Making the Most of Twitter for Academics
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Making the Most of Twitter for Academics

A step-by-step guide to help you promote your research and find useful information
4.9 (44 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
5,553 students enrolled
Created by Dr Catherine Pope
Last updated 12/2015
English [Auto-generated]
Price: Free
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • 5 Articles
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
What Will I Learn?
  • Use Twitter with confidence to promote their research and find useful information
View Curriculum
  • You don't need anything apart from a computer and an internet connection.

Are you struggling to get the hang of Twitter? Or, indeed, struggling to see the point of it at all? If so, this course is for you. In Making the Most of Twitter, I show you how to get started with this powerful and versatile social media tool. With nearly two hours of video material (with full transcripts), I walk you through Twitter’s main features, providing many examples of how it can be used to promote and share your research, and also to find useful information. We’ll cover the absolute basics before moving on to more sophisticated techniques and third-party tools to enhance your Twitter experience.

Some of the questions I address include:

  • How do I share my research on Twitter?
  • Who should I talk to, and how do I find them?
  • How much time should I spend on Twitter?
  • What shouldn’t I say?
  • How can I measure my effectiveness on Twitter?
  • What can’t Twitter do?
  • How do I avoid the pitfalls?
Who is the target audience?
  • This course is designed for people who are completely new to Twitter or have very little experience. It's probably not suitable for anyone who is already using Twitter regularly.
Compare to Other Twitter Marketing Courses
Curriculum For This Course
23 Lectures
1 Lecture 06:15

Hello, and a very warm welcome. This is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. Thank you so much for choosing my Twitter course. I’ve been using Twitter for over 7 years and it has brought many benefits to me as an academic researcher. I also run workshops on how to make the most of Twitter, and it’s so satisfying to see confused academics emerge as confident users by the end of the session. Over the next couple of hours, I’d really like to turn you into a confident Twitter user, too.

First of all, what is Twitter?

Well, I’m sure you already have an idea of what it does. If you’d like an official definition, it’s a microblogging service or Social Networking Service - which is just a fancy way of saying that it enables you to post short messages. Famously, those messages must be 140 characters or fewer. This is a restriction that presents both an advantage and a challenge, as we shall see.

More simply, Twitter is a massive global conversation with over 500m participants. While only around 300m of them are actually active (the rest are just lurking), that’s still a lot of people. Its popularity means that Twitter can often seem more of a cacophony than a conversation. And like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it might feel as though you’ve opened a small door into an enormous world where everything is confusing, and occasionally malevolent.

However, once you find interesting people to follow and engage with, Twitter actually becomes one of the most versatile and powerful communication tools available to the 21st-century academic. Perhaps this versatility is why it proves unfathomable to some newcomers. In fact, no two people use Twitter in exactly the same way, which is what makes it so powerful. Yes, there are certainly pitfalls (as I’ll explain later), but they are easily avoided if you are vigilant. In this course, I’ll be showing exactly how to make Twitter work effectively and safely for you.

To give you an idea of Twitter’s reach, here are the top ten most popular accounts, as of September 2015:

Katy Perry: 75,364,319

Justin Bieber: 67,514,288

Barack Obama: 64,039,605

Taylor Swift: 63,596,719

YouTube: 55,053,560

Rihanna: 50,968,782

Lady Gaga: 50,772,457

Justin Timberlake: 48,821,898

Ellen DeGeneres: 47,546,474

Twitter: 46,578,078

Admittedly, there are no academics among them, but this does give you a target. Beyonce has a mere 14.1m followers, but then she has sent only 13 tweets. The demographics of Twitter are surprising (at least, they were to me). More than half of users are over 35 and the majority are women. So it’s by no means the exclusive preserve of the young and hip - which can be the case on other social media platforms.

For academics, Twitter is definitely the place to be, for 5 key reasons:

  1. To connect with other people and build online communities
  2. To record discussions, such as conferences and online chats
  3. To share useful resources
  4. To keep up-to-date in your subject
  5. To refine (and sometimes challenge) your thinking

Whereas Facebook is generally restricted to people you know, Twitter is public, allowing you to reach out to others way beyond your usual circles. Your friends and family might not be interested in your latest book or journal article, but some of Twitter’s 500m users will be. Even if only 0.001% pay attention, that’s a lot of potential fans. And new audiences are vital if you’re trying to promote a publication or event. In Section 8, we’ll be looking at how you can measure your online impact with analytics tools.

If you’re still in any doubt as to whether Twitter is a valid academic tool, I’ll mention that there are now citation formats for tweets. So if you say anything profound, it should be cited in exactly the same way as a quote from a book or journal article. Here’s an example from the Modern Language Association’s style guide:

Athar, Sohaib (ReallyVirtual). “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” 1 May 2011, 3:58 p.m. Tweet.

One of the things I really like about Twitter is that it’s easy to maintain separate accounts for different purposes - something that Facebook actively discourages. I actually have three Twitter accounts, allowing me to tweet about diverse subjects without alienating my followers.

@catherinepope is my personal account where I can tweet about anything I fancy, although it is usually nothing too personal.

As @digi_researcher, I tweet about digital skills and elearning and engage with people to promote myself as an author and educator.

I also run a small press specialising in books from and about the nineteenth century and use @victoriansecret to talk to other Victorianists.

There’s no overlap between @digi_researcher and @victoriansecret, so it’s best to keep them completely separate. Over the years, I’ve also created ad hoc Twitter accounts to promote particular books or events.

I’ll be using my various accounts to illustrate different points throughout this course. Incidentally, it’s not very easy to manage multiple accounts through, but it’s a breeze with some of the tools I’ll show you in Section 8.

OK, hopefully you’re now convinced that Twitter is worth a try.

By the end of this course, you should be familiar with all the major features of Twitter, including hashtags, lists, and chats. We’ll also spend some time looking at how to stay safe, and evaluate a few of the many tools that can enhance your Twitter experience. With the help of videos and notes, I’ll guide you through every step. I’ve included a full transcript for each lecture and you can post a question on the discussion tab at any time. I’ve tried to keep this course as succinct and simple as possible - I’m not going to attempt to cover absolutely everything that Twitter can do - just what you need to start using it effectively.

Please take a look at my introductory text in the next section, then you can get started with the first video lecture.

Thanks again for joining me; I hope you enjoy the course!

Hello & Welcome
Getting Started
3 Lectures 14:07

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to walk you through creating a Twitter account. If you already have one, you can skip ahead to crafting a strong profile. Otherwise, let’s get started.

Creating an account is simply a case of heading to and entering your name, email address and chosen password on the New to Twitter? form.

It’s worth entering your real name as this both creates trust and helps people to find you. You can have up to 20 characters.

And be sure to use a valid email address. Twitter sends a verification link by email and you’ll need to click it before you have full access to your account.

Please choose a secure password - one that comprises a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Like all major websites, Twitter is targeted by hackers.

On the next screen, Twitter shows you a green progress bar to indicate the strength of your password. You can see here that mine is rubbish and that I need to try harder.


After completing the form and clicking Sign up for Twitter, you’re asked to choose a username, or select one of the suggestions based on your email address and name.

