which only they can see (it doesn’t keep them from copying and pasting it to their feed or blog though so be careful who you trust with privileged information!). Note: You can only DM a person who you are following that is following you back. If you want to DM someone, you can mention them (using @theirusername in your tweet) and ask them if you can send them a private message.
Step Nine: How to Manage Twitter
People often have more than one Twitter account either for professional purposes or they are tweeting on behalf of several organizations. You do not want a browser open for every Twitter account you have access to. Instead you want to use a specific program (HootSuite or Tweetdeck for starters) to manage so many accounts. These programs will give you the option to sign into multiple accounts. With Tweetdeck, I am able to tweet simultaneously for multiple accounts as needed (hit the shift key and click on the icon for each account). Or I can follow multiple conversations about a particular topic that I am interested in.
Step Ten: Follow Conferences and Events
If there is an event you are interested in or want to tweet about, you can use a hash tag for it. You can create tags in Twitter by using the hash tag (#) like so: #librarians. When someone clicks on #librarians, they can see every tweet in the last little bit that uses #librarians. In your program of choice (mine is Tweetdeck), you can search for the hash tag you are interested in and then watch the conversation that blooms around it. In library land, on Wednesday nights from 8 pm to 9:30 pm, you can join in the #libchat to discuss library issues for example. Note: Yes, you can create any hash tag that you want. People do it all the time. There is no hash tag god making sure you’re only using certain hashtags. If you want to create #ilovecats, go ahead! Maybe others are already using it. Oh, and you can’t use punctuation in hashtags. It will break them into only the portion before the punctuation being a hash tag link.
Step Eleven: Save Your Tweets
I am no way an expert on the best way to save/back up your tweets. Here are some ways you can do so (I use the first two methods):
Got any questions? Add ons? Leave me a comment! Or send me a tweet.