Why Academics use Twitter

I’ve mentioned before ‘how’ academics use Twitter, but this doesn’t cover ‘why’ they use Twitter.

I’ve heard Twitter be referred to as a global online ‘water cooler’ or ‘rec room’ for academics, a place to hang-out and feel support from others in the same career. There are also some advantages of being connected to those in other institution but of the same field since you hear about institutional and departmental developments first. But sometimes, according to my friend Dr. Dunthorn,

If you are gonna waste time, it’s going to be on something useful, like Twitter!” (@MicahDunthorn September 2015).

I’ve spoken to a number of academics who love using Twitter as an academic, and below are a few answers to why they use it.

  • Useful and quick resource
    • Sometime’s references are hard to find on the internet but it’s so easy to Tweet the article reference and go back later to see if anyone has found it. It doesn’t matter how many people you have in your following, with the right hashtag it’ll be visible to a wider audience.
  • Easy to be social on your terms
    • Many academics can be socially nervous. Twitter has made it easier to connect with those who you might not have had the courage to approach before. All they need to do it like or following the tweets of the person they want to connect with, or send them a tweet or DM.
  • More visible as a researcher
    • Being more visible online can leads to public speaking jobs and invitations to conferences that you may not have been considered for before.
    • Researchers might be looking for someone like you but not realise what you are up to right now cuz you never answer your email, so Twitter is a great way for people to know what you are up to and find out, in a casual way, if you are interested in collaborating.
  • Fun at conferences
    • Meeting people is easier, less awkward that waiting in the background while they finish their conversation.
    • Tweeting keeps you interested in talks because you are actively listening for sound-bytes to Tweet about. I have used tweets as a note-taking tool.
    • Hear about venue changes and parallel sessions. If you’re lucky enough, the conference organisers will tweet from a dedicated account.
    • Keeping in touch after the conference. All those people you met you can put in your own twitter conference list.
  • Easy way to find interesting papers
    • Having a wider research interest in your Twitter account will expose you to research that you may not have considered reading before
  • Celebrating work-related achievements and milestones
    • It’s great when we publish, get funding or a promotion. Tweeting every achievement and pinning it to your newsfeed is a way of advertising your work and have it reached by more people, making it more worthwhile.
    • I tweeted that I completed and passed my Doctorate, and this was great for me because someone on Twitter saw the Tweet and offered me a post-doc. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate, and using Twitter can help move that celebration into another.
  • Global network for any time of the day or night
    • Research shouldn’t be restricted globally or by institution, so having a global online network like Twitter, for your research, for your emotion support, can keep you going at any time of day or night
  • Emotional support
    • Belonging to a great Twitter community of all stages of career can help in finding solutions to problems; finding the best tools and approaches from experienced people at any time of their career, day or night
  • Outreach
    • Many researchers are expected to appear to be reaching out to the public (or whoever) with their research. Twitter can be a vehicle for that use, be it to spread news of open days, workshops, blogs and websites.
  • Writing practice
    • Makes me think about what I want to say; concisely (writing practice)
  • Gain self-confidence
    • Hot debates on things in your own field; learning what they are can really help build confidence.
    • Discussing aspects of your work in concise ways can help to see how things may sound to yourself and others and help improve your communication.
  • Find out about jobs and funding really easily
    • It’s great to have a network of people in your own field with whom you can share first-hand information about the latest jobs and funding applications.

(An excerpt of the Twitter for Academics eBook coming 2016)


About Dr Jojo Scoble

Freelance Science Communicator. Microbiology PhD Oxon. Fiction Writer. Social Media dilettante. Ideas Factory.
This entry was posted in academia, microblogging, Social Media and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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