With so many people already on Twitter, finding a username can be an art form. You can have up to a maximum of 15 characters, and no special characters are allowed, apart from underscores. Using a shorter username is actually better, as it gives your followers more space in which to reply to you (usernames swallow up some of the 140-character limit).

Twitter advises you if your chosen username is already taken, and then it’s a case of coming up with more ideas until you’ve achieved uniqueness.

Click the blue Sign Up button and your account is created.

Twitter now asks for your phone number. This won’t be displayed on your profile, but Twitter uses it to protect the security of your account. If it’s ever hacked, it’ll be much easier to regain access to your account.

If you entered a mobile number, you’ll receive a text message with a verification code; for landline numbers, there’ll be an automated call with a code that you’ll need to write down.

Enter your code in the box then click Verify.

Make sure you’ve confirmed your Twitter account in the email, and then you’re ready to go.

Just repeat the process outlined above to create additional accounts, if required. You’ll need a different email address for each of them, though.

Now your account is set up, we can create a really strong profile.

Creating a Twitter account

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, we’re going to look at how to create a really strong Twitter profile. This is very important, as other users might be wary of communicating with you unless they have an idea of who you are.

The size limit for your Twitter profile is just 160 characters - so, not much longer than a tweet. Use this tiny space wisely by adding keywords that people might be searching for and to give a clear sense of what you’re likely to be talking about.

It’s also worth remembering that mentioning political or religious affiliations in your profile might alienate some users.

Oh, and don’t write about yourself in the third person, unless you’re Beyonce or the Queen.

To edit your profile, log in to and click your avatar at the top of the screen (at the moment, this will resemble an egg), then choose View profile.

Now click the Edit Profile button on the right and you’ll see a short form.

Let’s go through the fields:

Bio - this is where you enter your 160-character description.

Location - you don’t have to let people know where you are, but it’s friendlier to do so. You could just enter your country, or your city, too, if you feel like it.

Website - as your profile is so short, it’s definitely worth linking to more information about you and your research. If you don’t have your own website, you could instead use your university page or profile.

Birthday - alas, Twitter isn’t planning to send you a card, and I think the main purpose of requesting your birthdate is to market stuff to you more effectively (or at least to make assumptions based on your age). This field is entirely optional. You could just enter the month and day, and you can also decide who sees this information by clicking icons with the tiny arrows.

From this form you can choose a theme colour for your profile, should you feel strongly about the aesthetic experience. Click the Theme color button and you’re presented with a palette. You can even specify another colour entirely, assuming you know the hexadecimal code (this is how colours are specified in HTML). Visit color-hex if you want to choose something a bit snazzier and copy the codes under the swatches. We’ll look at other customisation options in a moment.

Getting your biography just right is a tricky business, but you can come back and edit it whenever you like. What you write here is going to depend on who you are and what you do, but here’s mine as an example:

So, I’ve established that I’m an academic in the field of Victorian Studies, and also that I have a 21st-century existence as a digital skills trainer. There are plugs for the ebooks I’ve written, prefixed with hashtags. Don’t worry if you have no idea what this means - we’ll be covering hashtags in Section 4. Finally, I’ve linked to one of my other Twitter accounts so followers can see what else I’m saying.

As you’ll see, I’ve included a link to my blog.

Using keywords ensures that people will find you, both within Twitter and through search engines such as Google.

By default, your profile image is a rather sinister egg. I’m guessing that’s not what you actually look like. It’s much easier for people to get a sense of you through a photograph, and a decent headshot can invite trust.

Some users create an avatar based on their book cover, but this can be both impersonal and pushy - it just suggests that you’ll be in permanent sales mode.

The optimum size for a profile photo is 400x400px. Don’t worry if you’re not adept at editing images, as Twitter will help you crop or resize it.

Click the Add a profile photo icon, then you can choose either to upload an image, or take one using a webcam. If uploading, find the file on your computer and then position and size it on the next screen. You can zoom in with the slider. As your avatar mainly appears the size of a thumbnail, make sure you zoom in if you want to be recognisable.

One shortcut is to upload your photo to a website called This useful tool then optimises it for a variety of social media websites.

Twitter also gives you the option to create a header photo. This is a banner that appears at the top of your profile page and can contain anything you like. The recommended size is 1500x500px, so you’ll need to find something that works well in those proportions. I’m using a photo I took near where I live. It reminds me that occasionally we have sunny days in England.

For inspiration, try, a free online tool that includes Twitter templates.

You don’t need to include a header image at all, so just leave it for now if you aren’t feeling artistic.

Let’s have a look at the other information on your profile. Your profile page also displays some stats. They won’t look very impressive if you’ve only just created your account, but it’ll soon pick up.

It shows:

  • How many tweets you’ve posted
  • The number of your followers
  • How many people you are following

These details give a sense of how active a Twitter user is and also whether they’re likely to follow you back. J K Rowling (@jk_rowling), for example, has 5.56m followers but is only following 216 people. This suggests she’s unlikely to reciprocate.

OK, now you have a profile, we’ll take a tour of Twitter’s interface and dissect the anatomy of a tweet.

Crafting a Strong Profile

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to give you a tour of Twitter.

The interface for can be a bit overwhelming at first, but let’s work our way around it. Starting in the top left-hand corner, you’ll see links to Home, Notifications, and Messages. Unsurprisingly, Home takes you to the homepage. Notifications is where Twitter lets you know that people have followed, mentioned or retweeted you, or liked one of your tweets. Messages are Direct Messages, which only you can see. We’ll be finding out what all of this means in the next section.

Over on the right is a search box, which is covered in Section 6. Then you’ll see your avatar. Clicking on it gives you access to edit your profile, access settings, and view your analytics.

Finally, and mostly importantly, there’s a Tweet button. This is where you click to compose a new tweet. That’s coming up in Section 5.

Heading over the left-hand side of the Twitter homepage, there’s a profile box with your details, avatar, and statistics. You can see how many tweets you’ve sent, the number of people you’re following, and how many followers you’ve accumulated. These stats might not look very impressive at the moment, but give it a little time.

I find the Trends area of Twitter utterly perplexing, perhaps because it often trumpets sporting events or the exploits of youthful popstars. Thankfully, you can customise it to reflect your own geographical location and interests.

Click Change next to the header, then Change again. Twitter might claim in a pop-up message that it has lovingly tailored those trends for you, but I remain unconvinced.

In the box below (or sometimes on the right-hand side, depending on the size of your browser window), Twitter suggests people for you to follow. Some are relevant, while others have paid to annoy you by repeatedly appearing on your home screen. We’ll be looking at who to follow in Section 4.

The main area of the screen is occupied by your Twitter timeline. This displays the tweets of everyone you follow.

To keep it up-to-date you need to click the View XX new Tweets banner at the top, as it can’t refresh itself.

Above the timeline is also a box where you can create your own tweet.

OK, that’s the main Twitter interface. Now let’s look at an individual tweet.

Here’s one I sent from my @victoriansecret account.

Up the top of the tweet you can see the creator, their name, and username, along with the date it was sent.

Within the main body of the tweet, you can include links, images, and mentions of other users, which we’ll come to very soon.

Underneath the tweet, there are icons for Reply (the left arrow), Retweet (recycling symbol), and Like (the heart), all of which are explained in the next section. You can also see here how many people have retweeted or liked it.

Click on the ellipsis at the end for a few more options.

Share via Direct Message - use this to send a tweet to another user in a private message.

Copy link to Tweet - this gives you the URL or web link to that specific tweet. Every tweet has its own unique address so that you can link to it directly and easily share it with people beyond Twitter.

Embed Tweet - if you want to display a particular tweet on your website, Twitter generates the necessary code for you to copy and paste.

Mute - if somebody you follow is being annoying (and believe me, they will be at some point), use Mute to hide their tweets from your timeline. This is a less hostile approach than unfollowing or blocking them.

Block - for persistent offenders, you can use the block feature. Blocked users can’t follow you, send Direct Messages, or view your tweets.

Report - if a Twitter user goes beyond annoying and actually becomes criminal, you can report them. Obviously, this option should be only used in exceptional circumstances.

Dealing with difficult situations is discussed in more detail in Section 7.

So, that’s the Twitter interface. Let’s start interacting.

Navigating the Twitter interface
Interacting on Twitter
1 Lecture 10:36

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. Now that you understand some of the key elements of Twitter and have established your profile, it’s time to start interacting with other users. In this lesson, we’ll look at five different forms of interaction: likes, retweets, replies, mentions, and Direct Messages.


First of all, likes.

Liking a tweet serves two purposes. Firstly, it adds it to a list so you can easily find it again. Secondly, it acts as an endorsement - the tweet’s creator can see who liked it, which will give them a warm fuzzy glow. It’s the same as liking a post on Facebook or LinkedIn. In Section 9, I’ll explain you how you can use this feature to save tweets to other applications, such as Evernote, Pocket, and OneNote. There’s no way to easily sort or search your likes, so it could become an unwieldy list if you don’t find a way of managing them.

To like a tweet, click the heart icon underneath it.

Go to your profile page on and you can see your Likes above the timeline. In case you’ve forgotten, you need to click your avatar at the top to access your profile.

Click on the Likes link to see everything you’ve saved.

Once you start tweeting, you’ll see how many people have liked your tweets - a number appears next to the heart icon.

You can see exactly who has liked your tweets by clicking Notifications on the top menu bar.

If you’re a nervous newbie, liking is a good way of interacting without making yourself too conspicuous.


A retweet (commonly abbreviated to RT) is an even more enthusiastic (and conspicuous) endorsement. Some Twitter users never actually tweet themselves, preferring instead to just share what they’ve found useful. This does mean that Twitter sometimes seems like a ginormous echo chamber, but retweeting is a vital part of the community.

To retweet, you simply click the icon with the double arrows (it looks, rather appropriately, like a recycling symbol).

Now you’re asked to confirm that you want to proceed. At this stage, you can also add your own comment, for which you are allowed 116 characters. Known as a “quote tweet”, this is a new development that encourages users to add their own voice.

This is what a quoted tweet looks like:

My followers can simply click on the quoted tweet to see it in all its glory.

Speaking of which, if you’re using anything other than for tweeting, you might get the opportunity to edit RTs. They are automatically prefixed with “RT” and the originator’s username. Don’t be tempted to remove this, as it’s there to acknowledge the source.

If you change the original text of a RT, it’s good practice to replace RT with MT, which stands for Modified Tweet. One of my earliest blunders on Twitter was making a retweet more colloquial, only to be tartly informed by the originator that he would never use language like that. Oops. It’s fine to correct any obvious spelling errors without flagging it as a modified tweet, but don’t get carried away like I did.

Sometimes you’ll learn about an interesting link through a tweet but won’t necessarily want to RT the accompanying text. In this case you can use HT - Heard Through - instead of RT. This acknowledges your source and gives you the opportunity to add your own commentary. Some people also use the more obvious via in preference to HT.

I don’t often see these used, but a couple of other potentially useful shortcodes are TT and PRT. TT is a translated tweet.

PRT is a partial retweet, so a RT where you’ve made substantial changes. In comparison, a modified tweet might just have been tweaked slightly.

Using RT, MT, and HT properly will help avoid Twitter faux pas, and possibly make you some friends. Not everyone uses them in the same way (or at all), so don’t necessarily emulate what others do.


Once you’re ready for an actual conversation on Twitter, you can start replying.

Click the left arrow underneath the tweet to send a reply.

You’ll see a tweet pop up with the username of the person to whom you’re responding. Twitter also associates your reply with the original tweet, so the other person will know what you’re talking about.

Please remember that replies are public, so don’t use this feature for private conversations. In the early days of Twitter, all your replies would show up in your followers’ streams. Unsurprisingly, this proved rather annoying. Nowadays, people will see your replies in their timeline only if they’re following both you and the person with whom you’re chatting. So, if I respond to a tweet from @judithflanders, you won’t see it in your timeline unless you’re also following her, but it is still visible through her profile page and mine.

If you do want everyone to see your reply, add some text before the username of the person to whom you’re responding.

The easiest method is to insert a full stop (or period), then a space. It would look like this:

Now it’ll appear in your followers’ timeline like a normal tweet.


Sometimes you won’t want to respond to a particular tweet and instead just draw attention to a Twitter user by mentioning them. You can do this by adding the @ sign and their username to a tweet. As with replies, you need to place some text before the username if you want everyone to see it in their timelines.

The user will see under Notifications that you’ve mentioned them. The Notifications area can get quite busy, so you can use the link on the left to filter them and just view Mentions.

In this example, I’ve tweeted about a new book and mentioned the editor @RuthHeholt.

You can use mentions to pay compliments, ask questions, or acknowledge sources.


While most of what you do on Twitter happens very publicly, there is a way of communicating in private. Well, I say private, but I subscribe to the view that nothing on the internet is truly confidential. It takes only the slip of a mouse or a contact with a grudge to unveil your innermost thoughts.

A Direct Message (commonly abbreviated to DM) goes to a user’s inbox and doesn’t appear in anyone’s timeline.

They’re accessible from the top menu on

Until very recently, DMs were limited to 140 characters, but now you can make them up to 10,000 characters (although some third-party tools might impose their own limits). You can only send a DM to a user who is following you, although you don’t need to be following them. This restriction is designed to prevent spam. Nevertheless, direct messaging is generally seen as a spammy tool, and is often misused. Some people use special apps to automatically fire DMs at new followers, invariably imploring them to buy their new novel or to check out a website. Consequently, you might notice occasional Twitter profiles that grumpily threaten to immediately unfollow anyone who sends an automated Direct Message.

Given this persistent problem, not everyone regularly checks their Direct Messages, so it isn’t necessarily a reliable means of contact. If you really need to communicate with some privately, see if you can track down their email address instead.

To send a DM, first make sure the recipient is following you. The easiest way to do this is to visit their profile page. If you see Follows You next to their username, you’re ready to go.

Now click the DM icon under their profile - it looks like a speech bubble.

