This blog post has been formulating in my head for YEARS. I have presented on this notion and attempted to spread the good news that Twitter is an excellent source of professional development (PD) for educators … if cultivated over time.
While completing my undergraduate degrees, I found myself meeting educators through different internships, jobs, field placements, and extracurricular activities. I always asked them, “What advice do you have for a young educator?”
One’s simple response was “get professional on Twitter”, so I began tweeting in April of 2013.
Check out my tips below on how to begin or continue to optimize Twitter for professional growth and learning.
1. Establish your BRAND
Branding is a popular marketing and advertising ploy that businesses and companies use to set themselves apart from the competition. My approach to Twitter is very similar.
My brand is my promise to my audience that establishes consistent expectations about what I am going to produce and put out there for the world to see.
There is a sea of intelligent, creative, and innovative educators out there in the world. Creating my brand allows me to find a way to both follow popular trends and conversations, but also stand out and be unique.
One of the easiest ways to begin building your brand is to use the same picture across professional platforms. In addition to Twitter, I also use Instagram and LinkedIn for professional means. I use the same profile picture for each to create familiarity with my audience when interacting with them across platforms.
Another easy way to be consistent is to have the same handle or username and then list the same name with the profile. For example, my Twitter and Instagram handles are the same with @bnjmn_k_wdcck and then my name is listed as “Benjamin K. Woodcock.”
2. Know your PURPOSE
What do you want to say? What are you trying to say? Why should people take you seriously? All three of these questions are important to consider as you cultivate your Twitter presence.
As shown in the slideshow above, there is biography space on a few social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram. Your purpose for being on Twitter should align with your brand. What you are all about should be included in this space that way people know what they can expect from you. Twitter is a fastpaced space, so, sure, there is room for a few random tweets to be sprinkled in. When it’s all said and done, my suggestion is to stick to the script and your purpose.
If you’re already on Twitter, revisit your biography section and ask yourself if what you tweet about matches what your biography says about you. If it does, leave it be. If it doesn’t and it’s misleading, change it up to align with your brand to fulfill your purpose.
When you are setting up your Twitter account, fill in the biography section with your occupation, professional organizations, passions and hobbies that you care about, etc.
Over the course of the years, my biography section has changed as my professional purpose has changed.
3. Be aware of your AUDIENCE
After you have developed and cultivated your brand and purpose, it is time to focus on interacting with your audience or the people who will be reading your tweets and interacting with you.
Understanding your audience begins with understanding Twitter conventions ranging from hashtags (#), the different between following and followers, the norms of Twitter chats, etc. If the previous sentence was confusing, check out this overview from Techlicious.
The people you see in your feed or through conversations and chats are going to be the people you learn and grow from. It’s going to take time to sift through the platform to find and figure out the best resources, links, blog posts, articles, and so on are going to be, and that’s the beauty of it. Cultivation is all about trial and error and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and your audience is there to help you through it all, so trust the process.
Another tip about interacting with your audience is to be explicit and detailed with your tweets. When I started tweeting in 2013, Twitter capped tweets at 140 character. Nowadays, the amount of characters has doubled. Use every last character you have!
Last month I observed a couple of undergraduates posting about their first public blog post that they had to publish then tweet out about.
Which one do you think received more interactions with their tweet?
Here it is. [blog post link provided] @Instructor
Very first blog post is here!! Shout out to @instructo for a great semester and for [insert positive praise about pedagogy/theory learned about]. [Insert more reflection and insight into the sharing, blogging, learning processes] Check it out! #ClassHashtag #ProgramHashtag [blog post link provided]
Sample 2’s tweet engaged with it’s audience better as it received a couple of retweets and several likes. It was detailed and reflective, tagged potential audience members, and joined conversations with relevant hashtags.
Know your audience and be aware of conventions in order to join the conversation in a positive and effective way.
4. Be CONSISTENT
I’ve noticed an uptick in colleges and universities requiring their students to tweet out about field experiences, classroom discussions, light bulb moments, etc., which is excellent because it adds to the conversation unfolding on Twitter throughout the semester.
Unfortunately, when the semester ends, so does the tweeting. A majority of the students stop sharing their thoughts, ideas, blog posts, etc. because the action is no longer required; therefore, they no longer see the point.
(Side Note: I am interested why this decline happens. If you are too because you require your students to tweet or have also noticed this drop in Twitter participation, fill out the contact form on the bottom and let’s figure it out!)
Cultivating your professional development on Twitter requires time to get used to the conversations, frequent users, and trusted sources. In order to build up an arsenal of resources, an understanding of the platform, and a voice to be considered in the conversation, one has to tweet consistently to become embedded in the “Twitteracy” (Greenhow & Gleason, 2012).
Hopefully these tips have provided you with either a refreshing or new look on how to approach and cultivate your own professional development on Twitter whether you are an educator or in another profession.
Establishing your brand and purpose will help you focus your reasons for being on the platform. Knowing your audience and tweeting consistently will allow you in to the conversations happening and push your thinking and learning for ultimate professional growth.
If you are interested in having me deliver my interactive presentation about cultivating your own PD on Twitter, please fill out the following contact form. The targeted audiences are undergraduate students, young educators, and new Twitter users.
Greenhow, C. & Gleason, B. (2012). Tweeting as a new literacy practice. The educational forum.