I have been using Twitter for over 9 years now (@Klind2013) and while I originally used it similarly to how I used Facebook, I now use it almost entirely to speak with professional colleagues. I still somewhat begrudgingly use FB to communicate with relatives, friends, old schoolmates, and some colleagues, but Twitter has become my professional go to.
At this point, I have just over 2600 followers. Not many in the great scheme of things, but it is a robust professional network that I thoroughly enjoy. When I have questions about my teaching, like I did in one tweet from summer 2018, I get great responses.
The tweet at left received enough likes and retweets to make it onto almost 10,000 Twitter followers’ feeds and resulted in 44 really helpful replies. Here’s a list of the suggestions I got.
I also follow over 3500 other people, and from those I follow, I get some great information. I find Twitter to be a wonderful source of:
- National and local news about teaching
- Links to blogs about teaching reading and writing
- Interesting opinions from informed experts
- suggestions for books and articles to read
- professional camaraderie
So, how does one develop a good Twitter professional network? I’ve got 5 suggestions.
1: Follow Authors You Like
Many authors of literature, nonfiction, and professional work are on Twitter. Just look them up on the search bar at the top of the platform and open up their handle, just to be sure it’s really them–or their official Twitter handle, if they are very popular authors. Then hit “follow.” Now your feed will include anything those authors tweet. Just to get you started, below are the handles of some authors of professional work in English and literacy instruction that I get a lot of good information from. Follow them and then look at their feeds and followers to get more suggestions of people to follow.
2: Tweet About People’s Work
Once you have a Twitter handle of your own, you can start tweeting. To gain a professional following, tweet quotes or suggestions from professional work, and include the handle of the author and the author’s publisher in that tweet. This is a great way to keep track of your own reading, take notes of major points, and to simultaneously suggest reading to your professional colleagues. Recently I read Carol Jago’s latest book, and I tweeted some quotes from them. Here’s one:
Carol Jago retweeted some of my tweets, and guess what? Her 23,000 followers saw it. Many of them followed me, and I then I followed many of them. Her publisher also retweeted these posts to their 36,000 followers. What’s nice about this, is that the followers of Heinemann and Jago are mostly teachers. So my tweet isn’t just scattering to the four winds: it’s most likely going in to the feeds of those who would be most interested in it–and thus most likely to be valuable to my professional network.
3: Follow Professional Organizations: International, National, and Local
Many professional organizations and publishers now have Twitter feeds. Look them up and follow them. Some are obvious, such as @ncte. But there are also dozens of NCTE state affiliates, and I follow many of them, not just my home state affiliate. Journals also have twitter handles, so look them up, too. Again, be sure to check the lists of followers on these handles, too, and you’ll find even more interesting colleagues to follow.
4: Like, Retweet, and Reply
It’s absolutely, entirely fine if you never tweet at all. Lurkers on Twitter are completely welcome, and in fact, no one really knows you are there. But, it’s easier to build a professional network if you also tweet at least once in a while.
It’s good to like tweets for two reasons: 1) It helps to spread that presumably useful tweet to more people; 2) The twitter algorithm will note your likes and use them to suggest others for you to follow. A nice thing to do is to retweet other people’s tweets. Be sure you generally find the tweet useful, so people will come to think of you as someone who curates valuable professional information for them.
5: Look for Twitter Chats
Twitter chats are conversations that occur via Twitter. They take at least two forms. The ordinary twitter chat usually lasts an hour and people all tweet together in answer to specific questions at the same time. “Slow Chats” occur over the course of days or a week, so the participants chat in answer to specific questions over time. Either form of chat is equally useful. You may participate in a chat or watch it unfold as it’s happening, or you may go back and read all the tweets later.
Here are a couple of chats to look at: #NCTEchat, #DisruptTexts. Again, consider following those who participate in the chats, especially those who tweet interesting and provocative things. And look at their followers for more suggestions.
Enjoy Your Crowd
The benefits of a good professional network are inestimable. We get great information; we get a head’s up on new programs and initiatives; we can look over the shoulders of truly innovative teachers; and, we have colleagues who get our in-jokes and don’t need us to explain our frustrations. Finally, it’s a blast to go to conferences and see–in living, breathing, walking flesh–someone you’ve gotten to know on Twitter.