Nic’s Tips for Twits

Don’t know what Twitter is? Don’t know why you should be doing it? Don’t know how to do it? Already on it, but can’t seem to get going? Already going, but wondering how to step it up a notch? Read on.


I remember exactly where I was when I first felt the Twittersphere. I was at the British Science Association’s Science Communication Conference, 2013.

I’d never felt the urge to tweet, because I had only ever been aware of what David Cameron said about Twitter – “too many twits make a twat”. I’d seen the celebrities letting their perfect masks fall, as they were finally allowed to speak unscripted, unfiltered words. Despite my own excellent grasp of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, I did not think this was the place for me.

But then, at that conference, it caught me by surprise. While I’d been busy in the foyer, meeting people and handing out cards, tweet after tweet was being projected on to the wall. I would glance at it occasionally, and try to decipher the strange, abbreviated texts there. And then I saw it. Well, me. I saw me. I saw myself mentioned. Well, not me specifically, but something I’d done. They were talking about my actions. Not in a bad way, I hasten to add. I’d asked a *slightly* bold question after one of the talks…. and it had invoked a somewhat controversial response. The topic I’d raised continued to be talked about for the remainder of the conference, both in person and on the wall. Whilst in the midst of the official networking session, I became aware that there was this whole other session taking place: silently, digitally, in the air all around me. I felt the Twittersphere.

So, when I got home, I joined Twitter.

I did it because I felt like I was missing a trick.

Twitter is an opportunity. Twitter is a meeting place, a working place, a noticeboard, a stage.

For someone like me, who is looking to change careers, it has been THE most useful tool for finding out about what is going on in my prospective new field of employment. Who the big names are, what opportunities there are, asking direct questions, dipping my toe in the water, working out where to jump in.

It can be daunting at first, undoubtedly. Particularly because when you first enter, you’re still not inside. Remember that scene in Labyrinth, when Sarah first enters the Labyrinth? She enters through the big gates, turns, and starts walking down a desolate, neverending corridor? Twitter is like that. You sign up, you log in, and there’s silence.

You need a friendly worm to show you how to really get inside.


Profile Tip 1. Pick a good handle.

Your name is a good start, or your profession, but don’t let it run too long. If you can, put a variation on your name that makes it a bit funny or exciting, i.e. memorable. Don’t have anything so obscurely unrelated to your name that people won’t associate the two.

Profile Tip 2. Use a picture of YOU.

If you want people to know your face, you need to have a picture of your face.

Profile Tip 3. Be informative about yourself.

Decide on the things about you, as a professional, that people need to know. Then decide on the things that you want them to know about you, as a person. Then say that in as few words as possible. If you want people to be able to contact you, include your email.

Getting Started Tip 1. Follow things.

Anything that you are interested in, anything that you are already a member of. Organisations will tweet their activities, and if you are on the look-out for updates and opportunities, look here. Businesses, charities, learned societies, non-Government organisations, associations, networks, Parliament, news outlets, blog outlets, universities, university faculties and departments, journals, and you tube channels are all examples of this. You can search for their names in the Twitter search bar, or usually follow them through their own websites.

Getting Started Tip 2. Follow people.

The people within the things above will generally have their own Twitter accounts. You can usually find out who these people are on the organisation’s website. If you want to get to know more about them, and the things they do, search for their names on Twitter, and follow them. They will usually tweet insider information about anything their organisation is up to. They are used to people following them.  Follow any famous people you know about within your field/prospective field. Follow high-up people within your own organisation. You don’t have to know them personally. Follow friends, if you want to use them professionally. Follow acquaintances for the same reason. Have a look at who your acquaintances follow to see who you might have missed. Follow people who do what you want to do. Follow people who want to do what you want to do. Being part of a network of go-getters can raise your profile by proxy.

Getting Going Tip 1. Tweet.

Talk about what you’re up to. Talk about what you’re going to be up to. Talk about things that have caught your eye. Talk about things you’re thinking about. Ask about things you’re unsure of. Tweet to promote any blogs or podcasts, and include a SHORTENED link ( is good for this). Don’t be afraid to say the same thing more than once, though I wouldn’t advise doing it verbatim.

Getting Going Tip 2. Tweet back

Replying to people’s tweets is easy, and perfectly acceptable. Clicking on ‘expand’ will show you all the replies that people have already made to a particular tweet. Make sure you check these first, you don’t want to be repeating what other people have already said. Retweeting is different from repeating.

Getting Going Tip 3. Talk @people.

When you don’t have any followers, the only way to be sure that your tweets will reach people is by specifically mentioning them. Start a little chat with someone. Best case scenario, they retweet or *favourite something you say about them. The same goes for the organisations. Make observations about their activities. Say nice things. Say funny things. Say profound things. Organisations love to tell other people when someone says something nice about them.

Getting Going Tip 4. #Verbs and #Nouns

Use hashtags for the #things you are doing, or things that are #happening. Try to make sure that your hashtags are already established by searching for them beforehand. That way, you will be speaking to an established community, rather than #makingstuffupthatnoonewillseeagain. Try to use relevant and recent hashtags. Keep an eye on what’s trending (the bar on the left hand side), and use those if they are relevant. Otherwise, look at what your people are hashtagging about, and use those yourself. You want your tweets to catch other people’s eyes. If, like me, you’re not all that important, you can’t afford to only say stuff that no one else is interested in.

Learning to Fly Tip 1. Tweet well

Be funny. If you can’t say the most insightful or profound thing about something, you can at least say something memorable.

