Twitter for Teachers: Building your Network

Twitter is a fantastic resource for educators – and the educational community on Twitter is an extremely friendly and sharing one so it’s well worth being involved.  The real benefits come as you build your network by following and being followed by relevant people.

Your first 100 followers are the hardest to earn.  Here are some ideas to help you along the way.

Make yourself ‘Followable’

There are a few simple things you can do which will increase the likelihood of people wanting to follow you.

Complete your profile

You don’t have a lot of characters to play with so it won’t take you long to fill in your profile.  A lot of people don’t bother and it’s a sure fire way to restrict the number of people willing to follow you.  If you’ve not filled in your profile then people know nothing about you and can’t make a sensible decision about whether you’d make a good addition to their network.

Be a real person

Another issue with not completing your profile is that potential followers also don’t know whether or not you’re a real person.  There are an increasing number of spam-bots out there in twitterland.  Prove you’re not one of them by filling out your profile and including a profile picture.  You’re most likely to be followed if you come across as a regular Joe – so a picture of yourself rather than your logo (if you have one) is a great idea.  And including your real name also goes a long way.  It can seem quite strange exchanging ideas with someone whose name (and sometimes even gender) you’re unsure of!

Tweet, tweet, tweet

If you don’t say anything, you can be sure that noone will be interested in listening.  At first, even when you do tweet there won’t be a whole heap of folk listening, but stick at it…

Share useful information and links

Make your tweets useful by sharing great links, retweet great tweets you see.. make your tweets indispensable and people will soon follow.

Talk to people!

Engage with people – don’t just follow and run… start a conversation or jump in on a conversation they’re already having.  People are more likely to follow you if they can see that you’re a conversationalist that they’re likely to have some quality interaction with and you’ll enjoy Twitter a lot more that way too!

Tell people you’re on Twitter

Shout it from the rooftops… put it on your email footer, on your business cards, on your blog, tattoo it on your forehead.. whatever it takes, just let people know you’re tweeting and ask them to connect with you.

How to know who to follow

Of course, not everyone is worth following – here are some ideas for sorting the wheat from the chaff:

You don’t HAVE to follow back

A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking it’s ‘polite’ to follow back.  Well that may be so but it’s also a sure fire way to get a bloated network full of people you’re not really talking to.  A lot of businesses increase their number of followers simply by following hundreds of followers in the hope of a followback. This is pointless and following these people who have no intention of interacting with you will make your timeline bloated and diluted.  So how do you know who you should follow?

Take a look at their profile

A profile can tell you a huge amount.  As I mentioned before, an empty profile often tells you this is a person not worth following I’m afraid.  If a profile is completed does it sound like you have interests in common?  If you’re both MFL teachers looking to exchange ideas then bingo, you’re onto a winner… hit the follow button without delay.

Take a look at their tweets

What do they talk about?  And are they interacting?  If they’re regularly sharing links or ideas and there are plenty of @replies showing they’re engaged with their network then they’re likely to be a good person to follow.

See who you have in common

Twitter will tell you if you follow people in common – if you’re both interested in the same kinds of people then the chances are you’ll both be interested in each other too.

Find relevant people to follow

Here are a few simple ways of finding people you might be interested to follow:

Find lists – but be selective

Lists can be a great source of potential people to follow.  If you’re a UK teacher, I’d particularly recommend @Schoolduggery’s excellent lists.  There are also list services such as listorious and  twellow which list tweeters in categories – but don’t just assume list membership means someone is a good follow.  Do your usual checks or you risk bloating your follow list with people who aren’t relevant or engaging.

Follow people your followers follow

Another good way to find people to follow is to take a look at who the people you’re following follow.  The people who share the best links are most engaging on Twitter tend to be following a lot of equally excellent tweeters that might make a valuable addition to your network.

Ask for recommendations

Tweet asking for recommendations of the best tweeters to follow.  If you’re interested in a specific type of person, make it clear: ‘Can anyone recommend any great primary ed music tweeters to follow please?  Please RT’ for example.  People are always keen to recommend excellent members of their network and are likely to retweet your request if you’ve been a valuable connection for them.

Search for Hashtags

Search for twitter hashtags that are of interest to you and see who is posting with that hashtag – they may well be worth following.

Join in with Twitter Chats

A great way to engage with other twitter users and find some new relevant people to follow is to throw yourself in at the deep end and take part in a twitter chat.  You’re also likely to gain some relevant followers this way too as long as you contribute to the conversation and exchange some good ideas.

And another thing…

Think QUALITY rather than QUANTITY

Remember – it’s not all about the numbers.  It is better to have a small but highly relevant and engaged personal learning network than a PLN of thousands of people who you aren’t interested in and never exchange ideas with.

How do YOU find relevant people to follow?  Please comment with your ideas and suggestions.

You might also like:

Nine great reasons teachers should use twitter

The 60 best teachers on twitter


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