Don’t know your handle from your hashtag? Don’t panic, Twitter can be a great place to find out about new research in your area, join academic debates and an efficient way to build networks with potential partners.

We know you might be worried about trolling but we really think joining Twitter can be beneficial to researchers. Follow our tips to get started.

What are the benefits?

Twitter is a great way to reach new audiences who might be interested in your work, including potential partners, charities, businesses, policy makers and think tanks that could use your findings to change lives, and fellow researchers who might cite your work.

You can use it to promote your latest blog posts, books and media appearances, and being forced to communicate in 280 characters or less will hone your writing skills.

The basics you need to know

Twitter moves fast so don’t be afraid to tweet and tweet again. The more active you are, the more connections you’ll make but beware of fake accounts.

Your handle is your Twitter name and always starts with an @ symbol. Using hashtags (#) will categorise your tweets so that people following specific debates see what you have to say.

Platforms like Tweetdeck can help you manage multiple accounts, track conversations and even schedule your tweets.

You can use Twitter to send private messages to people who follow you but everything else you publish is public.

Making your profile stand out from the crowd

Think about what you want to use Twitter for and use that to describe yourself so that followers know what to expect. Usually it’ll be a short description of your expertise and interests.

People like to see who they’re connecting with so add a profile picture.

Who to follow

You can follow as many people as you like. Think about the information you want to see and the debates you want to join, and connect with the people or organisations talking about those things. That might be:

  • Colleagues and researchers in your field.
  • Your research partners and funders.
  • Speakers at conferences.
  • Politicians, parliamentary committees and policy makers.
  • Think tanks, charities, businesses and organisations that could benefit from your findings.
  • Journalists writing about your subject.

What to tweet about

You’re using Twitter to position yourself as an expert so it’s best to stick to your subject and try not to dilute your message.

You can tweet about your findings, your expert opinion on topical debates, research areas you’d like to explore and new publications. Tweeting about the work and expertise of others in your field will help you build an effective network, but always include their handles.

Writing a top tweet

You’ve only got 280 characters so use them wisely. Write as if you’re writing a headline and distil your story down into the most salient point. But remember, it’s not a megaphone, you want to engage people, not just talk at them.

Ask questions to encourage interaction and don’t forget to include relevant hashtags and handles.

If you’re linking to a website, use a short URL generator like Bitly to save characters.

Writing a thread

If 280 characters just isn’t enough and you’ve got more than one point to get across, consider writing a ‘thread’. You can do this by writing one tweet and adding to it using the reply function.

Make sure people know it’s a thread in the top one by indicating it’s 1/X.

Retweets and responses

Consider carefully before you retweet and use the ‘retweet with comment’ function if you want to say something about what you’re sharing. Retweeting can look like an endorsement so you might want to consider making it clear this isn’t always the case in your profile.

You don’t have to respond to every comment you get but if you do, be polite and respectful.

Dealing with trolling

If you’re getting offensive or abusive comments or tweets directed at you it’s usually best not to engage. You can block, mute or report accounts and our Communications Team is always available to provide advice and support. It’s okay to take a break from Twitter if ever it’s getting too much.

Remember it’s public

It sounds obvious but it can be easy to forget. Unless you have made your account private, meaning only your followers will see your tweets, you’re potentially broadcasting to the world. So don’t tweet anything confidential or sensitive, and don’t publish anything you wouldn’t want your colleagues, partners, funders or students to see.

Still got questions? Remember, you can always email our team for support and advice.