Tech Chat – Twitter Bonus: Storytime!

Note: This is bonus content to accompany the four-part tech chat series about Twitter for evaluators. The first post explained the components and language of Twitter. The second post walked you through how to create your profile. The third post reviewed more advanced tips and tricks for engaging others and managing your content. The fourth post tied it all together with strategies for networking on Twitter.

There is so much wisdom I would like to share about Twitter but I felt like writing four blog posts was probably the upper limit for readers to enjoy the subject. In case you are still interested, here is some bonus content. In this post, I share one example of how Twitter has advanced my career and provide suggestions for non-evaluation accounts to follow.

Bonus 1: Storytime!

In case you need some more convincing, let me tell you a story. This is just one example of how Twitter has helped me advance my career. Four years ago I began tweeting more seriously to build my professional identity. Prior to that, I had a Twitter account for the sole purpose of representing my organization at events when needed. But I knew I needed to get my name out there and look for new opportunities so I took the plunge.

I started following people I admire like Ann Emery, Stephanie Evergreen, Rakesh Mohan, and Chris Lysy (just to name a few). After tweeting and retweeting for a while, some of these people began following me too! Not surprisingly, as a true #dataviz and #eval nerd, I got really excited when they actually retweeted or mentioned me.

Cartoon Brain Trust

Then during the 2015 American Evaluation Association Conference, Chris Lysy tweeted that he was cartooning in the hallway and looking for people to join him. So I did! Chris drew comics about the conference that we suggested and we talked about his creative process. It was awesome! And better yet, I met someone in person who I had only previously engaged with online.

Since that time I have even presented with Chris on a panel at the Eastern Evaluation Research Society Conference about communicating findings to stakeholders. Without Twitter, I would never have been inducted into the cartoon brain trust nor had the chance to present with Chris.

Bonus 2: Accounts to follow

Consistent with the #Eval17 theme of Learning to Action, which includes learning from fields outside of evaluation, I asked fellow evaluators on Twitter what non-evaluation accounts they suggest to follow. Here’s what they said (thanks Allison Titcomb, Chelsea Heatherington, Corey NewhouseDana Wanzer, Deven Wisner, Noesis Consulting):

Data Visualization

Education

Philanthropy

  • Center for Effective Philanthropy: @CEPData

Social Justice

Happy tweeting! How is your Twitter experience so far?What other non-evaluation accounts do you suggest evaluators follow?

Tech Chat – Twitter Part 4: Networking like a boss

Note: This is the final post in a four-part tech chat series about Twitter for evaluators. The first post explained the components and language of Twitter. The second post walked you through how to create your profile. The third post reviewed more advanced tips and tricks for engaging others and managing your content. This fourth post ties it all together with strategies for networking on Twitter.

Now that you’ve set up your Twitter profile and explored the basic and advanced functions of the social media platform you may still be asking yourself, “how can Twitter help advance my career?” I’m here to help you!

As mentioned in the first post of this series, there are a number of benefits of using Twitter professionally:

  • Network with other professionals
  • Raise awareness of an issue
  • Showcase your skills
  • Reach new audiences outside of evaluation
  • Disseminate evaluation findings
  • Crowdsource ideas with other professionals outside your immediate network
  • Keep up with the latest trends in the field
  • Find new collaborators and clients
  • Follow the work of your favorite companies and colleagues
  • Learn about training opportunities and conferences

Alright, I’ll admit that all sounds super easy on paper but it not always that simple in practice. Below are a few ways to help you engage with others online.

Identify a purpose

While it’s tempting to jump on Twitter and start retweeting and liking every post you see, it’s important to think about the purpose of your Twitter profile, which is to create (or advertise) your professional identity and brand. Choose a few topics to follow initially and stay away from contentious topics while you build your following. Although there’s nothing like a dramatic tweet war to draw quick attention to a profile, this is likely not the type of attention you are looking for as you launch. And remember that people only see the actual words you type, not your intention so choose your tweets carefully!

