How can teachers get the best from the social media platform, Twitter?
10 Tips for Tweeting Teachers
After several years of tweeting, it’s about time I published my own Tips for Tweeting Teachers. Written in 2014, in 2020, using Twitter now forms a large part of my doctoral research at Cambridge University.
This list is designed for teachers new to Twitter, or for those who have started and need advice. In the blog, I have divided my top-10 suggestions into three levels for beginners, intermediate and advanced users.
1. Professional or personal?
Create a professional account for tweeting about teaching. If you want to tweet about personal views and your social life, do it from a personal account. Keep them separate. I made this mistake in 2008 and soon created a second Twitter account to separate my updates.
Decide if you want to have a private (locked) account. This means others can only access your tweets once permission has been granted by you. This can be useful if you want to protect your privacy, or to avoid connections with students, and/or to keep yourself free from abuse and spam.
2. Your Twitter handle
Start by creating a handle. This is your Twitter ID. Make sure it is easy to remember. Try to create an account name the sums up you and what you do. For example, @DT_Teacher. Remember, when you send out a tweet, you can only use 140 characters, including any Twitter name. So, keep your handle straightforward, easy to remember, but one that stands out from the crowd, whilst also representing you!
@TeacherToolkit stemmed from what I do. I am a teacher. I teach technology and use a (technology) ‘toolkit’ every day in the classroom. I also wanted to share my ideas. It made sense.
Add a profile image that is good in quality. My icon is in desperate need of an update. It must define who you are, or what your Twitter account will be, but is not essential. Oh, and there is nothing worse than changing your profile image – or even your handle name – every other month. Why? Because people will forget who you are and what you look like. There is so much going on, it’s important to be consistent so that followers recognise you (your brand/image).
3.Define a purpose for your Twitter account.
If you are not sure, observe from a distance before jumping in. Social media has transformed my practice. If you are prepared to contribute, to share, to reflect, then you can get instant feedback. If your contributions are high in quality, then you will get a lot of feedback.
If you do not have a purpose for using Twitter from a teaching perspective, your account will become muddled between personal updates and teaching information. If you are consistent with what you want to get out of Twitter, you can receive helpful critique on your ideas. Using social media in your own school or department (or even personally as a teacher from a professional account) allows you to be outward-facing. Start small; accept that you may be tweeting away to yourself at times. Share a few photos on your timeline and join in a few online chat forums to connect with others.
Every Twitter hashtag – relating to education – can be found here. It’s the most comprehensive I’ve found!
4, Who to follow?
Now you have your account, it’s time to think more about your tweets and who to follow! Don’t forget, there is a person behind every Twitter account. If you are tweeting professionally, keep your wits about you, especially if the Twitter account is for teaching, or on behalf of your department or the school. Tweeting is a public text message to the world!
Add your name to this database below and search for some teachers to follow.
My advice for teacher expecting a little more from Twitter.
- Start small with simple messages and updates, gradually including hashtags such as #ukedchat and #SLTchat in each of your tweets.
- Expect some feedback and on many occasions, nothing!
- Expect your account to grow; to take some time to develop – at least 3-6 months – and within one year, you will be able to see your practice transformed by those you interact with.
- Update your Twitter account regularly. You wouldn’t follow anyone who doesn’t tweet or interact.So, why would they follow you? Tweet at least once or twice a day if you are an intermediate user. If your accounts stagnates, people will *unfollow you.
- And remember, 140 character tweets can be taken out of context. Twitter was designed to provide social status/updates. It has become much more sophisticated since it started in 2006. Today, Twitter accounts tweet a status updated with hashtags, photos and hyperlinks.
6. Understand the acronyms quickly
- DM – This is a private Direct Message sent to a twitter user. You must follow that user before you can message them. DMs don’t appear in the public twitter stream.
- Follow – These are the accounts you are following and the tweets will appear in your time-line.
- Follower – Someone who follows you and your tweets. Be grateful for any feedback.
- Hashtag (#) – A hash symbol is used to comment about a specific topic, such as #SLTchat, so users can easily find specific tweets on that topic altogether. There is a superb list here.
- Link – Including a URL in your tweet. You can use shortened URL services, such as bit.ly although twitter mainly shortens URLs automatically now.
- Reply (@) – The @ symbol is used to reply to a twitter user. If you are replying to a tweet and want everyone to see your response, place a full-stop/period prior to the user name (for example .@ukedchat)
- RT (ReTweet) – Re-posting something that has already been posted on the Twitter stream. RT usually precedes the original post to give credit to the user who published it first. (Source: @UKEdChat)
7. Approach Twitter for three simple reasons.
- To update your status and share information.
- To connect with new teachers, find ideas and new classroom resources.
- To interact with others and give/receive feedback.
Finally, you will have to deal with other people’s opinions, both positive and negative feedback; specifically the misunderstood responses to your tweets. Remember, what is written is often not how it would be said. Many tweets can be taken out of context, especially if many users are joining a conversation. Therefore, it can be difficult to keep track of everything going on. Try creating lists to filter groups of conversations. You may also want to try TweetDeck or Hootsuite in order to see more tweets on a PC screen.
