Twitter: Going beyond the basics

Our previous post about Twitter covered what Twitter is and provided some resources for using Twitter in your teaching. Perhaps you have already dipped your toe into the Twitter waters, but would like to go a bit further. This post will cover ways to use Twitter as a scholar as well as some popular Twitter apps.

On the scholarly research front, professors have used Twitter to ask for research help, crowd-source specific research questions, locate resources / datasets / equipment, assist in finding information related to field work sites, and share ideas or research questions in a soft form of peer review. Twitter is a quick and relatively painless way to access a network of scholars who may care about and be researching the very topics you are interested in exploring.

You can also use Twitter to boost your own professional profile, sharing news of grants, publications, and invited lectures. Your tweets could also promote upcoming events in your department, lab, or research center, as well as trumpet the success of your colleagues or graduate students. This kind of publicity can help connect you or your department with an audience outside of your narrow sub-field: external funding sources, the mainstream media, and prospective students. Additionally, you can use Twitter to stay current with former students.

Many professional conferences have adopted conference-specific hashtags on Twitter. You can track which individuals are coming, see what panels they are most excited about, share information about key receptions, and review or share comments and links. This sort of Twitter backchannel can also provide virtual overview of a conference that interests you, but you aren’t able to attend.

Here are a few Twitter apps to help you get the most out of your Twitter time and followers.

1.  Twitpic: Upload photos or videos and share them directly to Twitter; Twitpic is free and uses your same Twitter login and password, but you may want to review the terms of use regarding your uploaded photos.

2.  Twtpoll: Paid service that lets you author polls or surveys and share them with Twitter followers, Facebook friends or email contacts.

3.  GroupTweet: Create a classroom Twitter group, where anyone who is authorized and has a Twitter account can contribute. This can be a great way to link together class-related tweeting and create a course-specific presence on Twitter. The service is free, with a premium pay option that allows you moderate messages before they are shared.

4.  FollowerWonk: The free access provides summary information for any of Twitter user’s followers and it lets you compare information about different Twitter users. You can examine what’s trending among followers in specific locations, across age or student groups, by topic or even by groups of keywords. There are a variety of paid plans that provide additional analytics capabilities, including the ability to analyze your own Twitter presence.

5. The Archivist: Creates visualizations of twitter use by using the Twitter search engine to search for your specified term. Note that the archivist cannot go back in time to review tweet trends – it will only collect data forward from the date you start archiving. If you are looking for something more comprehensive, you can check out HootSuite, although it is geared more toward business / marketing use.

Are you doing something exciting with Twitter or Twitter apps? Let us know in the comments!

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