When thinking about what to post, consider these four formats to start:

  • Ask a question
  • Comment on a tweet
  • Provide a call to action
  • Share information

Be authentic

Another thing that goes along with identifying your purpose is being authentic. Building a professional identity on Twitter is all about what makes you unique. Honor and embrace what you bring to the table rather than trying to impersonate others. People value authenticity. Don’t believe me? Check out Brene Brown’s work.

“As you start building your ‘brand’ on Twitter, think about why people are following or talking to you. Are you an expert in a particular industry? Are you opinionated? Funny? Do you share great news articles or interesting photos? The bottom line: Be authentic and true to your values and you’ll quickly become a valuable member of the Twitter community.” (Mashable)

Locate power users

Find out who the power users and main influencers are in your field and follow them. Get a feel for the types of content they share and who they are following. Check out the resources that are being shared. Then, as described above, retweet a post that inspired you, ask the author of a newly released report a question, or retweet a post with a key quote as the comment. If you’re feeling really brave, send that power user a direct message (DM) and begin a conversation.

Follow your dream organizations

I have a whole list of organizations where I would love to work someday. I also have a list of CEOs that I find inspiring and would love to meet. I make sure to follow these accounts so I can keep up with the work they are doing and learn about potential job opportunities. This helps me to be prepared if I run into a representative from the organization at a conference or event. If you follow the accounts, you will be better able to comment on a new report or initiative the organization just released or launched. There’s really no better way to impress a recruiter than to know what they represent!

Participate in Twitter Chats

A Twitter Chat is a live conversation that takes place on Twitter at a certain time on a specific topic using a common hashtag. This is an opportunity to meet and engage with others who are interested in similar topics. Once you become a regular attendee, you will have a new network of virtual colleagues.

Macro social workers meet weekly for a Twitter Chat (#MacroSW) about systems and policy change. You can view the chat archives from past discussions here.

The Science Communication Journal Club (#SciCommJC) group hosts monthly Twitter Chats. Follow them on Twitter (@scicomm_jc) for more information.

  • Click here to find out about other Twitter Chat topics
  • Click here to learn more about hosting a Twitter Chat

Engage in conference discussions

If being a professional conference attendee was a job, I would like to sign up right now. There are few things I enjoy more than learning and learning from others. Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough time or funding to attend all of the events I would like to. Twitter to the rescue!

By following the conference hashtag, you are able to keep up with the conversation and presentations. I’ve done this and even had someone attending respond on Twitter to ask me what I wanted to learn about! It’s amazing how much you can learn from a Twitter feed. If you want to learn more, you can always follow-up with a certain presenter or look up the resources posted online.

Recent conference hashtags include:

  • American Evaluation Association: #Eval17
  • American Public Health Association: #APHA2017
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management: #APPAM2017
  • Tableau Conference: #Data17

Upcoming conference hashtags include:

  • American Society for Public Administration (March 9-13, 2018): #ASPA2018
  • Eastern Evaluation Research Society (April 29-May 1, 2018): #EERS18
  • Research and Eval Conference on Self-Sufficiency (May 30-June 1, 2018): #RECS2018

Once you have mastered these techniques, you will be on your way to networking like a boss on Twitter. Remember to tweet to share content (visuals, reports, links, etc.), ask questions, comment on other posts, and reach out to new colleagues.

I would love to hear from you! What strategies do you use when networking on Twitter?

Tech Chat – Twitter Part 3: Advanced tips and tricks

Note: This is the third post in a four-part tech chat series about Twitter for evaluators. The first post explained the components and language of Twitter. This second post walked you through how to create your profile. This third post reviews more advanced tips and tricks for engaging others and managing your content. The fourth post will share strategies for networking on Twitter.

Congratulations! If you are reading this third post you have likely already made your Twitter account and are ready to take your relationship with the social media platform and its users to the next level. In addition to providing bonus resources at the end, this post will review how to:

  • Schedule posts
  • Select hashtags
  • Create lists
  • Manage email notifications
  • Pin posts to your profile
  • Analyze tweets

Schedule Posts

Twitter provides a wealth of information both in terms of work-related content and pop culture. You literally have access to over 500 million tweets each day. So it’s no surprise that users can easily get sucked down the black hole of keeping up with posts. Unless you’re in charge of social media and communications for your job, your boss is probably not going to appreciate you spending all your time using the platform at work.

