Day 3: Following people — and getting followed yourself

Following people fills your Twitter feed with (hopefully) interesting and useful content. Getting followed yourself allows you to share your messages and engage in the online scholarly conversation.

Today we’re looking at:

  • how to follow people
  • how to identify accounts you want to follow
  • how to attract followers yourself

Today’s housekeeping task: you need to follow everyone in the class – which also gives you built-in followers! Some of you have started to do this already. You’ll get to know a bit about your classmates in the process. It will also make it easier to track the class discussions this way, but don’t forget to add #UofT10DoT to your tweets to make the class tweets easily discoverable.

An easy way to find everyone is to go to @UofT10DoT and follow the people we’re following (stop when you get to Jesse unless you want to follow other accounts we follow). Alternatively, you could search on the hashtag #UofT10DoT and follow everyone who’s used it lately. This only works if people have remembered to add it in.

How to follow people


It’s simple: go to someone’s account (by clicking on their name in a Tweet or searching for them) and click the Follow button. They’ll be notified, so they may check you out and follow you back. To give them a reason to follow you, make sure your profile is engaging (see Day 1) and that you’ve sent out some tweets (Day 2) for them to get a sense of what you talk about. Unfollowing is just as simple (but there’s no notification).

How to identify accounts you want to follow

  • Suggestions from Twitter. Twitter makes suggestions based on what it knows about you, e.g. who else you follow, so if your account is new, it can be a bit hit and miss. Some people give up at this point, thinking it’s all celebrities, news and people tweeting about their breakfast!
  • Search for names you know. This works best if the names aren’t too common. Suggestions: faculty in your department, big names in your field, fellow graduate students, your favourite academic bloggers, your favourite author/singer/athlete… In addition to people, you can also search for organizations in your field, journal names, funding bodies, educational institutions….
  • Search by topic at RightRelevance to find influencers in your area. This is a new-to-us site, so we’d like to get your feedback on how useful or accurate you find it. You can also check out ongoing conversations or articles. Note that at a certain point it will ask you to log in.


  • Check out the lists of academics on Twitter from Day 2
  • See who’s talking about topics you’re interested in via hashtags (we’ll look at hashtags more on Day 5)
  • Follow some sources on academic or grad life. Suggestions (there are many more!):
  • Check out:

2015-01-30_16-52-55 (under List members)

  • For some academic humour try:
  •  When you follow someone, also check out who they follow for more ideas on who to follow.
  • #FollowFriday or #ScholarSunday– on Fridays you can tweet the names of people you think are worth following to others. Watch out for these, or tweet your followers and ask them for recommendations! More useful for academic purposes is  #ScholarSunday, invented by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega.

Today’s assignment: Go find some new people to follow! Then tweet about it to the class. Who/what did you follow and why? If you want to see what kinds of reasons people give, check out #ScholarSunday.

Getting followers yourself

If you’re at all active on Twitter, your followers will naturally snowball. Want things to go faster? Check out some of the advice here:

How to get more Twitter followers – and keep them – a non-academic (but research-based) perspective: “The answer is simple [ha!]. Write tweets that people want to read, and avoid writing tweets that people hate to read.”

The other part of the equation is getting noticed on Twitter.

9 scientifically proven ways to build followers on Twitter – reports on another research study: “5. Tweet often, but not in bursts.”

 Activities that get you noticed include:

  • following someone (the person is often notified, depending on their notification settings)
  • liking a tweet with the heart button (ditto)
  • retweeting (ditto)
  • joining the conversation or asking questions related to a hashtag
  • sending @messages
  • tweeting at conferences
  • joining  in a live chat

These are all things we’ll look at in the next few days. And speaking of notifications, you might want to go to your account settings and choose how you get notifications, and which ones.

Further reading:

50 free ways to increase your Twitter followers

The research studies mentioned above:


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

Day 1: Social scholarship & setting up an account


Welcome to the first day of 10 Days of Twitter!

We look forward to meeting you at today’s in-person class, Feb. 6, 12:10-1:00 PM, in the Robarts 4th floor e-classroom. We’re looking at:

  • what you know/what you want to know
  • Twitter as social scholarship, as online scholarly conversation
  • setting up a Twitter account/profile

What you need to do today:

  1. come to class (required for GPS credit)
  2. set up your account/profile if you don’t already have one (optional: do this in class)
  3. follow:

Setting up your account/profile

You’ll want to create an effective and engaging profile. Who do you want to be on Twitter? How do you want to present yourself? Or, what part of yourself? This is sometimes referred to as building a digital/online identity or “personal branding.”

The first thing to think about:

  • your handle (@name), which people will use to identify and direct messages to you. This might be some version of your real name or, if your name is common and most variations of it have already been taken, you might think of a professional and memorable pseudonym which people associate with you in some way. Don’t worry – you can change this later without losing your followers or tweets, and you can also add your real name to your profile so that it’s identifiably you.

There are more things to think about, but don’t feel you have to tackle these all at once:

  • your avatar or profile picture, which is how people will pick your tweets out of their Twitter feed, at a quick glance. You’ll want to upload a picture pretty quickly — the default egg signals that you’re a newbie or spammer.
  • your identifying information, such as your location and personal website or webpage. Make sure your name shows up somewhere (unless you actually want to be anonymous).
  • your bio or strapline, which will sum up who you are and why people might want to follow you. A blank or minimal bio isn’t very inviting, and suggests that you are too new to be interesting, that there is little to be gained from following you, or you are a spam account. A well-thought out bio is an important part of gaining new followers. Have a look at the bios on other tweeters’ profiles, and see what you find inviting or off-putting. If you intend to tweet in a strictly professional capacity, you may want to avoid too much about your hobbies and family or quirky, cryptic statements about yourself. On the other hand, many people intertwine the personal and the professional on Twitter – cat pictures and craft beer reviews interspersed with research tweets. You’ll have to find your own comfort zone. And whatever you decide now, it’s not carved in stone.
  • the overall look of your twitter profile, which makes it distinct and memorable when people view it; for example, add a header photo

Social scholarship

Class slides – are now up!

Further reading: