Day 2: What to Tweet

Today we’re looking at:

  • How to send out a tweet
  • What sorts of topics you might want to tweet about

Twitter only lets you send out 140 characters at a time—just one or two sentences. But that length doesn’t mean that Twitter is superficial, or only used to tweet about frivolous things.

Many people new to Twitter aren’t sure what to say, or why updates on what they’re doing would be interesting to others. There are actually many aspects of your day-to-day work that would be of practical use to others. Have a look at some Twitter feeds from academic tweeters; seeing what kinds of information they share will help you get an idea of how you really can say something useful and engaging in 140 characters: (Arts & Humanities) (Public Policy) (Toronto Science) (STEM)

The appropriate tone for a professional twitter account needn’t be overly formal—you can be chatty and conversational, and allow your personality to come through. In fact, you’ll have to be a bit informal if you want to fit everything in, using abbreviations and even textspeak! Just remember that Twitter is a very public medium; don’t say anything you wouldn’t normally say openly in a work context.

Some examples of what you might tweet about:

  • an article you’re reading that’s interesting or a book or website you recommend – and include the link!
  • a workshop, webinar, seminar or conference you’re going to—others may not have known about it, may want to meet you if they’re also going to be there, or may want to ask you about it if they can’t make it
  • some insight on academic work from an incident that happened today
  • a question asked by a student or colleague that made you think
  • slides from a talk or lecture which you’ve just uploaded online
  • your thoughts on an education or other news story relevant to your work
  • a funding, project or job opportunity you’ve just seen
  • a digital tool or software you’re using or problem you’ve solved with it
  • a typical day – an insight into an academic’s life or moral support
  • your new publication or report which has just come out (there are ways of mentioning this gracefully!)
  • include a photo or image with your tweet. BTW Twitter’s algorithm preferences tweets with images in user feeds
  • something from your life off the academic clock

Tweeting 101

Sending a tweet is really easy, though the ‘Compose’ button lives in different places depending on the device you’re on. When you’re logged into Twitter on your desktop, a box at the top of the feed will ask, “What’s Happening?” You’ll also see a box at the top of your newsfeed, as well as a button in the top right hand corner beckoning you to tweet.

Image of Twitter "What's Happening" composition box

Screenshot of "Tweet" button highlighted

Remember: you only get 140 characters, including spaces. As you type your tweet, a small counter below this box which tells you how many characters you have left. Once you’re over, the count will go negative, and all extra letters will be highlighted in red. You will not be able to hit the ‘Tweet’ button until you’re at 140 or less.

Screenshot of a tweet being typed that has too many characters and cannot be sent.

You’ll soon learn the tricks to abbreviate your writing, such as using ‘&’ instead of ‘and’. This all adds to the informal tone.

One quirk to Tweet-length rules is that all URLs will take up 22 characters, even if they’re very short or very long (even when it displays much longer, as in the above image). Regardless, you may want to use a URL shortener like Bitly or the Google URL Shortener to make your tweets looks cleaner.

Today’s assignment:  

  1. For your first message, please tweet out some version of the following:

Joining in #UofT10DoT with @UofT10DoT, @JesseCarliner & @EvelineLH

2. Then write a tweet completing this sentence (or your own variation):

What I want to learn in #UofT10DoT: …

3. (Optional). Practice composing 140-character messages by posting even more tweets. Try commenting on/linking to something academic … or non-academic. Or post a picture or video.

For all your tweets, please make sure to include the hashtag #UofT10DoT as we do in our tweets. If you click on this hashtag in a message, you’ll be able to see your classmates’ tweets. We’ll talk more about the uses of hashtags in a few days.

Over the next nine days, we’ll be sending out many different types of tweets (questions, private messages, quotes, etc.), but that’s all for today!

Further Reading:

Social media and writing style – Rachel Cayley of SGS’s English Language and Writing Support

For fun:

@ShitAcademicsSay and @ResearchWahlberg


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