If dealing with anything negative, ask yourself before responding:
- a) is this tweet emotionally intelligent?
- b) can my reply wait 24 hours?
- c) is it offensive and do I need to report this user?
- d) can I ignore this account? Perhaps block or mute.
8. Twitter Analysis.
Once you have grasped the beauty of Twitter, you will be in a position to start analysing what works and what doesn’t. This will enable you to understand your audience better. For example, knowing when to tweet and what to tweet. In my earlier days of Twitter, I soon learnt that I was infuriating followers with constant tweets; especially on a Sunday evening during @SLTchat. It still happens today and as my followers have grown, is something I cannot avoid! So, it is important that you are sensitive to the feedback from those that follow you and listen as best you can.
Over the past 28 days, I have tweeted 1,101 times. with an additional 762 from other sources.
9. Don’t become a slave to Twitter.
Learn to use software and start to make it work for you.
Mastering Twitter is very easy to do. You can start off with Twitter Analytics for free. Below are some screenshots I have taken on 27.4.14 to give you an understanding on the analysis available. This allows you to understand the traffic engagement to your own account.
To the left you can see my ‘Engagement’ statistics, showing last 28 days with daily frequency. Considering July is a quiet month for UK education, my Twitter account receives about a 3.1% daily engagement average.
Engagement rate is the percentage of people who saw a tweet that was retweeted, clicked or replied or marked as a favourite.
Links Clicks: Over the past 28 days, I have had 56,500 URLs click in the 1,863 tweets I shared. On the day of this screenshot, there were 1,300 clicks on hyperlinks I shared.
The data shows, that despite a quiet month for bloggers in the UK throughout July, Twitter remains a hive of activity for sharing.
Retweets: Over the past 28 days, @TeacherToolkit Twitter has 6,700 retweets from other users.
Favourites: Over the past 28 days, 6,400 tweets have been bookmarked.
Replies: This is where the hard work starts. As a one-man band, over the past 28 days, I have received 1,800 replies to my tweets. I try, but it’s impossible to respond to every single tweet/reply.
Oh, and remember to keep yourself out of Twitter Jail! Twitter Jail is the number of tweets if you reached the limit of 100 tweets per hour/1000 per day.
Below is an analysis of @TeacherToolkit followers as of 27th July 2014. According to this data, my tweets have generated 6.5 million ‘impressions’ over July 2014. That’s approximately 230,000 ‘impressions’ per day!
When we use “impression”, we mean that a tweet has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account. Not everyone who receives a tweet will read it, so you should consider this a measure of potential impressions. (Source).
From the data shown below, the bar graph in the centre (UK) shows that 73% of Twitter accounts that follow @TeacherToolkit are based in the UK. 12% of this UK figure are accounts listed in London. There is also an interesting gender analysis, although I question how reliable this is for the many companies that follow me. What is interesting, is what other accounts my followers are following. From this snapshot, you can clearly see, that this is all about education!
10. And finally, Trolls.
Be aware of the negative side of Twitter. In my experience, there appear to be three types of accounts on Twitter:
- Group A: Those who are genuinely tweeting to share ideas, teachers, companies and groups who engage in discussion, seek feedback and critique. Colleagues who interact with others on Twitter beyond their own local network.
- Group B: There is a small minority not willing to engage in a healthy discussion. Of course, this is human nature. Regarding the nature of teachers on Twitter, group B are those who do not listen to those listed above in group A. Most often, lacking impartiality.
- and finally Group C: The torment of all users of Twitter. Trolls. A definition of a troll is here. I cannot believe we have teachers tweeting as trolls, but it happens! In all cases, report them and screenshot the information. The account will disappear in a matter of days. In terms of teaching, trolls are more-often-than-not, anonymous accounts who seek to trouble tweeters in group A, who conceivably belong to group B. The difference is, is that they tweet from an anonymous point of view to be provocative.
Regarding anonymity, I’d highly recommend it to new tweeters who wish to share their views on education, and possibly the views of work in their own school. Anonymously of course! Anonymity is a good thing and in my opinion, ensures that we all keep our heads out of the sand and address what really does go on in schools.
The secret teacher series in The Guardian has at least attempted to address this as more and more teachers turn to social media. However, there is a real danger when a tiny proportion cause harm to other tweeters. It does happen, so be careful. Refer to tip number 7.
There is a very interesting article here, putting it all into context: “At its most basic level, trolling is what everyone is doing online every hour of every day, and what many others had done long before the internet era.”
- Start small
- Expect some feedback
- Update your account regularly with tweets and keep your profile consistent and professional.
- Expect it to take some time to develop.
I was delighted to be contacted by colleagues in the USA (8.8.14), who work at USC Rossier School of Education. They have just published this guide, shared by USC Rossier’s online EdD, and contains a wealth of educational information and advice from founders of EdChat. Download below: