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!

Evaluation Family Reunion: Why I Attended #Eval17

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The air becomes crisp and cool, and the leaves in New England turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. I enjoy running and hiking through the woods with leaves crunching beneath my feet and later cozying up on the couch with a good book and a hot cup of tea.

Fall also means it’s time for the annual meeting of the American Evaluation Association, or what I like to refer to as the evaluation family reunion. The event provides time for networking, learning, and reflecting so it is timely that this year the conference theme was “From Learning to Action.”

Last year I provided an overview of trends that emerged during the conference. Many of those themes (design, databases, evaluation capacity building, cultural responsiveness, and communication) surfaced this year as well. Thus, instead of talking about trends again, below are three reasons I continue to return to the conference each year.

1. Community

Outside of the annual conference, AEA offers opportunities for new and established evaluators to be actively engaged in the professional organization. Monthly webinars, topical interest groups, and the AEA365 blog provide different inroads for members to learn and engage with one another. Each Fall, over 4000 evaluators and evaluation-minded professionals gather together for the conference.

This year was my third time attending the American Evaluation Association conference and yet it feels like I have been a part of the evaluation community for decades. As a young professional it can sometimes feel daunting to navigate and explore new opportunities. The encouragement I have received both during and between conferences from established evaluators is remarkable. For example, I have conversed with current and past organization presidents and attended social gatherings with leaders in the field. This year I even had lunch with folks I had only previously interacted with on Twitter.

AEA is my professional home and I am so grateful to have found this group of passionate people. I believe the welcoming and supportive environment is what makes AEA and its members truly exceptional. I mean, really, at what other conferences can an introvert like myself leave feeling invigorated and inspired rather than completely depleted after three full days of intense networking?

2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

I came to the evaluation field through social work and public health so diversity, equity, and inclusion have been an integral part of my training and career. Each year I continue to learn from my evaluation colleagues about how to address, discuss, and incorporate DEI into my work. I am grateful that so many of my evaluation colleagues are willing to have tough conversations about DEI and to challenge and support each other as we learn and grow.

While the AEA Statement on Cultural Competence in Evaluation provides a starting point for evaluators, it is the daily conversations and action on the ground in the field that will create change. Together we can disrupt racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and other forms of privilege.

Here are a few of the examples that inspired me at this year’s conference:

  • Thursday’s plenary provided an overview of AEA’s Dialogues on Race and Class and demonstrated how programs and policies can perpetuate racism and classism
  • The Improve Group shared an example of how a nontraditional logic model can better align evaluation with an organization’s values, mission, and symbols
  • Tom Archibald demonstrated cultural humility by acknowledging white and male privilege while accepting his AEA new evaluator award
  • On Twitter, Nicole Bowman raised the concern that many past and future AEA conferences are held in towns with Indian and race-based mascots and asked how the organization will live up to next year’s theme and “speak truth to power”

Wondering how your beliefs about gender, race, and other topics may be impacting your evaluation work? Check out Harvard University’s Project Implicit Social Attitudes.

3. Authenticity

In my experience, the people I have met through AEA set egos and personal agendas aside in favor of community. Members have shared stories of their path to evaluation, what inspires them, and what challenges they experience. For example, during the past few conferences, AEA has held a learning from failures session where established leaders in the field share lessons learned during their careers.

The learning from failure session is one of my favorite parts of the conference because it showcases vulnerability and humility. I couldn’t attend this session this year because I was presenting at the same time, which was incredibly disappointing. However, just knowing that folks like Michael Quinn Patton, Rakesh Mohan, Stephanie Evergreen, and Kylie Hutchinson willingly and openly talked about their experiences helps me remember that evaluation is not about perfection, it is about improvement.

Need a few more learning from failure stories for inspiration between AEA conferences? Check out the Failure Lab.

So there you have it. My top three reasons for calling AEA my professional home are the community, attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and authenticity. Plus, I got an “I Likert you a lot” pin and a dataviz temporary tattoo, which basically solidifies the fact that AEA and its members are awesome.

Check out what other attendees have said about their time at #Eval17:

Now it’s your turn to share. Why did you attend #Eval17 and what did you learn?

Design for Non-Designers

Whether you identify as a designer or a non-designer, I think we can all agree that we are living in an era where short and easily digestible materials are increasingly preferable to dense reports. We have recently seen renewed interest in the field of data visualization, with formats such as infographics and one-pagers in high demand. At the same time, many organizations have limited funding and training opportunities available to purchase and learn design programs. Fortunately, there are a number of free and low-cost tools available online with equally low learning curves, allowing both designers and non-designers to create polished products. Examples of these include Canva, Piktochart, and Visme.

I recently held a live demo of one of these tools, Canva, at a conference. Below is a review of what I discussed (download the one-pager here).

What is Canva?

Canva is an online graphic design tool created for both designers and non-designers. The company prides itself on its easy drag and drop features, with a significantly lower learning curve than traditional design programs. Canva is currently available on the web, iPhone, and iPad. And best of all, your graphics are kept private unless you choose to share them publicly.

How Does Canva Work?

Like most of the tools mentioned above, Canva operates through drag and drop features that can be customized to your liking. For example, you can upload images, insert icons, create charts, change colors and fonts, and move and resize visual elements.

Designs can be created using a simple four-part process:

  • Choose a design category
  • Select a template
  • Customize the visual elements
  • Share electronically or print the design

Check out this introductory video to see Canva in action!

What Can I Create?

There are many different template categories in Canva so you are sure to find something that will meet your needs. Templates that I use regularly include infographics, presentations, magazines, and social media images. Other options include posters, flyers, invitations, business cards, and resumes.

Once you create your design, you can share it on social media, embed it on a website, or send a link to collaborators to view or edit. You can also download the files in different formats (jpeg, png, pdf) to print or include in a PowerPoint presentation.

How Much Does Canva Cost?

The basic program is my favorite price – free! And unlike some programs, the free version is actually very comprehensive. If you are looking for more functionality you can purchase Canva for Work, which is still affordable at around $100/year. Canva at Work allows you to load and store your organization’s colors and fonts ready to be used with templates. You can also more easily resize designs, create folders to organize your designs, and collaborate with other team members. Nonprofits can access Canva for Work for free with proof of 501(c)3 status. Visit their website to compare the different options and prices.

So whether you consider yourself a seasoned designer or you are just starting out, there are many tools available for you to explore. I encourage and challenge you to explore one of the free tools mentioned above (Canva, Piktochart, Visme) to see which one you like the best. You don’t have to start out with anything too fancy. Create a birthday card for a friend or overlay a picture with your favorite quote. Good luck and happy designing!

Download my one-page handout about Canva: Intro to Canva Handout (Grim, 2017)