Day 3 of #YSJ10DoT: Following People

You’ve sent your first tweets, creating interesting and engaging content for your potential followers. The other side to Twitter is the stream of information brought to you by the people that you follow. And if you follow people, chances are that they will take a look at your profile and decide to follow you in return (which is why setting up a profile with some engaging tweets first was important!).

One of the key features of Twitter is that, unlike other platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, following is not necessarily reciprocal – the people you follow may not be the people who follow you (although they may be!). Some people have a more-or-less even match of followers and following; others follow lots of people but don’t tweet much themselves and therefore don’t have many followers; and some Tweeters, usually very well-known people or institutions, may have a large number of followers as they tweet a lot but don’t actually follow many people; using Twitter more as a broadcast medium to get their message out there.

As an individual professional, you’re probably going to get the most benefit in the first instance by using the first option; having roughly the same number of followers and following. Twitter works best as a dialogue, and this won’t happen if you’re doing all the talking, or have nobody to talk to! This is true even for those tweeting in an official capacity on behalf of their service. Although they may have more followers than people they follow, it’s still useful to follow some people, services or institutions so you have other useful information to pass on as well as just promoting yourself or your service. And following people will give you a sense of how it’s done when you send your own tweets.

How many people you follow is up to you, although perhaps 100 is a good number to aim for (not all today!), to ensure a useful stream of content. Think about what sort of information you want access to, and what sorts of tweeters are likely to offer it (see the list below for some suggestions). It is an organic process and will take time to build up, and don’t forget that you can always unfollow people if the content they tweet is not useful to you! There are ways to find out if you’ve been unfollowed, but there is no automatic alert and generally people don’t bother to check! If you decide that you no longer wish to follow someone on Twitter but you don’t want them to know, you can use Twitter’s Mute feature.  This will prevent that user’s tweets from being displayed on your Twitter stream. If you change your mind, you can unmute an account at anytime. For instructions on how to Mute Users on Twitter, visit the Twitter Help Centre.

So how do you find people to follow? When you first sign up to Twitter, they will suggest people for you to follow, or invite you to search for names or keywords, but this can be a bit hit and miss. Some people give up at this point, thinking it’s all pop stars and people tweeting about their breakfast!

At this point, it would be useful to know who else is participating in the programme, so I’ve compiled a list of everyone who sent the tweet we suggested yesterday, so you can find and follow each other!

Here are nine more suggestions (not exhaustive!) to build a useful feed of information that might work well for you.

1. ‘Celebrity’ academics and media dons – Following well-known people and commentators in academia, particularly in the field of Education, will give you some ideas of how to build your profile and impact, as well as offering commentary on education policy, news on developments in Higher Education, access to their own network of followers and interesting material to retweet to your followers. You could follow Education researchers such as Tara Brabazon or academics such as Athene Donald or Mary Beard, who both write on academia more broadly. Other potentially interesting twitterers include Phil Race, Gilly Salmon, and Howard Rheingold.

2. Professional Bodies – For updates about events, news, policy, or funding opportunities, your  professional body will be very useful. Try some educational bodies, for example ALDinHEStaff and Educational Developers AssociationNACADA or the Higher Education Academy, or search for your occupation’s professional body, for example, ACCA or the College of Occupational Therapists.

3. Funding Bodies – For calls for funding and other news, follow bodies such as the Research Councils UK (@research_uk), @AHRC or JISC

4. Academic and Professional Press – Education press such as @TimesHigherEd@gdnHigherEd or Research Information will give you access to news stories which may interest you or your followers. You could also try YSJ Press Office. Following their journalists too might be a way to hear about interesting stories or even raise your own profile in the press. Many academic journals or publishers also have their own Twitter accounts which are useful for updates on calls for contributions or new contents, for example, Palgrave Journals. Search for the ones relevant to you!

5. Other Academics – Building up a network of other academics on Twitter is a fantastic way to support your work – whether it’s sharing every-day practice, building a Personal Learning Network or debating approaches around a particular subject area. Search for people you know to see if they have a Twitter account. Search by name or by keyword, or import contacts from your LinkedIn account or email. You can use our YSJ Tweeps list to find out who else is using Twitter at YSJ.

6. Academic Mentors – There are several bloggers and tweeters who create a supportive community for other academic professionals and students, who have really useful advice and experiences to share on the various aspects of being or becoming an academic, from writing and publication to managing your career. Useful advice to pass on to your students, and possibly useful for you too! Follow @thesiswhisperer@researchwhisperer@ECRchat@ThomsonPat, @NetworkedRes and even @phdcomics

7. Outreach – Following your institution’s official account (@YorkStJohn), or admissions or outreach teams, can be a great way to find out what’s available to students before they arrive, and even get involved yourself to join up the institution’s work on widening participation.

8. Associated Services and Professionals – There are lots of people on Twitter who can feed you useful information, but aren’t academics. Follow librarians, disability advisers, learning technologists, researchers and staff developers…all useful people to learn from and collaborate with!

9. Policy makers – If you’re interested in government education policy, you could always follow politicians, or the select committees for Education, although we like to get our HE policy fix from @WonkHE.

How to grow your Twitter feed from here:

Twitter will suggest people for you to follow based on who you’re currently following. This can be a bit random at first, as you’re not following many people so there’s nothing for its algorithm to work on. There are other ways to add people to your Twitter feed:

Snowball – look at the profile of the people you’re following – who do they follow, and who else is following them? You can see who’s following you, or anyone else, by going to your or their profile, and clicking on ‘followers’ (below their header image).

Screenshot of the header of the official York St John University Twitter account. Link to the account:

Retweets – people you follow will retweet things they think might be of interest. Keep an eye out for retweets from accounts you don’t yet follow, and add them. We’ll cover retweeting in future Days.

Hashtags – especially around livechats or livetweeted events such as conferences. Joining a discussion around a hashtag is a good way to find more people interested in that topic or event. We’ll also cover hashtags in future Days.

#FF or #FollowFriday – this is a convention on Twitter that 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!

Follows – You will be notified when new people follow you – look at their profile to see if they are someone you want to follow back. If you suspect one of your new followers is spam, you can ‘block’ them by viewing their profile page, using the gear icon next to the ‘Follow” button, and selecting ‘block’.

Complete an ActivityActivity!

So – go find some people to follow!
If you find any other interesting people you think others should follow, you can let us know on Twitter or in the comments below. To get started you could follow the YSJ TEL team! @YSJTEL, @PhilVincent, @emmfletcher, @RosieHare and @YSJADD.


Rosie (@RosieHare)

Further reading:

<<< Day 2: Sending Tweets Day 4: @Replies, Mentions and Direct Messaging >>>

Creative Commons LicenseTen Days of Twitter for Learning Developers was originally adapted from a similar programme for STEM researchers, also created by Helen Webster. The materials are available under a Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA.

The 10DoT Badges  are adapted from those issued by University of Sussex’s Technology Enhanced Learning Team, which were also  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons LicenseTen Days of Twitter has been adapted by Technology Enhanced Learning for use at YSJ, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License.

We are extremely grateful for the work put in by Helen Webster and the LD5Digital Things team, and for sharing their great resources with the community!

Rosie Hare

Working to the Directorate’s annual objectives and the TEL Quality Framework, Rosie’s role as a TEL Advisor is to proactively support and develop staff in using technology to enhance the student learning experience. Her main focus is to advise academic staff on effective use of learning technologies to develop innovative learning resources, processes and practices. Before joining YSJ Rosie was an E-Learning Support Officer at University of York, and prior to that worked as a Digital Facilitator in the E-Learning Team at Middlesbrough College.

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