Alternatively, click the gear icon next to the Follow/Unfollow button and you’ll see an option to Send a Direct Message. This is the safest method of sending a DM.

Now I can type my message in the box.

You can also DM through the Compose New Tweet box by using the following syntax:

d username message

Then click Send.

Many users get themselves into a pickle with this approach, forgetting to add the d and inadvertently broadcasting a private message to the world. So, err on the side of caution (which is always best on social media), and send Direct Messages through the recipient’s profile page.

I’m not sure why you’d want to do this, but you can opt to receive DMs from anyone, even if you don’t follow them. To do so, click your avatar, Settings, then Security and privacy and scroll right down to the bottom of the page.

OK, so we’ve now covered some of the ways in which you can interact on Twitter. Let’s now look at how to find people to follow and also join some Twitter chats.

Interacting on Twitter
Following Users & Conversations
3 Lectures 17:52
Following users on Twitter

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lessons, I’m going to tell you about hashtags, perhaps one of the most mysterious areas of Twitter.

It’s impossible to go far these days without encountering a hashtag. Every product, TV programme, and event seems to have one. Notwithstanding their ubiquity, hashtags have always proved difficult to explain; typically, new users can’t understand where they come from, or how they’re decided upon. We’ll address those questions shortly. First, let’s talk about what they actually do.

Hashtags are a way of labelling tweets so that they can be filtered. Here’s a tweet with the hashtag #phdchat, which is used for discussing the challenges of being a doctoral researcher.

If I click on the hashtag, I can then see other tweets that use it.

Alternatively, I could just type #phdchat into the search box at the top of

Let’s move onto actually using hashtags.


To join in a conversation on Twitter, just add the hashtag to the end of your tweet. This increases its visibility, as many users will be filtering their timeline to focus on a particular topic. Some studies suggest that using hashtags in your tweets can increase engagement by up to 20%. Having said that, don’t get carried away - you shouldn’t use more than two in a tweet. And don’t use an irrelevant hashtag to attract more attention.

Some academics like to use the hashtag #amwriting to show that they’re being productive. My immediate (and uncharitable) thought is, “No, you’re faffing about on Twitter.” But if it works for you, then by all means try it.


One of the best resources for finding academic hashtags is the Inside Higher Ed Twitter directory. Here you can search by discipline or hashtag to find what’s going on in your field.


If there isn’t currently a hashtag for your particular niche, you can create one. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a vast intergalactic committee that decides on what hashtags can be used - anybody can create them. This brings its own problems, as there’s no way of ensuring that they’re used consistently or for the correct purpose.

Before creating your own hashtag, search for it on Twitter. If nothing appears, or the hashtag has been dormant for a few years, go ahead and use it.

Hashtags should be short, unique, relevant, and memorable. Anything longer than 10 characters is going to occupy too much of the tweet, and complicated concoctions are likely to be misspelled. The only special character you can use in a hashtag is an underscore, and spaces aren’t allowed - it must be all one word.

Once you’re happy with your hashtag, just start using it in your tweets and encourage other people to do so. It might take a while to catch on.


The hashtag #phdchat that I mentioned earlier is an example of a Twitter chat. These tend to be scheduled events than occur on a regular basis where people discuss a topic, although the conversation is often ongoing. All the tweets are suffixed with the hashtag so that participants can easily follow the conversation.

Some chats are informal and you can contribute anything to the discussion.

Others specify a structured question and answer format. For example, the host might post a tweet beginning “Q1 How do you feel about submitting your thesis? #phdchat” To which you’d respond “A1 Terrified #phdchat”. That makes it easier for everyone to follow what’s being said.

In addition to the Inside Higher Ed database I mentioned earlier, there’s another comprehensive directory you can use - It’s not very user-friendly, but does cover subjects ranging from #CanaryChat to #IntellectualCleavage (whatever that is).

There’s also a website where you can create real-time chat rooms using Twitter hashtags and publicise the dates so everyone knows what’s coming up. I have no idea how to pronounce it, so I’ll just display the web address on the screen:

The best way to learn about Twitter chats is to watch one in action, then jump in when you feel ready. Sometimes the best tweets from a chat are collected and published through a tool called Storify ( I’ll be explaining more about it in the Twitter Tools section.

Hopefully, you’re now more confident in using hashtags. Next, we’ll investigate lists, which are possibly my favourite Twitter feature.

Hashtags & Chats

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. While hashtags allow you to filter the chaos of Twitter, lists help you to really impose some order. For such a powerful feature, lists remain buried within the Twitter interface and even many long-term users remain oblivious to their existence. In this lesson, I’ll explain what they are and show you the ways in which you can use them.

Lists are a way of grouping Twitter users by subject area, your relationship to them, or any other criteria you like. These lists are associated with your account and they can be either public or private. You can see other people’s public lists through their profile page.

If I click Member of at the top, I can then see all the lists to which this user has been added.

Let’s take a look at the AcademicsWithCats list. The timeline that’s displayed includes tweets only from the people in that list.

Over in the top left-hand corner I can see how many people are on the list.

Clicking the number gives me all their details. I can now go through and follow any of them who take my fancy.

If you don’t want the faff of following the members individually, you could click Subscribe instead.

Now you can easily find all those tweets again through your profile. Click Lists at the top, then you’ll see it under Subscribed to. You can unsubscribe at any time by returning to the list’s page.

Subscribing to a list, rather than following all of its members, offers several advantages:

  • Firstly, your timeline won’t be cluttered.
  • Secondly, those users won’t know you’re reading their tweets (potentially useful if you want to be stealthy for whatever reason).
  • Thirdly, you can hide all the list members with one click.


Once you’ve found some useful people on Twitter, take a look at their profiles to see whether they’re sharing any lists. This is an excellent way of finding the best content.

There’s an extremely useful directory on the LSE Impact Blog. Here they’ve kindly created lists based on various academic disciplines.

You can also access them through their profile page @LSEImpactBlog.


Hopefully you’re now eager to create your own lists. It’s very easy, although not entirely obvious how to do it.

Click Lists on your profile page, then scroll down to where it says Create a list.

You’ll be prompted for a List name and a Description. Then choose whether it should be public or private. If you’re planning to make it public, make sure you have picked a meaningful name, or added a clear description. List names cannot exceed 25 characters.

Now let’s add some users to our new list

Visit the user’s profile page, click the gear icon, then choose Add or remove from lists.

Now you can either add them to an existing list, or create a new one. You can also do this from within other lists, if there are members that you’d like to add to your own.

To remove them, choose Add or remove from lists again and uncheck the box next to their username.


So, what can you do with lists?

Well, anything you like! You can have up to 1,000 lists, each with a maximum of 5,000 members. Possibilities for list categories include: news, friends, colleagues, useful stuff, journals, kittens.

There’s no need to spend hours setting up lists - it’s much easier to build them over time. When you follow someone, add them to a new or existing list. Make sure you revisit your lists frequently to check that those users are still tweeting relevant content. Sharing good quality public lists can enhance your Twitter reputation.

And one key limitation: lists are purely for reading tweets, you can’t use them for contacting a group of users.

