A few years back I wrote the post “Is Twitter Trending or Just Trendy.” At the time, Twitter was relatively new on the scene and all of the talk was about how teachers (and schools) were using Twitter for professional development, communication, and building a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Many felt that Twitter was just another fad that was here today and would be gone tomorrow. While the idea of using Twitter for the purposes noted above is somewhat “old” news at this point, the final conclusion that can be drawn with regard to the “trending or trendy” question is that Twitter is now a “given” for all educators (much like Facebook is for casual adults) and that it is definitely here to stay.
Over the weekend, I was contacted by a colleague who is new to Twitter and was asking questions about how to build a professional presence on social media. I took a look at her account and noticed that she was following about 250 people (mostly celebrities and publications) and was stuck on around 33 followers. She was certainly tweeting good stuff in terms of education, but she essentially had no audience and wasn’t connecting with other like-minded educators either locally, nationally, or internationally. After explaining the “ins and outs” of Twitter and how to build a following, I asked her to give me access to her account for 24 hours. The challenge: to see how many “education followers” I could acquire. The result: I ended up getting around 175 additional followers all of whom were principals, school leaders, technology specialists, and of course teachers.
Here’s how to go about it if you are interested in doing the same…
- Create a Short Professional Bio: This “obvious” suggestion is too often overlooked. In order for other educators and professionals to even want to follow you, it’s important that they first know who you are. If you are an English teacher, for example, it’s critical to share this information so that other English teachers will want to connect with you. There’s no way that anyone will know who you are or what your professional interests are if you don’t tell them. My bio reads as follows: “Principal, Dobbs Ferry High School: IB World School (DP); Boston Univ. Alum; Ed.D.” When creating a bio, you should avoid statements like “the views expressed here are my own.” First, that’s a given if your name is at the top of the page. Second, are you really going to be tweeting such controversial information that you feel it’s necessary to put this disclaimer? If so, you would probably be a person who people wouldn’t want to follow anyway.
- Follow Others: The quickest way to gain followers is to follow others. From my experience, about 50-60% of people will follow you back if you follow them. Wondering how to find educators to follow? Simple. Find an individual who has a good number of followers (@E_Sheninger, for example) and scan the list of the people who most recently followed that person. Assuming that they are education-based people with interests that are similar to yours, follow those people and you will start getting notifications within minutes that they are following you back. A drawback to this approach, of course, is that the more people you follow, the more cluttered your Twitter feed will become. Given that, you may need to “clean up” your “following list” from time to time to make things more manageable. I do this about once a month.
- Join Tweetchats: Tweetchats are not only a great form of informal professional development, but they are also an awesome way to connect with educators. The key to “tweet chatting” is to respond directly to tweets that specific individuals post, respond to individuals that tweet at (@) you, retweet whatever you think is worth retweeting, and “like” whatever you think is worth liking. Also, it’s important to follow anyone in a tweetchat that you are currently not following. The likelihood is that these individuals will follow you back. Finally, it’s important to find tweetchats that are specific to your area of interest. The article below has more information on Tweetchats along with a list of education tweetchats and the the days and times that they meet:
- Tweet at (@) People: Whenever you send out an education-based tweet, it’s important to attach as many individuals as you can who might also be interested in the same tweet. If you’re not sure, just do it anyway. Chances are they will at least “like” your tweet and will in some cases “retweet” your original tweet. This will then get your name on their Twitter feed which will in turn prompt more people to follow you.
- Use Tweetchat Hashtags (#): Similar to the suggestion above, it’s important to always put hashtags on your tweet that connect to Tweetchats that are active and seen by many individuals at different times. This will keep your name out there in an ongoing way and will result in accumulating more followers. Some of my favorite hashtags are: #satchat, #sunchat, #edchat, #ukedchat, #edtech, #nyedchat, #cpchat, and #edchatma. Again, check the list in suggestion 3 for more tweetchats that you might use as hashtags.
- Use Your Characters: You get a maximum of 140 characters for a tweet. Use them all. The best way to fill out a tweet is by tweeting at (@) people (suggestion #4) or by using hashtags (suggestion #5).
- Recognize That It Takes Work: Gaining followers on Twitter and building a presence on social media will not just happen. It takes time, effort and work. For high profile individuals who are “big names” in the field (ex: @DianeRavitch), it’s not necessary to do anything that I noted above. The followers will just come. For the rest of you, it’s necessary to put in the work.
Have other suggestions for how to gain followers on Twitter? Please comment below!