#STEMSaturdays: Using Twitter as a Resource
In the past #STEMSaturdays has showcased how to use the social media platform Twitter and how to live-tweet at conferences (including your own talk). But there is so much more to this platform than just YOU tweeting. I truly do believe that Twitter is an untapped resource goldmine and want to share a few ways I use Twitter outside of my tweets – read on if you want to learn how to harness all that Twitter has to offer!
Twitter is not just for professionals – anyone can use it! That means you will probably interact with many people not in your field. This means two things: 1) You need to leave the jargon out so everyone can understand what you are tweeting (keep the 140 character limit in mind) and 2) You will come across people’s tweets that you don’t understand!
While you can be a teacher and discuss [x] with your audience, you can also be the student and learn from those you follow.
I follow scientists from around the world, both in my discipline and out of it. It’s astounding what I learn in my discipline and mind boggling what I learn from scientists who are in a different field. I recently learned about how cool dung beetles are, how spiders react to different lights, and have witnessed the discovery of many different terrestrial animals!
I tend to follow conference hashtags on Twitter too, so even though I’m not physically there, I can still learn about what is being said! In fact, I often end up learning about when conferences are to be held via this platform, allowing me to work my scheduling around them. This is how I stay up-to-date with the newest discoveries and papers, while many use the platform to keep up with the Kardashians.
Speaking of papers, Twitter allows scientists to share their latest research through tweets or tweet threads—including their publications! A great way to make sure a wider audience is exposed to your discipline is by chatting about what you discovered in a tweet (protip: add a picture in your tweet). I love seeing what people in my field have been up to through this and allows you to send a “Congratulations!” for a job well done.
Twitter can not only allow you to disperse ideas to a large and diverse audience, but you can receive feedback or further information from said interactions. This includes networking!
While most networking can happen face-to-face, Twitter has no time-cap on your conversation. This means you can “follow” a person for however long you want and continue to have multiple chats via the medium—essentially, you’re networking! Fun fact: This is how I know most of my colleagues! Most conferences now have a blank space in your name tag where you can put your twitter handle and it’s refreshing to see many familiar handles instead of just strangers. One conference I attended last September I had everyone I met say, “Oh! So YOU’RE @mcmsharksxx. You’re that Melissa.” It was pretty cool having people recognize my name- even if it was just because I was live tweeting the conference like mad.
There are pros and cons to using the platform as a networking site. Many people toe the line of being solely a professional entity and also showing their personality… which can include a few profanities and funny pictures! Remember, what goes on the internet stays on the internet forever. Make sure you think before you tweet- do you want future employers to see that?
For myself, I tweet a lot about my specialty: sharks! But I am also known to showcase selfies, talk about my latest cooking endeavors, discuss politics, feminism, and more. This shows my followers that although I’m a scientist, I’m a human with diverse interests first and foremost.
Twitter is the way most people I interact with know me from- and I make sure the impression I leave is a good one (though I apologize for spamming people with ice hockey team rants).
YOUR NEXT STEP
Ever started a search (either for funding, internships, jobs, etc) and gotten completely overwhelmed? Me too! Twitter has helped alleviate some of that anxiety by allowing me to follow key organizations or people and be on the look-out for updates.
From experience, the science community is great at retweeting opportunities up for grabs—from scholarships to fellowships to graduate school positions, they tend to advertise everything! I have a few colleagues who have gotten job positions from learning about them via Twitter, and I was made aware of great opportunities like TEDxWellington (see my talk here) through this platform. Be strategic in who you follow, especially because it can open the doors for you in more ways than one.