I use Buffer to schedule tweets in advance, which helps me stay focused at work while continuing to engage users online. The free version of Buffer allows users to connect one account per social media platform and schedule up to 10 posts per account at one time. Buffer also lets users chose their posting schedule (the times that posts go out each day) so you can optimize your impact. Additionally, Buffer provides analytics on each tweet sent using the platform. This lets users see the number of retweets, likes, mentions, clicks, and reach, which is helpful to understand the types of content your followers are engaging with the most.

Other scheduling programs include:

Optimize your posting times

Remember how I just said Buffer lets users optimize impact by choosing when to post tweets? Find out when your followers are most active through Tweriod. Once you know when your followers are the most active online, you can schedule your posts during these times. This increases the likelihood that your followers will see what you post. Seeing your tweets is the first step to engaging with the content.

Select Hashtags

In the first post, I defined the term hashtag and discussed how these are keywords included in your tweet that begin with the # symbol. Tweets with hashtags are twice as likely to be retweeted so they’re a great and easy way to engage followers. When posting, you may already know what hashtags you want to use. For example, if tweeting about evaluation you might use #eval and when tweeting about data visualization you might use #dataviz. I often tweet about ending homelessness and use #endhomelessness.

Using the same hashtags repeatedly is great because it helps build a following within a certain content area. Sometimes, however, you might want to increase your marketing and reach a new audience. To do this, I have most often used the website hashtagify. Hashtagify lets users “instantly identify top hashtags and influencers to maximize your success on social media.” Through their dashboard, users can view the top related hashtags, top accounts, popularity trends, and recent tweets. Hashtagify costs $14-$254 per month depending on how much you would like to track. However, you can view the hashtag dashboard to understand current trends without making an account.

(Note: Hashtagify is currently not accepting new accounts while they undergo a website upgrade but new users can get on their waitlist.)

There are many other hashtag tracking programs that vary in price, including:

Create lists

Twitter lists are a great way to organize tweets by content area. For example, my lists include those for evaluation, data visualization, housing and homelessness, and policy. There are two types of lists: private and public. Private Twitter lists are only visible to you and users do not get notified if you add them to your lists. Public lists are visible to others and users receive a notification when they are added to someone’s list. Users can also subscribe to your public lists, which means they can follow the conversation without having to follow each individual account.

Visit Twitter to learn more about how to create lists.

Manage email notifications Twitter Email Notifications

One thing that really annoys me in life is a cluttered inbox. I’m that person who likes to have five emails in my inbox and gets very worried about people who have 2000. I have all sorts of filters set up in my email account to automatically file emails into folders. So I definitely do not want to receive an email every single time I receive a notification on Twitter.

To manage email notifications, go to “settings and privacy” then “email notifications.” I check Twitter at least once a day so I currently do not receive any emails. If you rarely check Twitter, you might want to choose to receive certain email notifications so you know when someone has mentioned you or sent you a direct message.

Pin posts to your profile

Have an event coming up that you want to advertise or just released a new blog post or evaluation report? Pin this information to your profile! Twitter allows users to pin one post to the top of your profile. This means that this tweet will show up at the top of your twitter feed as the first thing your followers see. Pinning a post to your page is very easy. Click on the downward arrow to the right of your tweet and then select “pin to your profile page.”

Analyze tweets

As an evaluator, I’m always curious how my tweets are performing in terms of retweets, likes, mentions, followers, profile visits, and engagement rate. Twitter Analytics lets you view data about the past 28 days for free. Users can also use tools like the aforementioned Buffer and Hootsuite to post tweets and view analytics.

Twitter Analytics
Example analytics from Twitter

Bonus: Additional resources

  • Twitter keyboard shortcuts
    Short on time? Twitter has keyboard shortcuts to help you optimize your use of the social media platform.

Twitter Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Advanced search
    Looking for specific content on Twitter? Use the advanced search function. The easiest way to do this is to go to the advanced search homepage, which lets users apply filters such as time period, hashtags, keywords, location, and users.

Twitter Advanced Search

  • Unfollow people quickly
    Have a lot of followers that are no longer relevant to your work or are inactive users? Get help cleaning up your account quickly by using ManageFlitter (Free – $49/month).

I want to hear from you! What other tools are you using to engage others and manage your Twitter content?

Tech Chat – Twitter Part 2: Creating a strong profile

Note: This is the second post in a four-part tech chat series about Twitter for evaluators. The first post explained the components and language of Twitter. This second post will walk you through how to create your profile. The third post will review more advanced tips and tricks for engaging others and managing your content. The fourth post will share networking strategies on Twitter.

Now that you have a better understanding of the main components of Twitter, you are ready to start using the social media platform. Below are the steps for creating an account.

Create a Twitter account

The first step to having a Twitter account is to actually make one. Start by visiting the Twitter website. The trickiest part of this step is to figure out what your Twitter handle (your account name) is going to be. Mine is @ecgrim. I went with a simple and short combination of my name. Choose a Twitter handle that is consistent with your professional identity or branding. Sometimes your first choice is already taken by someone else so have a backup ready just in case!

Add a profile picture

Upload a professional photo of yourself. Typically, this is a close up of your face so that people can recognize you both online and in real life. It seems that most people have an overwhelming desire to post a photo that is super flattering since it’s going to be uploaded to the internet for the world to see. I get that. But sometimes these photos are really outdated, which makes it challenging to find and connect with you in the sea of people at a conference. So if you want to be recognizable in the real world, choose something that looks awesome and has also been taken recently.

Now I’m not suggesting that your photo has to be a boring headshot with you in a formal suit. If this is your personality, that’s great and it will be the perfect photo for your profile. But if it’s not, choose something that brings out your personality and style. Your professional identity is all about what makes you unique. Embrace this!

Include a bio

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.07.37 PMNow that you have chosen a fabulous Twitter handle and photo for your account, it’s time to really help others get to know you. You do this by writing a brief bio. UGH I know – bios can be the worst! Personally, I like to include a combination of what I do professionally as well as some of my personal interests to help people get a better feel for who I am. I’ll admit, I overanalyzed this step way too much. Eventually, I came up with the bio in this photo.

Is it perfect? No. Has it had multiple iterations? Yes. Will I continue to edit and update it? Probably. Don’t stress – just choose something to start with and revise it over time.

Upload a cover photo

If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can include a cover photo. This is the image that appears on the top banner of your Twitter page. There is a lot of variability about what to include here and many people choose to just keep it as a color with no image or text, which is totally fine. Other examples include company logos, photos of your work, and a key quote or statistic. Be creative – this is an opportunity to have your profile stand out from others.

Choose your privacy settings

Twitter allows you to choose whether to make your profile private or public. Private profiles and the associated tweets are only visible to people who you have approved to follow you. Public profiles are available to everyone. The internet can be a scary and creepy place so you might be inclined to make your Twitter profile private. Although this adds more security and limits the amount of spam you will get, the downside is that you will not be able to engage in broader conversations on Twitter. You can change this setting at any time, so try it out both ways and see what works for you.

Start following others

Now the fun begins – start following people and organizations! A great place to start is to look up colleagues and partner organizations with whom you are already engaged. Think about the e-newsletters you receive and follow those organizations too! Here are a few accounts in the evaluation field to get you started:

Stay tuned because in the next post I will share additional tips and tricks for optimizing your use of Twitter as well as other accounts some of your fellow evaluators recommend.

Tech Chat – Twitter Part 1: Demystifying the social media platform

If you were at the 2017 American Evaluation Association conference, you probably heard mention of the conference Twitter feed and/or the conference hashtag (#Eval17). Increasingly, evaluators are embracing social media as a platform to connect, learn, and share information. In fact, there was even an informal Twitter lunch during the conference when those of us who have been following each other online could actually meet in person. Thanks, Dana Wanzer (@danawanzer) for planning the lunch and getting us all together!

Not convinced about the benefits of tweeting? I’ll admit, I was a true Twitter skeptic at first. I didn’t understand why people needed to access up to date information from their phone at all hours of the day and how 140 characters (just increased to 280) was going to be sufficient for learning and engagement. Now I’m officially a Twitter enthusiast. Not only have I connected with other professionals around the world, I’ve learned a lot and have even received a few consulting offers based on my Twitter feed. So I encourage evaluators both new to the field and those who are established to try it out for yourself. There are over 300 million users active on Twitter each month so you’ll be in good company!

Still not convinced? Here are some additional benefits of using Twitter professionally:

  • Network with other professionals
  • Raise awareness of an issue
  • Showcase your skills
  • Reach new audiences outside of evaluation
  • Disseminate evaluation findings
  • Crowdsource ideas with other professionals outside your immediate network
  • Keep up with the latest trends in the field
  • Find new collaborators and clients
  • Follow the work of your favorite companies and colleagues
  • Learn about training opportunities and conferences

Confused about how to get started? Let me walk you through some of the steps. I’m going to break the steps into four different posts so you can reference each or just one based on where you are in navigating the process:

  • Tech Chat – Twitter Part 1: Demystifying the social media platform
  • Tech Chat – Twitter Part 2: Creating a strong profile
  • Tech Chat – Twitter Part 3: Advanced tips and tricks
  • Tech Chat – Twitter Part 4: Networking like a boss

If you’re new to Twitter, one of the first steps is to figure out what all the different terms mean.  Below I discuss each of the key components to get you started.

Twitter handle

A Twitter handle is the name that everyone will recognize you by. This may be your name, your initials, your company name, or something that speaks to what you do. Twitter handles start with the @ symbol. For example, mine is @ecgrim and is a combination of my name. I would have chosen @elizabethgrim to be consistent with my blog address and professional branding but someone else had already taken that name.  Lesson 1 – always have a backup plan!

Tip: Choose something relatively short so that it’s easy for people to remember and recognize.

Tweet

A tweet is a short message that shares information, resources, or opinions. Tweets are intended to be brief so they have character limits. The limit used to be 140 characters but was recently increased to 280 characters. That doesn’t mean you have to use all 280 characters every time you tweet. It’s easier to read short messages, so keep things brief! And for those perfectionists out there who are wondering, “can I delete a tweet if I change my mind or notice an error?” Yes, you can. But this is the internet we’re talking about so can you really ever erase something completely? Unlikely.

Tip 1: Tweets with visual content and links generally get more engagement and attention so include those when relevant and available.

Tip 2: If you start a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle (@ecgrim), this tweet is actually sent as a reply to that person. This means only that person and users following both of you will see the tweet. To bypass this, start the tweet with a period. This will allow the tweet to show up on your twitter feed and reach a broader audience (.@ecgrim).

Retweet

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.16.17 PM
This is an example of a retweet

According to Twitter, “a retweet is a re-posting of a Tweet. Twitter’s Retweet feature helps you and others quickly share that Tweet with all of your followers. You can Retweet your own Tweets or Tweets from someone else. Sometimes people type ‘RT’ at the beginning of a Tweet to indicate that they are re-posting someone else’s content.”

Tip: If you want to engage with content someone else posted, you can quote a retweet. This allows you to add a comment that appears right above the retweet.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.16.42 PM
This is an example of a quoted retweet

Hashtags

Hashtags are basically just keywords that start with the # symbol. Hashtags are searchable so it’s a great way to get more people to see your posts. For example, whenever I sent a tweet about the 2017 American Evaluation Association conference, I included the conference hashtag (#Eval17). This made it easy for anyone else at the conference to find my tweet and to follow all of the different conversations happening during the event. Users could do this by searching #Eval17 on Twitter, which pulls up a list of all the tweets (a Twitter feed) with that hashtag.

Use hashtags wisely. While tempting, you don’t need to hashtag every word in your tweet. Choose the keywords that you want users to engage with and make those hashtags. A general guideline is to include up to three hashtags in one tweet.

Tip: Follow #eval and #dataviz to keep up with what’s happening in the evaluation field. If you can’t attend a conference in person, follow the conference hashtag to learn remotely and engage in the discussion. This works for webinars too!