Melissa developed an interest in social media during her work as a social media associate for a marketing company in Georgia. She also spent the summer as the social media coordinator for UMD Dining Services. In addition to her continued work with Dining Services, this year she built our own Critical Race Initiative’s (CRI) social media accounts from the ground up and is helping CRI develop a strong social media presence. Based on her expertise, she has written a guide for graduate students and faculty interested in creating a professional presence on Twitter and engaging others in their research.
The beauty of Twitter lies in its ability to get across information of interest in just 140-character tweets. Many Twitter users access this social media platform on their smartphones via apps such as the social Twitter app or Tweetcaster. These users look at tweets when they are on the go or have limited down time. That said, the key to success on Twitter is maximizing your ability to engage users instantaneously, if possible.
The first step to maximizing your Twitter presence is choosing the correct time to tweet. Activity on Twitter peaks on Mondays and Thursdays between the hours of 9am and 3 pm. During this time, people tend to be busy at work or in class and usually look at Twitter to distract from their work. Avoid posting tweets any day after 8 pm and especially Fridays after 3 pm. This may seem counterintuitive, but when people have left work and no longer need to distract themselves, they tend to stay off social media. Furthermore, weekends are a bad time simply because people tend to get more active on the weekends and choose not to access any media in general. It’s the same reason why your weekend television choices tend to be reruns of reality television shows or Law & Order.
The second step to maximizing your Twitter presence is your choice of content. In general, you should aim to limit your tweet content to just one tweet. 140 characters may seem like a constraint, especially for sociologists, but the messages with fewer characters are more impactful and are more likely to receive a response or retweet. Make sure that the content of your tweets is current and relevant to your desired audience. Remember, this is your “sociologist” Twitter account. In addition to having appropriate content, you should use tweets with images if you would like to generate more interest in your account. Infographics, graphs, and tables are just a few of the ways that a sociologist can employ images in their tweets. If the image is not originally your own, be certain to ask the creator of the image if you can put it on your account and give credit to them when you do.
The third step is to make use of hashtags. Using the ‘#’ before a word links that word to a directory of tweets (from public accounts only) that contain the exact same word. This will allow people interested in that particular content to see what other Twitter users have to offer on that subject. Be careful which words you choose to turn into a hashtag. Depending on how specific you choose to make your hashtag, you might uncover tweets completely unrelated to what you’re interested in. For instance, using #ASA links you to tweets made by the American Society of Appraisers, which more than likely isn’t of interest to you when you would like to know more about the upcoming American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. When you’re creating hashtags, using identifiers like the year or location can help your tweets stand out from more general, unrelated ones.
The fourth step to maximizing your Twitter presence is to engage others. This includes your fellow sociologists at UMD, as well as scholars in other departments and at other institutions. The golden rule applies here! Follow your favorite academic,
news source or institution/association and retweet their tweets. Retweets alone will not get attention so mention their accounts with comments, questions, and pieces of information that substantiate their content. After a little back and forth, you will likely get followed back. Furthermore, these accounts will retweet you and share your tweets with their followers, ultimately help ing you gain more followers without any extra effort. You will have to be willing to have a public account for this process to work effectively as private accounts limit interactivity between people who do not already follow each other.
Melissa is a 2nd Year Graduate Student
“Creative Commons Social Media” by Yoel Ben-Avraham is licensed under CC BY 2.0