Imagine being able to connect with one hundred million people anytime you want. With that many people on Twitter each day (and that’s not counting the additional 184 million users who are on Twitter at least once each month), a great deal of knowledge, perspective, and news is accessible to you, just by clicking a few buttons.
It’s no wonder educators are harnessing the power of Twitter to bring cutting edge ideas, trends, research, and best practices to use in their schools and classrooms. But just as Twitter can be a treasure trove of information, it can be overwhelming for new users to figure out how to use it effectively.
We’ve compiled this list of the best ways to make Twitter a social media tool that works for you.
1. Decide why you are on Twitter. Do you want to increase publicity for your school or classroom? Are you seeking information in your teaching specialty? Are you trying to establish your expertise and build a reputable brand? You may start out with one idea in mind, and it may change as you become more familiar with Twitter, but you’ll find as you decide who to follow and what to tweet, your guiding principle will be: why are you here?
2. Complete your biography, including a photo for your profile. Why? It lets other Twitter users know you’re a real person and makes it more likely they will trust you, respond to your tweets, and follow you.
3. Follow people you find interesting. There are few things sadder than an empty Twitter stream. Start filling it by following people you think are compelling, versus trying to find the people you think you “should” follow. (Okay, you should probably follow them eventually, too.)
4. See who the people you follow find interesting. If a school superintendent who is dedicated to ed tech is high on your list of people to keep up with, check to see who she follows and add those Twitter users to your list. Also see which users follow the superintendent and consider them as connections as well.
5. Follow local users. Even though Twitter is global, don’t overlook the beauty of connecting with local users. Especially if you’re targeting specific professions and topics, those local users will understand your challenges and issues, and may provide insight from the nearby trenches.
6. Find friends. Look for friends who are also on Twitter. Twitter can find them based on your email accounts and you never know if that friend from tennis is also a dedicated ESL consultant.
7. Use Wefollow for more ideas on whom to track. This service is a directory of prominent people, organized by interest.
8. Use hashtags to search for topics and to identify your tweets. This list on Cybrary Man’s website offers a wealth of common education hashtags to use. But take note: using more hashtags won’t get you more results. A study shows that using more than two hashtags lessens the effectiveness of the tweet.
9. Use quotation marks to search. Find tweets on “edtech” or “common core” easily with quotation marks.
10. Use Twitter’s advanced search tool. Drill down to your desired conversation even more by using Twitter’s search tool. Once you enter your search words and get the results, look to the column on the left for Advanced Search. Through this, you can narrow down the language, people, places, dates, or sentiments of the tweets.
11. Retweet. It’s the easiest way to get started on Twitter. Find a tweet in your stream that resonates with you and retweet it, giving credit to the source.
12. Favorite a tweet. Click the little star at the bottom of the tweet that indicates you “like” what was said. The user will be notified that the tweet was favorited.
13. Ask a relevant question. Just put it out there and see what responses you get. Even if no one responds directly, users will notice your existence and may start to follow you. Make sure your question is related to your purpose on Twitter.
14. Join a conversation. If responding in a large stream of tweets isn’t your style, look for a twitter chat, such as those on this Google education chat calendar.
15. Don’t try to keep up with your Twitter stream. It’s impossible to read all of the tweets that pass you by. Pick out the ones that catch your eye. Think of it as sipping from the water fountain, as opposed to trying to drink from a fire hose.
16. Show up consistently. Although you won’t want Twitter to suck away all of your time, you do want to use it consistently. Set aside time each day to review top tweets, see who may have responded to your tweets, etc. Make sure to keep the communication going.
17. Share quality information. When you come across some juicy new research, an interesting approach a colleague blogged about, or a perfect quote from a student, share or retweet it.
18. Keep tweets short. We know that Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters, but experts recommend writing tweets that are 100 characters or less for increased impact.
20. Add your Twitter account to other social media. It’s easy to add a Twitter button or link from Twitter to a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, or website, and it encourages people who know you from one source to find you on another.
21. Follow back. As you become more visible on Twitter, people will begin to follow you. Return the favor to increase your reach.
22. Use TweetDeck. This application helps manage your Twitter account and tweets. You can schedule tweets to be posted later, create alerts for specific information and filter your searches.
23. Use Hootsuite. This product offers one dashboard for all of your social media, so you can easily schedule tweets at the same time as you schedule blog or Facebook posts. It also provides basic analytics to see your social success.
24. Download Twitter for mobile. Twitter is designed for using on the go; so be sure to download the app onto your mobile devices.
25. Find the best time to tweet. Find out how to tweet when your followers are most likely to be on Twitter. Services like Tweriod can help.
As you review these tips, pick just a few that fit your needs best. Try those, then add on, or substitute as you go. Soon, as your Twitter feed becomes a stream of relevant information, you’ll begin getting the most out of the bounty that is Twitter.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally written by Jeff Dunn and ran on October 24, 2012. A lot has changed since then, so we’ve had author Pamela DeLoatch update this piece with the latest techniques and innovations.