Once you’ve been using Twitter for a little while, you’ll probably be curious as to whether you’ve been included on any lists.

This gives you a sense of how popular you are and what impact your tweets are making. If you’ve been added to lists, it means people like what you have to say. Be patient, though, and don’t despair if this doesn’t happen immediately.

Go to Lists under your profile, then click Member of. This is also a good way of finding other Lists to which you can subscribe.

As you can see, lists really do make Twitter more manageable.

And one final thought for this section. While carefully curating your Twitter feed through lists and hashtags will save you time, it’s worth revisiting the timeline of all your followers occasionally. Then you’ll find different people to follow and more conversations to join.

Finding & Creating Lists
5 Lectures 23:10

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to talk about the business of tweeting. We’ll discuss what to tweet, what not to tweet, and look at a few tools you can use.

Perhaps the most important point to make at this stage is that anyone can read your tweets, unless you make your account private (we’ll look at how to do that later). Even people without a Twitter account can see them, although they are unable to respond. This is the biggest difference from Facebook, where most users restrict who can see their updates.

I’ll also add that it’s very difficult to completely remove a tweet. While it’s simple to delete it from within Twitter, there are many websites, including the Library of Congress, that archive and aggregate tweets.

If that’s made you feel a little nervous - good. Before you start tweeting regularly, I think it’s worth spending some time thinking about why you’re on Twitter. What do you want it to do for you, and what are you going to do for Twitter? Writing a mission statement is a revoltingly corporate idea, but it can help maintain focus.

Particularly while you’re establishing yourself, concentrate on becoming a source of information on a key topic, and be useful. Also try to be relevant. Unless you’re a food blogger or restaurant critic, the Twitter community probably doesn’t want to know what you’ve had for lunch.


You’ll already be painfully aware that the maximum length of a tweet is just 140 characters. However, shorter tweets tend to perform better, partly because followers can easily add their own comment. So, you’ll need to work on being succinct. Incidentally, a tweet that comprises exactly 140 characters is known as a twoosh. That’s possibly not a word you’ll get to use very often.

There are tools such as that allow you to write longer tweets by adding a link for the reader to view more. Part of the appeal of Twitter is its brevity, so do think carefully about breaking the character limit. Also, there’s no guarantee that anyone will click through to read a longer tweet.

It’s very frustrating to find a perfect quote to share on Twitter, only to discover that it’s too long. One way around it is to use, a Chrome browser extension that allows you to save text and convert it into images for sharing on Twitter. You can get around the character limit and make your tweet more conspicuous. There are options to change the colour and font, too. It’s also a useful tool for collecting web snippets and sharing them as text.

Some new Twitter users, especially academics, feel inhibited about how they should write a tweet.

Even if you’re tweeting as an academic, there’s no need to be overly formal on Twitter. You’re not writing a journal article, so your style can be conversational. A friendly and accessible tone also helps communicate your work further.

The character limit really doesn’t lend itself to a nuanced argument, so do keep it simple. If you can’t say everything in 140 characters, link to your full argument elsewhere on the web.

There’s quite enough misery in the world, so cultivating a positive online persona can boost engagement. Indeed, saying please and thank you has been shown to increase retweets substantially. Calls to action can help, too, such as “Please share”.

Make time to actually chat to your followers, especially if they mention or reply to you. Without engagement, you’re simply broadcasting a message.

It’ll take time to become accustomed to Twitter and your style will develop.


Some academics use Twitter to get feedback from their followers, either to gauge informal opinions on an idea, or to actually generate data for a study. This can work well with simple questions, but don’t expect people to provide personal information in a tweet. It’s especially important to ensure that you have a professional-looking profile if you’re expecting people to share data with you.

If you need a more structured or confidential response, use a tool like SurveyMonkey and tweet the link. Offering an incentive (for example an Amazon voucher) can improve uptake.


Just as I started recording this course, Twitter introduced an official polling feature. Let’s take a look at how it works.

To create a poll, you compose a new tweet as usual. You should now spot the option to add a poll.

Type your question where your tweet text normally appears, then add your options underneath. You can include a maximum of four, each with up to 20 characters. The question – as with a normal tweet – can contain up to 140 characters. Alas, there’s currently no scope to add images as visual options.

Moving onto democracy and privacy, users can vote only once (unless, of course, they have multiple accounts), and voting is completely anonymous. Nobody can see how you voted, including the creator.

Once you’ve clicked Tweet to publish your poll, it appears in followers’ timelines, just like any other tweet. The poll remains open for a fixed period of 24 hours after which the winner is highlighted in bold.

In the meantime, you’ll be able to see how many people have voted and the breakdown of results.

This isn’t a particularly sophisticated feature, but it’s great for encouraging interaction and quickly canvassing opinions.


You’ll probably have seen that many websites give you the option to share a link to their pages from a tweet.

Click the icon and a fully-formed tweet pops up, complete with text, link, and originator. This takes seconds and is a really effective way of sharing resources (and letting the website owner know that you enjoyed their content).

If you use, a website for book lovers, you can opt to automatically tweet your ratings. This might prompt a discussion or a response from the author, assuming you’ve been complimentary (authors are permanently on red alert for mentions on social media). I was asked to write an introduction to a new edition of a novel after giving it 5 stars on Goodreads. The publisher saw my tweet and got in touch.


If there’s a tweet that you really want people to see, for example a book announcement, you can pin it to the top of your profile page.

Find the tweet you’d like to pin and click the more icon (the one that looks like an ellipsis).

Select Pin to your profile page and then click Pin.

You’ll then find it perched above your other content.

To unpin it, click the more icon again, select Unpin from profile page, then click Unpin.


To summarise, here are some Good Things to tweet:

  • News
  • Details of new books/articles
  • Forthcoming events
  • Useful resources, such as websites
  • Questions


Perhaps inevitably, we need to spend a few moments considering what not to tweet.

If you are tweeting in a professional capacity, you need to think about how you’re coming across. I’ll mention again that anybody can read your tweets, including friends, colleagues, potential employers, and publishers. I’ve received book proposals from people who regularly tweet about their inability to meet deadlines. This isn’t a great way to promote themselves on social media. So, those boundaries are important.

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of attention-seeking and oversharing happens online. There’s no consensus on how much time you should spend talking about yourself on Twitter. The most sensible approach I’ve seen is to aim for an 80/20 balance. So, that’s 80% of tweets sharing information and responding to people, and 20% promoting your own work. Twitter is for communication, not broadcasting.

You’re aiming to develop a reputation for expertise in your field, as a person with authority and knowledge, so make sure your tweets reflect that. Facebook is the best place for personal stuff, as it’s easier to control who sees it.

Also be careful of duplicating material across different websites. Some users have their tweets automatically posted on Facebook and other platforms, and this can cause followers to suffer social media fatigue.

I’ve already said (and will no doubt mention again), that nothing is really private on the internet. It’s best to assume that everything has the potential to become public, and act accordingly. So, don’t say anything on Twitter than you wouldn’t yell at the top of your voice in the middle of the street. Being cryptic won’t help, either. Nothing fuels paranoia quite like the internet, and people will often assume that you’re talking about them, even if you’re not.

