Are you sceptical of what social media can help you achieve as part of your professional development? Unless you’re a celebrity, you may feel that anything you say on a social network bears little relevance to the world at large. But you’re wrong. The way you use social media in your professional life can gain you recognition in your field and beyond.
Last week I spoke about my use of social media at the University’s Digital Development Forum, a hub which draws together those who have an involvement or interest in the University’s digital presence and allows for the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and best practice. In the two and a half years that I’ve been in my role as Copyright Officer and on Twitter as @copyrightgirl, I’ve gained just over 6,000 followers, have become well-known in the legal community and as a result am often asked to speak at external events. I thought it would be useful to share some Twitter tips that have really benefited me over the past couple of years.
- Fill in your ‘Bio’ area to reflect what your account provides and to let your followers know what they can expect from your channel. For example, mine says: “Here to provide information and awareness about general copyright issues – feel free to ask me questions!”
- Think about keywords in your subject area, and then in the ‘Who to Follow’ tab, search for those keywords; this should highlight who is talking about the subject (e.g. ‘Copyright’, ‘Intellectual Property’, etc). Follow these people (you can always unfollow at a later date if they are unsuitable
- Don’t automatically follow everyone who follows you – if you are offering a service to people who follow you, don’t clutter your timeline with irrelevance as it means you may miss items of use and importance to you professionally
- Use hashtags (#) to follow subjects of interest or relevance – again, follow people who tweet items of relevance using those hashtags, and use the same hashtags when you tweet about a subject
- If someone tweets something of interest, re-tweet it but add value to it (e.g. a comment such as ‘Good post on…’ etc). Re-tweeting others’ items and adding your comments enables your followers to get an intelligent, valuable digest. Remember that your audience are busy people and you need to give them a reason to click on the link you recommend
- Engage – always try to respond in a timely manner to @mentions and Direct Messages, as Twitter is not only a news service but also a great tool for interacting and encouraging debate. Twitter will email you when someone mentions you, so you don’t have to check the site every 5 minutes!
- Attend external events such as conferences or seminars – many nowadays will include a hashtag for the conference (e.g. #jiscdigitalmedia) and you should use this when tweeting from the event. These types of hashtag also work extremely well in reverse – if you haven’t managed to get to the conference, you can keep on top of it by following the hashtag. Also, as a followed tweeter, tweeting against a hashtag gives the event and its organisers free, real-time publicity and builds engagement with audiences both directly and indirectly
- Evaluate your followers and those you are following by checking their profiles every so often and reading a list of their latest tweets – feel free to follow/unfollow at will, because at the end of the day it is the people who are following your account that will benefit from your relevant and timely tweets
- Don’t be afraid to: a) be wrong – by all means have an opinion, but don’t be afraid to apologise or correct yourself; the Twitter community has great respect for honesty and transparency; b) be personable – by adding emoticons, for example, it helps keep a human element to your channel, even if you are a corporate one
- Finally – don’t worry if you never really get the hang of it. Twitter won’t be for everyone, but that’s why there are lots of different social networks out there! Find something that works for you and suits the purpose you want to use it for
Twitter has really done wonders for my professional life, connecting me with educators, lawyers, librarians, technicians and specialist copyright organisations all over the world. Information sourced from Twitter enhances my knowledge of copyright and brings a fresh up-to-the-minute perspective to my workshops. I attend several Twitter events each year and am always impressed with how friendly and approachable the people in my networks are. The only danger with Twitter is that you can easily spend lots of time reading and/or tweeting; take care to manage the time you spend on it efficiently. To my mind, though, it’s definitely worth the investment as it enables real-time networking and knowledge-sharing, invaluable in today’s fast-paced digital environment.