Short Guide to the Twitterverse

Following on from my ‘Are you on Twitter?’ post a couple of weeks ago and also discussions with some PGRs from the University I thought it would be appropriate to provide a short introduction to getting started with Twitter (for researchers!)

Firstly I thought I’d deal with all Twitter-related jargon before exposing you all to the joy that is the Twittersville:

  • A tweet – a tweet is a short (140 character) message, in answer to the simple question of ‘what’s happening?’ – in short, it is much like the ‘status updates’ you complete on Facebook, your chance to advertise to the world, in brief, your thoughts, something that you are doing or something that you want to happen, or to tweet about something you’ve found.
  • Followers – each ‘tweet’ that you sent out into the Twitterverse will be seen by your ‘followers’.  If you have set up your account to be private, people can only follow you if you accept their request (much like a friendship request on Facebook).  Remember – to see that person’s tweets you have to follow them too!
  • Create a Following – You can start following people, institutions (and even groups!) which are of interest to you (see my previous post on Twitter)
  • Lists – lists are created to manage the tweets you see in your interface – for example, you can set up a list entitled ‘Skills Training’ and, under that list, mark all the people you follow who regularly tweet about that topic.  By clicking on that list alone you will see any recent tweets which are of interest to you and keep everything in good order.
  • Hash Tag (#) – Twitter is a great tool to enter into discussion or debate – a simple glimpse of the Twitter home page will show you the current trending topics (those topics attracting a lot of attention at the moment).  If you want your tweet to reach a certain audience then include that hash tag in it.  For example, the THES is currently running a debate on Vote HE – everyone contributing to that topic is including the hash tag #voteHE in their tweets.  A similar topic is Higher Education and related debates, the hash tag for that is #highered.  Some people participate in what’s now known as ‘Follow Friday’ where people make suggestions about who to follow.  If you have a suggestion then put #FF or #FollowFriday into your tweet.  Your tweet will appear in any search performed by people currently wanting to tune into that topic.
  • Re-tweet – sometimes you might want to re-tweet to your followers something interesting that another Twitterer has tweeted (see the jargon can be confusing!).  Twitter now has a facility where you can simply click on the ‘retweet’ button to send this tweet to your followers.
  • TwitPics – pictures which you can upload to Twitter
  • Short URLs – got a lot to cram into an 140 word tweet?  Create a short URL!
  • @ – want to reply to someone?  Want to tweet just one or a few people instead of all of your followers?  Then put an @ sign before their username.  For example, to Tweet at us put in @SkillsTraining into your Tweet.  Alternatively, hit the  ‘reply’ button at the bottom of a Tweet posted by them.  Want to send a ‘Direct Message?’ then there’s a facility for that too on the right hand side of your Twitter feed.
  • Tweeple – literally people who tweet.  I think the jargon lesson needs to end here now…

Other things you will need to get started…

Think about having separate personal and research accounts to keep it simple – and consider the pros and cons of having a private/public account.  You need a valid email address to sign up.  The information here is just a brief introduction to the Twitterverse – there’s no substitute for signing up and exploring it as a Web2.0 tool yourself.  And remember to mention to people that you are using Twitter – if you have a blog then link the two up and if you are using it as a networking tool for research then put your URL on your email signature.

As Aleksandr Orlov, (founder of Compare the Meerkat) would say – Get on Your Computermabob and sign up – Simples! (


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