In summary, it’s best to avoid tweeting:

  • Personal information
  • What you had for lunch
  • Stuff that’s interesting only to you
  • Overly self-congratulatory messages
  • Anything libellous/defamatory/scandalous

If you haven’t yet sent your first tweet, there’s some more guidance in the next lesson.

What to Tweet

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to provide encouragement and tips on sending your first tweet.

Everyone is intimidated at the thought of sending their first tweet. It’s best just to get it over with and add lots more tweets so that it is quickly buried.

If you’d like other users to be gentle on you, add the hashtag #firsttweet. You can also search for that hashtag to see what other people have written in their maiden tweet.

You can find anyone’s first tweet through a special page on (

Just type in their username.

You can see my first tweet here. My scepticism was evident, but unfounded.

You don’t need to use this opportunity to make a grand announcement, or to be weary (as I was). There are plenty of other approaches you could use:

  • Answer a question
  • Ask a question (there’s no shortage of opinions on the internet)
  • Share something, e.g. a link to a useful resource
  • Show appreciation by thanking someone
  • Join a conversation with a hashtag

You can use tools such as,, and to find content to share, and this will ensure you always have something useful to say. If you want to be first with the news, trying setting up a Google Alert ( for your research topic. Google will email you the latest results based on your stored searches - in other words, relevant material comes straight to you without any extra effort.

You don’t actually have to tweet at all if you don’t want to. It’s better to lurk than to just tweet drivel.

OK, let’s assume you do want try a tentative tweet.

To create a tweet, click the icon that looks like a quill in the top right-hand corner.

Now you can start typing in the window that pops up. You’ll notice that the character count decreases and you won’t be able to press Tweet unless it’s within the limit.

There’s also a What’s happening box that appears at the top of your timeline. You can use this to compose your tweet.


As with any technology, is easy to accidentally tweet or to press send before you’ve finished. Here’s how to delete a tweet.

Go to your tweets list (using either the profile box on the Twitter homepage or through your avatar) and find the one you want to delete.

Click the ellipsis underneath the tweet and choose Delete Tweet from the pop-up menu.

This is a good point at which to remind you that all your tweets are indexed by the major search engines and also aggregated by a wealth of other online services, so it’s very difficult to remove a tweet completely. You might vanquish it in one place, only for it to pop up elsewhere. Still, assuming you’re using Twitter mindfully, indexing and storing of tweets can bring you welcome visibility and web traffic.

If you have tweeted in error, make sure you delete it as soon as possible.

Your First Tweet (and deleting tweets)

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to talk about finding the best time to tweet, and also discuss how often you should tweet.

One of the problems with Twitter is that it’s difficult to grab people’s attention. Unlike on Facebook, your followers probably won’t spend time browsing through your earlier tweets - they’ll only notice what pops up while they’re sat in front of the screen. Consequently, it’s worth thinking about the best time to tweet, especially if you’re trying to promote a publication or an event. Also consider different time zones, as you’re likely to be tweeting when your colleagues on the other side of the world are asleep.

One solution is to resend a tweet later in the day, preferably reworded so it isn’t too repetitive. Also make sure that any repeats are interspersed with other tweets so it doesn’t look as though you’re a monomaniac.

There isn’t a perfect time to tweet, but Twitter is generally busiest between 8am and 7pm. Weekends are apparently better, as users are less rushed and are more likely to engage with one another.

Once you’ve been using Twitter for a little while, you can use a tool called to establish the best time to tweet. It analyses both your tweets and your followers’ tweets to calculate when your audience is most likely to be online. You can sign up with your Twitter login and the basic analysis is free. It takes an hour or two for the report to be generated, and they’ll let you know by Direct Message when it’s ready.

Tweriod is integrated with a tool called that will schedule your tweets. So, you can write them in advance and then they’re posted at the best times for your audiences.

Buffer will carry out a similar analysis for you, too, when you sign up for an account.

As you can see here, the optimal time for me is 8pm.

There’s a free version with a limitation on the number of tweets you can schedule, and a paid option at $102 per year. You can also use it to schedule posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

Completely free alternatives are and

In summary, here are some advantages of scheduling your tweets:

  • Automate tweets to promote a forthcoming event
  • Schedule a tweet for the day your book is published
  • Arrange in advance to send birthday messages to friends
  • Ensure you’re sending your important tweets when your audience is online
  • Pretend that you’re always working (vital for academics)

Most of the guidance on how to use Twitter suggests that you should tweet a certain number of times each day. I think that’s nonsense. It’s much better to only tweet when you have something to contribute. Like anything, though, it gets easier with practice and you might want to tweet more often at first to establish yourself.

Do remember to at least check Twitter on a daily basis, just in case people are mentioning or replying to you. You can set up notifications so that Twitter will alert you when someone has interacted with you. If people don’t get a response from you, they’ll assume you’re not interested.

Find a habit that works for you - it might be one tweet per day, or 5 each week. Don’t let it become a chore. If you’re going to be away and want to still be active on Twitter, consider scheduling some tweets.

Later on I’ll be showing you how to use Twitter effectively on mobile devices so you can easily squeeze it in between other commitments. There’s no need to spend hours a day on social media, even if some people never seem to be away from it.

When to Tweet

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to send some fancy tweets with links and multimedia content.

Twitter is particularly effective at drawing attention to content elsewhere on the internet, and it’s very easy to add links.

Just paste the link into your Compose New Tweet box and Twitter makes it clickable.

All links are displayed as a truncated version, so you won’t see the full URL.

A URL of any length counts as 22 characters, even if it’s shorter. So, you’re left with 118 characters for your tweet.

You can shorten the URL yourself by using a service such as This makes your tweet look a little neater, although it still uses 22 characters.

So you can see the difference, here’s a link truncated by Twitter:

And here’s one shortened by

Although the version is undeniably neater, it’s not always easy to see where it will take you.

In the Analytics section, I’ll explain how you can measure the popularity of the links you post.

Tweets are no longer just about text. You can now add images, videos, sound files and even presentations.

Twitter groups your image and video uploads in a tab called Photos/Videos, which appears on your profile.


First let’s upload some images.

To add an image to your tweet, you can simply click and drag it into the Compose New Tweet box. Adding an image uses 23 characters of your 140-character limit. Your image is displayed as a link and also embedded within the tweet.

The optimum size for an image is 506 x 253px, but don’t worry about getting this exactly right. It’s just that those dimensions are likely to display without cropping on most devices.

Twitter even allows you to make a collage of up to four images. Just keep dragging them into your tweet. This is good for inviting views on different book covers, or to show what’s happening at an event.

Clicking on one of the images opens a full-size version and starts a slideshow

As with Facebook, you can tag people who appear in the photos you upload to Twitter. And you can include up to 10 usernames without squandering any of your precious 140 characters. After you upload a photo, Twitter asks Who’s in these photos?

Click the link and add the usernames.

If you’re worried that someone might tag you in an unflattering photo, you can block this feature. Click on your avatar, then Settings > Security and privacy. There are the following options:

  • Allow anyone to tag me in photos
  • Only allow people I follow to tag me in photos
  • Do not allow anyone to tag me in photos

You’ll receive a notification if anyone does tag you.


