4 ways to make Twitter work for academics

I have been on a roll!

For the past few weeks, I have been able to meet up an amazing community of researchers, doctors and academicians. Most people have been focused on their niche but I really kick myself for not tapping in this vast opportunity earlier.

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Twitter is a firehose of information and its impossible to wade through the way things are being discussed without knotting yourself up. Imagine this being a large room where all attendees are speaking up all at once. Its difficult to follow the conversation but this madness is what makes Twitter so unique. You can jump in the conversation with anyone, whenever you want!

Despite these challenges, I have outlined 4 ways to make Twitter more useful for those in academics. Use this as a guidepost, rather than an ends to itself since it varies for each individual. I am outlining the work flow as I have been able to adapt to my needs.

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First and foremost is to sign up (and dont forget to improve 2 factor authentication!). After that, identify the “influencers”; typically, start with journals or official accounts. Under each username, the list of followers or the account that’s following individuals is listed. You will get a fair idea about the people who have a shared common interests. Once you have the timeline going, you will “tweet your first tweet”.

 

Each username starts with the symbol “@” (my username is @radoncneuro). Once you start following or being followed, write whatever is obvious.

Get used to the process- it takes time to get attuned to its little quirks but you will soon see your timeline fill up rapidly.  Now is the time to implement the following:

AP (@radonconeuro) | Twitter 2018-01-11 15-22-09

  1. Make Twitter lists. One of the most underused feature of Twitter is the “Lists”.  (screen shot taken from my own profile) Either make one public (which everyone can see and the username added to public list is notified) or “private” (for your eyes only). Lists can be used to follow topics or people (influencers as they may be). This doesn’t affect your time line at all since they don’t appear there. I have couple of lists- one on finding the academic resources for neuro-oncology and other for patient advocacy. Usually, people I follow, “retweet” making it easier for me to identify accounts and add them to lists accordingly.

  2. Twitter HashTags. These are words preceded by the “#” symbol and helps to categorise the information in context. For example, I started the hashtag, #newupdatesneuroonc which lists all the links shared under this hashtag. Likewise, the hashtag #btsm looks for conversations around brain tumours and helps you to join it.
    #newupdatesneuroonc hashtag on Twitter 2018-01-11 15-24-58
  3. Following too many people and the timeline quickly fills up. Use Twitter Mute option; its on the individual tweet in the web version of Twitter. Use this to ensure that people who have been muted, don’t show up in the timeline.
  4. Last but not the least. Saved searches. Again,, this is a very useful context that helps to identify the links in real time (as the stories breakout). I use saved searches for specifically tracking down certain niche domains like links shared on Glioblastoma (for example) so that I don’t miss out anything from the traditional sources. I have been able to identify the patient advocates as well from this exercise. I monitor the saved searches in Inoreader with specific word highlighting so that I can eyeball the content quickly.
    #newupdatesneuroonc hashtag on Twitter 2018-01-11 15-24-58

These are the ways you can super charge your Twitter feed. It took me about 2 weeks to fine tune various aspects of the experience and identify the interesting sources to read and interact with.

Last but not the least! Make sure to keep a razor sharp focus on what you read and separate the signal from the noise. Good luck!

(Each of the picture sources are from Google Search and copyright of their respective owners. These images have been used only to highlight the pertinent issues. If you feel it has been violated, please reach out to me and I shall remove the same).

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