Are you a new to Twitter teacher? Not exactly sure how to get started? This cheat sheet will include easy-to-follow action steps to help you build, organize and manage your PLN (Personal Learning Network). For information about the benefits of being a connected educator or why you might want a PLN, check out the Benefits of Being a Connected Educator.
1. "I created a Twitter account. Who Should I follow?"
Other teachers and ed-leaders of course! It's okay if you don't know them in real life. All that matters is that they're sharing content and resources that will aid in your growth and inspire you to be a better teacher.
Some of my personal favorites (because they consistently create and share great content):
Need more ideas? Follow me @RabeckaKrill and check out everyone I'm following. I only follow folks I hope to learn from.
2. Grow your followers - Grow your influence:
Part of the fun of Twitter and not completely separate from the unlimited opportunities for learning is this innate social desire to grow your followers and extend your reach. The more Twitter followers you have, the farther your voice can travel. Grow your followers by sharing relevant content and sharing yourself. People are listening and you could inspire thousands of teachers with a simple thought you described in 140 characters or less. Don't forget to use relevant hashtags and show up to live chats. I'll talk more about hashtags and live chats in a minute.
3. "Okay. I'm currently following 314 people and have only 5 followers. I haven't felt this unpopular since high school. How do I grow my following?"
My best advice is to start off slowly. Don't go on a follow frenzy and follow every educator you come across. Try to keep your "following" to "follower" ratio pretty even. That shows other users that you value a healthy give and take in your PLN. You want potential followers to notice that you seek to learn from others as much as others seek to learn from you. There's definitely an element of social proof in the Twittersphere. If your follower count is higher than your following count there's a good chance people will deem you "followable". As silly as it seems, having many followers can sometimes translate to: "I'm someone worth following."
On the other hand, if you're following 314 people and only have 5 followers, potential followers will wonder what that's all about. It's the Twitter equivalent to trying too hard - people might not want to be around you. The good news is that it's avoidable. Just move slowly and clean up your "following" list every once in a while. If someone doesn't follow you back - maybe you don't need to be following them. With that being said, I do follow some highly influential folks who don't follow me back because, well, their content is worth it.
If someone follows you, take a look at their bio. Consider these questions: Are they in your field? How many people follow them? What are their most recent tweets about? Are they active on the platform? Answering these questions should help you decide whether they're going to contribute to your PLN or not.
Another useful tip on this point: you will end up with at least a handful of followers who seem to have come out of nowhere. They may work in a field you're not even remotely interested in or have a bio that reads something like "I CAN HELP YOU GROW YOUR FOLLOWERS FOR $5.99" - I think it's fair to say that you have no social obligation to follow these folks back. They aren't going to contribute to your PLN.
4. "Okay, I get it! What is the fastest way to grow my followers though?"
It's not a sprint! Commit to growing your PLN consistently, over time - Twitter isn't going away any time soon. That being said, I have two suggestions for maximizing your time and using the platform efficiently.
Get Organized With a Social Media Management Tool:
Don't be limited to only tweeting when you "have free time". You can grow your followers faster by automating tweets and scheduling posts ahead of time using a social media management tool like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Buffer. You can sit down at your computer on a Sunday night and map out your tweets for the week. Hootsuite has this nifty little app called Hootlet that allows you to bank any piece of content you view online and auto-schedule it for later. I really can't imagine navigating social media without a management tool.
Participate in Live Twitter Chats:
This one might take you a little while. Don't rush your organic mastery of the platform but do know that these live chats provide the greatest opportunity for connection and collaboration on the web! Not only do these ed chats inspire and educate, they give us a chance to work with like-minded professionals across the globe. If you're nervous about speaking up or contributing, lurk for a while. Get to know the players. Make sure to favorite and retweet any tweets that you identify with or enjoy. This action alone will attract plenty of followers. Once you get comfortable you can start contributing. As soon as I started participating in live chats, my follower number started to grow significantly.
5. "When do these live chats happen and how do I find them?"
Live education chats happen every day of the week at an agreed upon time. The chats are facilitated by one or more moderators who keep the conversation moving with thoughtful prompts or questions that adhere to the agreed upon topic.
Use a weekly calendar to stay organized.
For an extensive google doc list of every single Twitter education chat, check out Educational Chats on Twitter.
If you take my advice and use a social media management tool like Hootsuite, there are ways to save your favorite chat streams so that you don't have to remember them from week to week. Check out the screen shot of my Hootsuite dashboard to see what I mean.
6. Twitter at Conferences:
Many popular education conferences use a conference hashtag to encourage attendees to tweet about their conference experience. This is particularly useful for folks at the conference who are torn between attending several difference workshops but have to choose just one or two. Following the conference hashtag lets you hear what's going on in other workshops. You can choose to follow it in real time or archive the stream to review and catch up on later. This is actually how I became connected to @walterinDC. I sat in on one of his workshops at #NEASCD back in November and was happy to tweet about his workshop to others who couldn't be there. It's also a nice way to meet new people at conferences. I always go looking for folks I see on Twitter tweeting to the conference hashtag. Those are the kind of engaged educators I want to be connected to for future learning. Give it a try at your next conference!
7. Don't Just Consume - Create:
Show off your expertise by starting a blog and sharing your knowledge with others. There's another teacher out there searching for inspiration and resources. Starting a blog is easy! Use a CMS (content management system) like Wordrpess, Tumblr or Squarespace. These platforms allow you to create and design a blog with little to no programming expertise. Once you have a piece you're proud of, go ahead and share it via relevant hashtags on Twitter! If your content is good, don't be surprised to see people subscribing to your blog and literally "following" you online. Contribute to your community - It'll feel good and people will listen.
Let's use our PLN to inspire change and growth in the field of education. You won't be a "new to Twitter teacher" for long!
Bring a teacher to Twitter and share this cheat sheet with them. We can make a difference together.
What did I miss? Share in the comments!