Tips and Tricks

Getting started on Twitter

March 27, 2012
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The speakers at our recent panel on social networking for grad students had a number of great tips on how — and why — to get started on Twitter. While the medium has a justifiable reputation as being full of trivia, it's also becoming a useful source of up-to-the-minute information for researchers.

The tips fall into three general categories.

1. Use Twitter to stay on top what's happening in your field

  • Create a Twitter account and look up the top researchers in your field. Find their Twitter feeds, if they have them, and "follow" them.
  • Find out if any faculty members (especially your supervisor) in your department have Twitter accounts, and "follow" them. (The Beedie School of Business has built a helpful aggregate list of faculty tweeters.)
  • Once you've followed someone, check out who they're following. You may find some familiar names of other leaders in your field who should also be followed.
  • Find the main granting agencies in your field and follow them. Here are a few big ones for SFU students:
  • Find the main journals in your field and follow their feeds. Or follow some of the main media aggregators such as @TimesScience, @nprscience or @NatureNews for a broader view of what's going on in your field.
  • Find the main organizations or associations in your field and follow their twitter feeds.
  • If there's an upcoming conference in your field, take a look at the major speakers to find out if they have twitter accounts.
  • If there's a company that you'd like to work for after graduation, follow that company's twitter feed to get familiar with its issues and hot topics.
  • Join the Tweet Your Science database: tweetyourscience.com / @tweetyoursci
  • Find your SFU department's and/or faculty's Twitter account and follow it. Your department will focus on your field and send out scholarships, job postings and networking opportunities. See list of all SFU Twitter accounts.

2. Use Twitter to find out what's happening at SFU

3. Use Twitter to stay on top of trends in higher education

Note that none of the above recommendations involve a lot of writing your own tweets. We're recommending that you use Twitter as a research tool to begin with, and just send out tweets when you get comfortable with the medium. (Do remember that everything you send out becomes part of the public record, so if you're job-hunting, you probably don't want to be tweeting photos of yourself at a party.) More tips in this article: 100 Serious Twitter Tips for Academics.

If you're tweeting on behalf of the university, do read SFU's Social Media Protocols.

If you have any other useful twitter accounts to add to these lists, please leave a comment below, and we'll get it added.

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