You can’t upload a video directly to Twitter - you’ll need to host it elsewhere and then add a link to your tweet. Depending on where it’s hosted, videos are displayed in a similar way to images, with a play button for followers to start watching.

One of the most popular options is to link to YouTube by adding the URL to your tweet. This can be either your own video, or one belonging to someone who has made it publicly available.

Another major video website is Vine, now owned by Twitter. Here you can upload 6-second-long videos and embed them in your tweets. Whether you can show anything meaningful in such a short space of time is another matter entirely.


Podcasting can be a good way of getting your research to new audiences and SoundCloud is a website where you can host your sound files. Post a link in a tweet, and Twitter will embed it and give your followers a chance to listen to it without leaving their timeline.

Here’s a example of a conference paper I shared on Twitter. Anyone can just click play to hear me read it aloud.


You can now even tweet slides.

You’ve no doubt heard of LinkedIn, but you might not know that the same people are responsible for SlideShare, a site for sharing presentations. It’s a bit like YouTube, but for slides. You can upload them in PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote, or OpenDocument format.

Once SlideShare is hosting your presentation, you’re able to embed it in a tweet, simply by pasting the link. Your followers can then navigate through your slides without even leaving Twitter.

So, you can tweet all sorts of stuff - not just comments. Twitter is a really good way of disseminating your research outputs to a wider audience.

Tweeting Links and Multimedia
1 Lecture 05:18

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, we’re going to cover searching. I’ll demonstrate a simple search, then move on to more sophisticated strategies with advanced searching, and also introduce a web-based tool called Topsy.

If you were paying attention in the hashtags section, you’ve probably already tried the Twitter search box. Here you can also find content by username or keyword. The Twitter archive stretches all the way back to 2006, so searching is often a much better idea than scrolling.

Let’s start simple with a keyword search.

If I search for the Victorian author George Gissing, I have the option of filtering by media type, or to visit the profiles of people pretending to be him (there are more than you’d think).

Now let’s search for a particular user.

When you’re searching for a Twitter user and already known their username, make sure you prefix it with @, otherwise you’ll be searching for keywords, too.

The Google and Bing search engines are also good for searching Twitter. Actually, I think they can make it easier to find a particular users. Just search for their name and Twitter, or use this syntax:

site: search term

Adding “site:” restricts your Google search to that specific domain.

Moving on to hashtags, To follow a particular trend or conversation, type the hashtag (with the pound symbol) into the search box. Again, Twitter filters the results by type, and also displays the profiles of the top participants who’ve recently used that hashtag.

Twitter remembers your search so that you can easily rerun it at any time.


Now let’s get a bit more sophisticated with an advanced search.

One of the problems with the search box is that it can return far too much information, and it’s not always easy to browse through and find what you need. For a more sophisticated approach, try Twitter’s (very well hidden) advanced search feature. I’ve never been able to locate it through the interface and have had to resort to Google. Anyway, here’s the link so you can make a note of it:

Now you get lots of options, and can search by username, location, keyword, hashtag, language, and date range. It’s also possible to exclude terms.

Retweets are automatically excluded, as otherwise you might get the same tweet appearing hundreds of times. If you do want them included, tick the box in the final group of options.

Here you can also limit your search to questions (Twitter finds only results containing a question mark), and also display only those portraying positive or negative emotions. Twitter’s algorithm isn’t clear, but it seems to be analysing the words used.

In this example, I’m looking for Victorian-related tweets over the current month. I’m restricting it to English-language tweets, and have also excluded anything that mentions Australia (I’ve used a wildcard to exclude Australian, too). I don’t have anything against the country, but am interested in the nineteenth century, rather than the Australian state.

Once I’ve run my search, I can refine it still further. Across the top of the results page I can filter it by type - so I could just display those with images.

If I click on More Options, I could also choose only tweets from people I follow.

At the bottom of this pop-up menu is a link to save your search.

This means you can access it at any time from the search box.

Annoyingly, there’s no way to edit a saved search, so you’ll have to start all over again if you want to change any of the criteria.


Twitter also makes its extensive archives available to third parties, so there are now a few tools that offer advanced search facilities.

One of the friendliest is

While most of the search options are also available on Twitter itself, Topsy does offer a few advantages.

For nerdy types like me, you can generate graphs to see exactly how often a term is discussed on Twitter, and also compare it with two other terms. Here I’ve compared Dracula, Frankenstein, and cheese. As you can tell, I was struggling to think of a sensible example.

And now the three applications that I mainly write about: Zotero, Scrivener, Evernote.

I can easily see that Evernote is by far the most popular (at least on Twitter).

This feature also works with usernames, so I can compare my three Twitter accounts.

The basic features in Topsy are available free-of-charge, and you can sign in with your Twitter account.

So Twitter isn’t just great for communication, it’s also an excellent archive of valuable data.

Searching Twitter
Etiquette & Safety
1 Lecture 08:29

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to talk about Twitter etiquette and also explain what you should do if you experience problems with other users.

It’s virtually impossible to provide a definitive guide to Twitter etiquette. The dominant ‘rules’ are decided by a community that’s always evolving or shifting. Nevertheless, there are a few tips that will help you avoid embarrassing faux pas along the the way. Here, I’ll consolidate some of the advice that I’ve given elsewhere in this course. We’ll also examine the pesky phenomenon of trolling and consider some effective ways of dealing with it.

First of all, here’s what to avoid

Don’t …

  • tweet anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face
  • overshare, e.g. personal information
  • broadcast the minutiae of your life
  • be responsible for plot spoilers (such as Breaking Bad)
  • go mad with self-promotion
  • invent spurious hashtags with comedic intent
  • pass off a retweet as your own work
  • send automatic Direct Messages to new followers

What you should do (there are far fewer do’s than don’ts)

  • say please and thank you
  • share useful information
  • try to be positive
  • credit sources
  • spread some happiness

Politeness, of course, costs nothing. It also brings benefits, as tweets containing the words “please” and “thank you” often result in more engagement. Including “Please share” or “Please RT” at the end of an announcement is likely to prompt at least some of your followers to act.

You might find that some followers are very loyal and RT much of what you post. It’s worth thanking them regularly so that they continue. If you have a large following, you could use a tool like to automatically identify and thank your most enthusiastic fans with a tweet.

OK, moving onto the more serious stuff.


We all get it wrong sometimes, but there’s a big difference between a blunder and actual trolling. The prevalence of trolling (or deliberately provocative behaviour) is well documented. If you’re tweeting about a niche academic interest, you’ll probably remain largely unbothered by these idiots. Venture into contentious areas such as race, sex, or climate change, however, and you’ll start attracting unwelcome attention. The best advice is “don’t feed the troll”. They’re usually seeking a reaction or to silence voices they find troublesome, so ignoring them and carrying on is usually the most effective approach. Never try to reason with them, as reason is for reasonable people.

Sometimes, trolls are hard to ignore, especially when their behaviour is threatening or, indeed, criminal.

