Social Media for the professional – Twitter

I’ve been asked this question twice now in the last 2 days, both in a professional context.  The first was at the librarian workshare I attended at Bangkok, where so many people were saying they didn’t get the point of twitter, and then last night by a friend who is an academic who has just published a paper in a prestigious journal and was wondering how to increase her online profile without it reflecting negatively on her professionalism.

I know I’ve been harping on about Threshold concepts, but to me, twitter is a threshold concept. I truly did not get it, until I got it and now I’ll never go back again.

Twitter is a true “the world is flat” form of social media.

Step by step guide to using it on your terms:

1. Get a twitter handle that uses your name or something you identify with (I messed this up and may have to start again at ground zero)  basically @something and register it.
2. Write a profile that is professional and makes you easy to find by people you want to find you.  Think carefully about key words.  This isn’t about finding high school friends or long lost family or someone you met at the pub (that’s for Facebook), it’s professional
3. Add a picture.  A nice professional one, or an icon at a pinch. But not too silly.

Finding your tribe:
1. Work out what are the relevant hashtags (#) for your profession.  In the case of librarians, it’s #libchat for librarians generally and #TLchat for teacher librarians.  That’s for starters. Then you can start looking for librarians in your country or geographic area.  Or cataloging librarians, or archival librarians or whatever.
2. Type the hashtag into the search field and see who is saying what on twitter.  Find out who are the leaders and the movers and shakers who are directing you to something meaningful and sort them from the people posting pictures of their breakfast. Or kids. Or flowers.  Follow the interesting ones.
3. Choose your settings – either you want stuff to go to your email or you want it to stay on twitter until you choose to see it. Or you may want some people’s wisdom to hit your email and others not to. 4. If you blog, or use facebook professionally or have a flipboard or use – sort out the settings so that your pearls of wisdom are fed to your twitter account for the edification of your followers. No followers? No problem, as you start to post meaningful things and retweet other peoples meaningful things people will start to follow you.

Asking questions:
Do you have something that’s been causing you a problem professionally?  something bugging you? A resource you can’t get hold of? Some highly erudite person you want to get into contact with? Try twitter.

I’ll give 2 examples where it’s worked for me recently.

1. After I got all enthusiastic about EWO and created a research guide and wanted some feedback (and permission) from Paul Fleishman, I found his twitter handle @EWO_PFleischman and tweeted him the URL.  Since then we’ve exchanged tweets and emails about the book and ways to use it in the classroom. Twitter created a direct line to the author and started a professional relationship.  Other famous authors who are active on twitter include Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself ) and Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood)
2. The household algebra sagas continue, and I realised that once we’d gotten over the trauma of realising that “x” just stood in for a number that was unknown as of yet, the problem behind the problem was not knowing the difference between -1 where “-” was denoting that 1 was a negative number and 3-1 where “-” was denoting that “-” was a mathematical operation.
hmm I thought. This is most definitely a threshold concept. So bear with me.  I googled “negative numbers as a threshold concept” and “threshold concepts in maths” and found who was blogging on it.  Went to their blogs. Didn’t find what I was looking for. Found the twitter handle of the most likely suspect (@maxmathforum) and the hashtag of his group and @justinAion and @_cuddlefish_
got back to me with some ideas.   @_cuddlefish_  in fact sent me the link to a fantastic resource on using positive and negative numbers in context. 
Reading only what you want to read when you want to read it:
Finally – we all suffer from information and email overload – won’t twitter add to that? Not if you self select.  You can use a number of feeders to only get a digest of the hashtags you’re interested in, I use and accumulate only the #TLCHAT and #EDCHAT  into a mini-newspaper that I read once a week.


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