Twitter for the Professional/Scientist/Academic

I am not a “social selling expert” like Tim Queen. I am one of the growing crop of professional/scientist/academic types who use Twitter as a micro-blogging service in a literal sense. This article is written to those, maybe even outside that description, who want to use Twitter as a modern extension of a traditional blog.

Having grown my own technical blog over two decades to favorable website statistics (better than some global corporations I write about!), I decided it was time to extend into micro-blogging to reach new audiences. To do so, I needed to think bidirectionally on my Twitter use: who I followed as well as what I tweeted. I culled my “following” list and curated how, what, and when I posted/commented.

Why extend blogging to micro-blogging?

Consider journal articles, book chapters and dissertations among the most formal public expressions. A professional person’s website, including a blog, gives a sense of another aspect of the person, their sense of communicating technical and perhaps travel information in short form and even white papers. Professionals at all careers stages are increasingly likely to have a LinkedIn profile. Those involved in coding in some way often have a Github account.

Each of these means of online communication are silos as expressed in the table below. I generalize terms in the table. For example, “recruiter” means also the average professional connecting with someone they know seeking work.

media audience
journal specialist
blog enthusiast
LinkedIn recruiter
Github peer
Facebook layperson

Twitter (and Facebook, to which I automatically publicly post from Twitter) crosses these audience boundaries, reaching everyone from the general public through specialists. Many would think, why do I care about reaching someone outside of my industry, on the other side of the world? My point is that question has long been answered by the theory of connectivity of humans. By definition any scientist is working on something that affects fundamentals potentially changing anyone’s life in at least a small way. Research has shown that the vast majority of people are interested in science, but that many don’t know how to engage in science. YOU are therefore one of the keys to bridging this gap.

Expand networks

If the altruistic nature of this fact isn’t enough motivation, the selfish motivations may include who your audience members are connected to or who they are themselves. For example, I have numerous executives of multi-billion dollar companies “following” me. That means my “reach” includes these individuals. Chances are, with consistently good content, they will have at least scanned the headline of my posts a couple times. Someday when they’re on a Presidential panel, this can help jostle their memory if I’m advocating for something or other more direct ask. I have had international concerns reach out to me specifically and successfully on the basis of my web presence.

Less than half of my Twitter followers are in a field near to mine. Yet I have months with over a million impressions and engagement rates > 3%. This indicates there is a general audience hunger for the material I share. Yes I do get 0% engagement posts. I take those as a sign to try again.

Social media metrics

The key performance indicators (KPI) include factors:

  • engagement (clicks, likes, retweets, comments)
  • reach (how many have ever seen one or more posts)
  • impressions (how many saw a particular post)

Engagement rate is a critical indicator of the “health” of your media approach. A starting point for assessing engagement rate is a 1% engagement rate. Which types of your posts get about 1% or more engagement? Those are good posts. Which posts get 0 interactions? Those posts may be

  • sent at the wrong time
  • without appropriate “teaser” preview image/video
  • are not interesting to your target audience.

Engagement and reach are KPIs used in the independent music industry to gauge the success of future stars. I have read of double-digit engagement rates in this regard.

Although there can be trivial overlap between these groups, it’s immediately apparent that a message delivered through one of these channels does not penetrate well into the other channels. A LinkedIn public post for someone with a few hundred followers will be seen by perhaps less than fifty people.

Who (not) to follow on Twitter

You don’t want to follow too many people on Twitter. The quality of your account is assessed manually and algorithmically in part by whom you follow.

  • Manually: I see professionals following borderline neo-Nazi accounts when I’m pretty sure that the professional doesn’t realize it. Or maybe they subtly do? Are they following bots accidentally?
  • Algorithmically: after your first few batches of following others on Twitter, the Twitter feeds “learns” what you’re interested in from who you follow. If you’re following-back crapbots, self-styled “social media influencers” and pseudoscience accounts, the quality of your Twitter feed will suffer.

A few categories of accounts NOT to follow and to UNfollow.

  • repetitive affiliate marketing posts.
  • repetitive posts with uniform content style (bot)–almost always with big splashy photos and videos, designed to be attention-grabbing. The website equivalent of these is the “One Weird Trick to…” with double entendre imagery.
  • they follow more than about 1250 accounts–any human reading such a busy twitter feed seems unlikely. If you post something actually of interest to them, it will be buried in their extremely busy feed.
  • they rely on guilt/reluctance to unfollow someone following you. Sometimes a new follower has low follow count because they’re new (legit) account.

Don’t feel obligated to quickly follow-back when someone follows you. True audience doesn’t need to be followed back. Quality accounts have low following/follower ratio. Decrapifying your feed saves time. It helps save you from accidentally passing on bad info (like Miami airport flood retweet).

When unfollowing, you’ll see your follow count slam down, even moreso than the amount you unfollowed. Congrats, you nullified more bots.

Do normal people w/ quality posts do instant revenge unfollowing by a tool?

No.

Do they have multiple accounts tied to unfollow tool?

No.

Etiquette

Everyone views web services, including social media, in their own way. Despite the incredibly public nature of Twitter, some people take the Reply function of Twitter very personally, especially if their @username is included in the Reply list. Since 2017, Twitter doesn’t put the @username in with the tweet anymore to facilitate group communications while not biting into the character limit. This means it’s not always immediately obvious who you’re tweeting to. You may think you’re only replying to yourself, as part of your own thread, when you’ve accidentally included other people. They get a notification of your reply (unless they’ve disabled such notifications).

This can make them feel like you’re talking to them, when in actuality you meant to reply to yourself as part of a thread to the general Twitter/Internet audience. Search engines point to Twitter as well, so I like to include actionable information in tweets just as I do my website. This can lead to misunderstandings where someone mistakenly thinks you’re giving them excessive explanation rather than just information for a general audience. Watch the reply list carefully to help avoid those scenarios.

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