Be professional. You don’t want that one awkward tweet where you said ‘boobs’ following you to your next job. It’s ok to talk about some personal stuff, you are a PERSON after all, and prospective followers will want to see your personality, but remember that there are other social media sites for the really personal stuff.

TRY to use good spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

If you want to say something that you can’t fit into 140 characters, consider turning it into a blog instead. No matter how well you think you’ve cut it down, you probably don’t make sense any more.

Don’t talk about things that are too obscure. You’ll gather the most appreciation from people who can familiarise with the thing you’re talking about.

Your tweets are essentially there to entertain people, so remember to be funny and creative. Send links to good things with a short comment on them. Add multimedia occasionally to switch things up a bit.

Learning to Fly Tip 2. Tweet often.

People tune into the Twittersphere at different times of the day, for varying lengths of time. Tweeting often but at random times will ensure that your tweets get seen by the biggest variety of people.

Learning to Fly Tip 3. Jump on the bandwagon

Be aware of when top tweeting times are, and get in on that action.

Make sure you’re tweeting about #SomethingImportant at the same time as everyone else, because that’s when everyone’s looking.

Be aware of Twitter trends, and I’m not talking about the ones in the panel on the left. I’m talking about things like #FF. This translates to Follow Friday, when people recommend other people to follow.

Learning to fly Tip 4. Tweet others as you would want to be tweeted yourself

The best way to promote yourself is to have other people promote you. Getting retweeted and favourited is the gold medal in twitter, but you can’t expect someone to scratch your back without scratching theirs. Therefore, retweet people. Favourite things. Your ‘favourite’ tweets are saved as a list on your profile, and can say a lot about you to prospective followers. Don’t be afraid to ask to be retweeted “please RT”.

If you catch someone else’s promotion, e.g. a blog; read it, then tweet a comment and the link. Or retweet their link. Or do both.

Learning to Fly Tip 5. Outside the Twittersphere

If you view someone’s promotion from their link on Twitter, Don’t forget to leave a comment there too, so that any potential readers will see your name as well as the promotion.

Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle on your website, your business cards, in your email signature. Make yourself as findable as possible.

Twitter will send you emails to suggest people to follow, who are similar to people you have already followed. Follow these people.


Don’t go silly about retweeting and favouriting, because these things will appear as your stories and can be an immense turn-off if overdone. People want to hear about you. Not about other people. You can turn off other people’s retweets by looking at their profile, and clicking on the little person button next to ‘following’.

Don’t just tweet to promote your new blog or product. People will switch off if you are only trying to sell them stuff.

Don’t be an automatic-machine-gun-tweeter. If you’re going to tweet 10 times today, make sure you spread it out over the day, and don’t fire it off in a rapid burst. People will just scan down the lot without properly reading. If you’re going to say something really important, you don’t want your message to get lost amongst your other tweets.

If you can’t say something in 140 characters, it is acceptable to spread it over more than one tweet. Add numbers, so that people can keep track. (1/2)

Don’t do this too frequently though; people shouldn’t have to work too hard to understand EVERYTHING you say. (2/2)

Follow people that follow you, and consider unfollowing people that don’t follow you.

Don’t try to have a debate on Twitter. It may seem like an awesome forum for getting your opinions across to the most, and most-influential people, however it’s very hard to do this in 140 characters. And, like all forms of textual conversation, it’s hard to incorporate tone into your message.

Don’t be captain moodkill every time you say something. Misery does not gather company on Twitter.

It’s meant to be fun, so try to have some, and try to spread some.

Follow this guide and you can’t go far wrong. Personally, I’ve not had any major fuck ups on Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said the wrong thing, I’ve offended people, I’ve entered into debates that I couldn’t finish, I’ve probably come across as a creepy stalker at some point; but I wouldn’t count any of these as major fuck ups. I don’t know. Follow me and find out ;oP @nicolajrolfe

To illustrate my point:

I’ve just written this for you guys on the PEA network, but naturally I want as many people as possible to see it. So here’s what I’ll be doing to promote it:

  • Posting it as a blog on my WordPress account
  • Sending the link to my blog out to PEAs on our JISCmail, being sure to remention the links that have already been sent out by Heather Doran, and my thoughts on them.
  • Posting the shorted link to my blog, with a snappy title, on my twitter account, hashtagging #NCCpeas
  • Posting a shortened link to Heather Doran’s Ph.D musings on using Twitter on Twitter, mentioning her by name @hapsci and using #NCCpeas – you guys should read this, she’s more of a Twitter Evangelist than I am! And more experienced! (See what I did there)
  • Later I’ll mention it again on Twitter, but directing it to the Researcher Development Programme at my university. Hopefully they’ll promote it to other PGR/ECRs.
  • Post the link as a status on Facebook: it can’t hurt.

What I expect you to do, now that we’re all Twitter Savvy:

  • Read this!
  • Reply to my Twitter posting
  • Retweet my Twitter posting, or copypaste the text from my Twitter posting and add your own comment, eg “RT@nicolajrolfe just saved my life with Twit Tips”
  • Leave a comment on my blog with your Twitter handle, or a link to your own blog.
  • Repeat for Heather’s.
  • Watch to see if Heather does anything exciting to repromote her blog, she may well have some good ideas that I’ve missed.

About nicolajrolfe

Dr. Nicola J. Rolfe is currently looking for her next opportunity to make a big splash in East Kent industry.
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2 Responses to Nic’s Tips for Twits

  1. An interesting overview, many thanks.

  2. Pingback: Thing 8: Twitter, including Storify | 23 Things for Research Surrey

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