That’s great! I’m glad you have decided to join and strengthen the scientific community on Twitter. Also, let me thank you for taking my advice or the advice of your colleagues.
Why did you join? Do you want to share your publications, updates in your field, pictures of your cat/dog/other, network, or something else? Personally, I like when scientists share a bit of themselves beyond their title and research. With that having been said, what you do is entirely up to you. There are a few tricks and guidelines I’d like to share, so take a few minutes and read them.
The first thing you need to learn are the basics of Twitter. Learn how to tweet, follow other accounts, like and quote/retweet tweets, and comment. These are the fundamentals and may take a few minutes to understand. More functions are available, but these should serve you well for the immediate future.
Look for hashtags relevant to your field. They may be found in account descriptions or tweets. Ornithologists or bird-watchers should check out #ornithology. People who want to communicate science or learn how to should check out #scicomm. I’ve put a few examples of accounts below and in previous blogs.
Most fields have at least one hashtag to identify scientists working in it. This will help you follow the right accounts and you’ll see more accounts you should follow. Personally, I recommend you follow accounts of people who are different from you in addition to those in your own field. You may learn about issues outside of your bubble and diversify your knowledge.
Regardless of your title, try to step down from your pedestal and speak with people, not at them. Do not pretend you are better than anyone else as it hurts the ability to communicate. Who likes being told they’re wrong or talked to in a condescending manner? Science communication relies on developing a rapport with the people with whom you are speaking. Learning to do this may take time, but it could improve your ability to communicate science.
Everyone makes mistakes. The mistakes you make may not happen for a while and it may not be a big deal. Whatever happens, own them and move forward rather than fighting a senseless battle. One issue that I’ve seen is the misinterpretation of a tweet which, for now, only contains 140 characters. There’s not a lot of space for overly complex ideas, so learn to thread thoughts rather than assuming people will just understand you. Also, don’t act like people are idiots when your tweet is misunderstood. Owning your mistake once you’ve realized it will save you a lot of time and energy. It is my opinion that if you develop a good community, then you’ll get called out when you screw up.
Some of my favorite accounts are the ones which share science and a bit of themselves. The barrier between scientist and person is broken down when people do this. This helps your science become more relatable and the likelihood of engagement a bit higher. I’ve tried to emulate this with my account, hence the pictures of cats and lots of my photography.
Use your best judgement and have patience during times of frustration. Whatever you do, even if you think this blog post was crap, try to have fun. Do not let numbers (e.g. followers, retweets, likes) determine your worth. Some of this may just take time. I’ve done most of this, have gained hundreds of followers, become “Twitter famous” according to certain joking colleagues, and learned a lot. I hope you can enjoy Twitter as much as I have.
As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time and any comments you may wish to share. You can find me on Twitter (@EntoLudwick) and reach out if you would like. Have a great day!