Do I really need to know what Justin Bieber had for breakfast?
Hopefully today we can convince you that amazing things can be achieved with just 140 characters.
What is Twitter?
Do we need to talk about what it is, and how it works? The only thing I’d add to this first paragraph, is that as well as sending messages to the world, or to a defined group, you can follow people on twitter. Every time they send a message, you get notified, and people can follow you. Simple.
The power of the #
We need to know about hashtags if we’re going to talk about Twitter. If you click on, or search for, a specific word with a hashtag at the start of it, then every tweet with it in will appear in date order, latest first. So if you were to search for or click on #hignfy, you’d find everything to do with the satirical BBC news program Have I Got News For You. That’s not their account, it’s every message sent by anyone that had that hashtag in it. Yes? To go directly to their Twitter ‘feed’ you’d go to @haveigotnews.
Why is that useful? Well, apart from being able to find information on things you’re interested in, you could create your own hashtags and use them to draw together information and discussion amongst your students and colleagues, related to maybe a module, or topic you’re all interested in. #reallyuseful?
A few statistics
- The estimated total number of registered Twitter users is 1.3 billion
- 38% of millennials in the US have a twitter account
- Around 6,000 tweets are sent every second.
Click on the image above and have a look at the daily Twitter counter!
Well, you’ll probably not be surprised that all but one of the top 5 most followed individuals are pop stars, and that won’t do anything for our argument that Twitter can be useful to us in our work – we’ll get to that. It doesn’t take much to imagine the effect of having nearly 100 million followers has on record sales. (100 million times 79p – the price of a track on iTunes). Or, if they just happened to mention a brand of lipstick… In fact, many record companies will now sign a band on the numbers of followers they have on Facebook and Twitter. That might seem sad at first, but if you work hard building your following, great things can be achieved using Twitter and Facebook, and they’re free.
On a serious note, doesn’t this tell us that millennials are already conversant with Twitter, and ready to use it to find other information?
- Katy Perry 96, 058, 553
- Justin Bieber 91, 980, 564
- Barak Obama 85, 199, 844
- Taylor Swift 83, 560, 957
- Rihanna 69, 892, 307
You don’t have to look too far down the list to see slightly more… cerebral feeds that people follow in their millions. BBC news has nearly 30 million followers, NASA have 22 million, Reuters 16 million. Individuals such as Neil deGrasse Tyson (2.5 million), and Brian Cox (1.5 million) can reach large numbers of people, who are all able to ‘retweet’ their message i.e. to send them again to their followers, who could then retweet to their followers… etc.
As far as ‘serious’ Twitter accounts or ‘feeds’ as they’re known, are concerned (business, science, political, research, etc) , worldwide, there are a number of benefits that come from the many, many people reading, retweeting, commenting, etc The power of the ‘hive mind’.
- Thousands, if not millions of experts use Twitter to chat, discuss and debate ideas. How much more quickly can we solve problems with that many people debating serious issues?
- Twitter is a Reciprocal Curation Engine, perfect for experts to digest, focus and grasp new ideas and take them further.
- Whether you’re in politics, industry or education, Twitter enables one-to-one communication with interested parties/your clients.
- Twitter may have only 140 characters available, but that can include webpage URLs, PDF files, basically whatever is up on the web – i.e. it can link to things that have much more substance.
- Twitter is a tool that can be used when all other news options have been shut down.
This short video is a good stepping off point to understand how useful it can be for students, teachers and researchers.
Twitter is a great way of providing opportunities for ‘crowd sourcing’ your work, getting people to engage in and help you with your work is often possible. Some researchers have been successful in using Twitter to get actual funding. Indeed some of our students have been funded as a consequence of contacting people via Twitter.
Twitter is a very good medium for helping you to reach out to non-academic audiences, such as governmental organisations, business, NGOs etc.
Tweet about new publications
These can be journal articles, blogs, website updates, etc. It is a good idea to have access to an online version of the full publication, or to an abstract, so that the tweet can point somewhere for followers to get more information. By providing the link via certain shortening services (e.g. bit.ly), you can gauge interaction with your publications.
Twitter is a great way to raise awareness of events your organisation or department may be hosting. You can then LiveChat the event to further raise awareness. Several of my colleagues monitor Twitter chat from events they can’t physically attend.
Twitter is of course a communication medium, but it can actually be of great use in keeping the members of the sub-groups within your organisation up to date with your activities. You can also use Twitter to communicate more easily with students, researchers and part-time staff who may not always be kept up to date with activities through normal channels.
Choose one of the following:
Put together a list/a couple of Twitter feeds that you think your students would find useful to follow. If you don’t already (and I’d love to know if you do), you could add that list to your course materials in the VLE/LMS. The best way to find them is to Google people, institutions, businesses etc, and look for their Twitter address (it’s usually somewhere on their front page). Paste them into the comments section of this post. Maybe you have a Twitter feed you’d like to share with us? How about this one for starters: @ with 24,000 followers, incidentally.
Put together a list of Twitter accounts that you would find interesting in your general life, in or outside of work.
Sign up to our wonderful Twitter course 10 Days of Twitter – #ARU10DoT – which has been very successful, and has also been adopted by other Universities. Let us know you’ve signed up, by saying so in the comments here.