Twitter, the up-to-the-minute source of news for the social media-savvy, can seem baffling and cliquey to those of us who don’t devote much time to social networks. However, even if microblogging is not your thing, you should give Twitter a second look.
What’s in it for me?
The main argument for why you should use Twitter really stems from who else is using Twitter. This ever-expanding list includes at least half of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies, many start-ups, your favourite journals, your colleagues, alumni, PIs, CEOs, science writers, marketers, recruiters, and probably someone with your dream job. If nothing else, Twitter opens up an avenue for you to connect with some of these groups and people, so why not give it a try?
- Format: Twitter is a social media platform that allows you to publish 140-character posts (tweets) on a personalized web page (a Twitter profile page). Tweets can contain text, pictures, links, and short videos.
- Profile: Your profile page contains all of your tweets, and gives you the option to post a photo of yourself, along with a short bio. A professional-looking photo is highly recommended.
- Connecting with other users: Your Twitter network is built up of your followers (subscribers) and the users you follow. If you like a post, you can “favorite” it, and if you want to share it with your followers, you can retweet it and it will show up on your page. You can also “mention” a Twitter user by including their username preceded by an “@” symbol in your post. This will not show up in their public profile, but they will be able to see this tweet. In addition, you can send Direct Messages to individuals and groups. These are private.
- Upvote = Likes = …: You can “favorite” a Tweet, and the tweet’s author can see this.
- Trending: Users can preface words or phrases with hashtags to place a tweet in particular categories. Clicking on or searching for hashtags reveals tweets in the same category. The most popular hashtags “trend” and show up on the left side of your Twitter timeline.
The role of Twitter in your job search
Although LinkedIn is still the go-to social media platform for making professional connections and job searching, there are many examples of job-seekers using Twitter to stand out from the competition. If you have a professional Twitter account, you should consider including your Twitter handle in your resume and your business card. While there are spectacular examples of people being hired based on their 140-character Twitter resume or video, these instances are uncommon. Furthermore, while Twitter is rife with job postings, a low percentage of job applicants get hired through Twitter. Instead, you should use Twitter for what it’s best at – being an amazing tool for meeting interesting people and keeping on top of what is happening in your industry or field.
What should I tweet?
In general, you should try to keep your tweets interesting and professional. Personal updates are okay, and even encouraged by some, but Twitter is not Facebook and you should take care about what you publish online. A good bet is to tweet about a specialized subject that is relevant to your field or to the profession you are interested in. Remember that some of the most popular Twitter users in science employ visuals, such as infographics, cartoons, and videos in their posts. This requires some skill and extra work, but it may well be worth the effort if it helps you stand out.
Live-tweeting, which refers to posting up-to-the-minute updates on an event as it’s happening, is a good way to make your tweets unique and to expand you network. By live-tweeting, you are providing updates to Twitter users outside of the event as well as opening more opportunities for yourself to meet people within the event. Just don’t tweet sensitive content.
An easy way to begin tweeting is to retweet and post links to articles that are interesting to you and to your followers. Be informative, be relevant, and provide something new.
One of the obvious ways to network using Twitter is to follow and retweet the posts of people by whom you want to get noticed. If your retweet is framed by a well-chosen comment, you may indeed get the poster’s attention. Other approaches include the following:
- Look up the followers of your person or organization of interest. You will likely have overlapping interests with these Twitter users, and they may be more willing to respond to you.
- Find people who work for a particular company and follow them. Services such as Twellow are set up for this purpose.
- Connect with alumni from your school or program. You definitely have something in common with these people. They may be willing to serve as mentors.
- Find other scientists and graduate students, and build collaborations. Collaborations built through social media are becoming increasingly more common. Forming these collaborations may benefit you beyond your time as a graduate student.
- Leverage other networks. See who has looked at your LinkedIn profile and send them a message on Twitter.
Once you have made a new contact, sending useful information their way will help to maintain that relationship. (See Anna Zhou’s upcoming post about how to stay in touch with your network.)
Market research via twitter
Big pharmaceutical companies are notoriously reserved in their use of social media. However, journalists, bloggers, consultants, and industry analysts are not, and they are tweeting up a storm on anything from stock market fluctuations to company mergers to the latest drugs approved by the FDA. Information can flood the Twitter world within minutes of its release, and if you’re following the right people you’ll be directly in its path. While you have the option of lurking and taking up this news passively, engaging in discussions on topics relevant to your industry will increase your visibility and show any potential employer perusing your profile that you know your stuff.
All in all, consider giving Twitter a try. And don’t forget to follow us at @lscdsuoft.