There are a few options for dealing with trolls, all accessible from the gear icon on their profile page.


First, mute.

The mute option simply removes the offender’s tweets from your timeline, so you don’t have to see their utterances. You will still, however, see their mentions or replies to you. This is best suited to people who are just annoying, rather than necessarily malicious.

It does have the advantage that the problem user won’t know that they’ve become almost invisible. They can easily see if you’ve actually unfollowed them, and then might try to contact you through other methods or a different account.

Muting can be a useful temporary expedient, too. I occasionally mute people who suddenly start tweeting endlessly about football during the World Cup, then unmute them when they have something interesting so say once more.


And now block.

Blocking is a more effective approach for trolls. Users you have blocked cannot follow you, send you DMs, add you to their lists, or tag you in a photo. Furthermore, they can’t see your tweets while they’re logged in (but can easily do so by logging out). Blocked users don’t receive a notification to say that they’ve been shunned, but it is visible to them through your profile page. Conversely, muting is invisible to the muted user.

Internet trolls seldom have a single individual target - if they’ve been bothering you, then they’ve probably made others suffer, too. While this isn’t necessarily comforting, it does mean that it’s possible to create and share lists of problem users. You can actually export your blocked users and pass it on to anyone else who is likely to become a target.

This is done under the Blocked users tab of your Settings. Here you can also import a list that someone else has sent you.


Finally, moving onto report.

If you feel threatened or have witnessed anything on Twitter that suggests someone else is in danger, choose the Report option. This is available both on profiles and individual tweets.

Twitter asks you for the type of issue you’d like to report and you’ll be asked for more information.


For complete control over who sees your tweets, you could consider making them private. This way, people have to ask to follow you, and you must approve each request. Your tweets are then visible only to approved followers. This includes RTs and replies, too. Your tweets don’t show up in search engine results and even your approved followers can’t RT or quote your tweets (although there’s nothing to stop them taking a screenshot).

You can switch between public and private tweets at any time and the change is applied retrospectively. So, if you go from public to private on an existing account, all your previous tweets will be visible only to approved followers.

To protect your tweets, click on your avatar, choose Settings, then Security and privacy. In the Privacy section, check the box that says Protect my tweets. Click Save changes at the bottom and enter your password to confirm the change.

You’ll now see a tiny padlock next to your username in the profile box.

The main disadvantage of protecting your tweets is that it’s harder to engage with people as you’re much less visible. But if you’re getting a lot of hassle, it’s a good solution to protecting yourself without leaving Twitter altogether.


It’s important to consider that one person’s spirited comment can be another user’s idea of trolling. Remember that the necessary brevity of Twitter doesn’t lend itself to nuanced arguments and other users won’t necessarily give you the benefit of the doubt. Make more complex points in a blog post and link to it with a non-provocative title. Followers can read your full argument and contribute more substantive comments there. Richard Dawkins is a good (i.e. bad) example of someone who repeatedly attracts opprobrium by attempting to communicate controversial ideas in 140 characters.

I’d like to stress that the vast majority of people don’t encounter major problems on Twitter. I’ve never had any hassle over the last 7 years.

You’re in control of your Twitter account: you can choose who you follow and with whom you interact. If it becomes overwhelming, control your experience further through lists, and block or report anyone who is behaving badly. People will be annoying on Twitter, just as they are in real life, but you don’t need to engage with them.

Here are some top tips for staying safe on Twitter:

  • Don’t feed the troll
  • Mute annoying people
  • Block offensive people
  • Report criminal people
  • Avoid expressing controversial opinions (unless you’re prepared for the consequences)
Etiquette & Safety
Measuring your Success with Analytics
1 Lecture 04:11

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to show you how you can measure your performance on Twitter. It used to be difficult to do anything more sophisticated than count the number of retweets and followers, but now there’s a fancy new analytics tool.

To give it a try, click the tiny graph icon under one of your tweets - it won’t work with someone else’s tweets.

Here I can see that my tweet was viewed 1,949 times, and that 86 people actually engaged with it - that means they clicked the link, expanded the tweet to see more information, liked, or retweeted it. Four people clicked through to my profile and two replied. That’s pretty good for a tweet about an obscure Victorian novel.

Access to these analytics helps you work out your most popular tweets. You’ll soon start to notice the formats and topics that perform well for your audience.

I’m including this next example as it was by far my most popular tweet (yes, I’m showing off). As you can see, there were over 4,000 engagements, 287 profile clicks, and 28 new followers as a result. Who would have thought that Victorian volcanology would prove so popular? Anyway, this does show that an informative tweet can go a long way.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that some of your tweets appear in a larger font. This indicates that they are performing well.

For even more details, click your avatar, then Analytics.

Now you can see your top tweet, top mention, top media tweet, and top follower.

Click on View all Tweet activity for extra graphs and whizziness. Now you get all of your tweets displayed as a table and you can see at a glance how they’ve performed.

You can change the reporting period in the top right-hand corner and also export your data as a CSV file.

It’s a snooper’s paradise under the Followers tab.

This page will tell you more about the demographics of your followers and also whether your audience is growing. I can see the gender split and even how much they’re worth. Unsurprisingly, my audience for @victoriansecrets is primarily interested in books.


There are also some third-party tools for measuring your Twitter analytics. is perhaps one of the most famous as it scores users on their social media influence and is displayed on some websites.

Here’s mine displayed on Hootsuite. It’s not that impressive when I tell you that the score is out of 100. Lady Gaga has a much more respectable score of 93, while President Obama is at 99. I’m not sure what he’d need to do to get that extra point.

Klout also analyses your tweets and profile to help match you with like-minded followers. It decided I was an expert in Medieval history, so that wasn’t a promising start.

A website called offers extensive analysis of your tweets and engagement, some of it free. Unless Twitter is a core part of your research activity, I can’t see that it’s worth paying for analysis when Twitter now includes such detailed reporting as standard.

If it’s important for you to demonstrate your ongoing online engagement, you should save all the evidence on a regular basis.

We have no idea what will happen to Twitter in the medium term - they might stop making the archive searchable, or dispense with the analytics features. So, export your analytics reports and keep them somewhere safe. I’ll be showing you how to do that in Section 10.

Anyway, it’s worth looking at your analytics regularly to see what tweets are performing best for you.

Twitter Analytics
Twitter Tools
1 Lecture 17:03

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to show you some other tools you can use with Twitter.

If you’re new to Twitter, you might find the website a bit cluttered. The people behind Twitter are keen to make it profitable, which means promoted tweets, adverts, and other gimmicks to draw your attention to sponsored content. Many Twitter users prefer a third-party client both for tweeting and following others.

A Twitter client allows you to use Twitter outside of These clients also often extend Twitter’s core functionality, facilitating threaded conversations, and easy switching between multiple accounts.

Barely a month passes without the arrival of a new Twitter client, so it can be difficult to keep up. Also, some prove ephemeral after running out of money. With this in mind, I’m going to focus on the two most popular and enduring clients: TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

I’m also going to look at Crowdfire, a tool that makes it much easier to manage your followers.

Later in the lesson, we’ll investigate how to use Twitter on the move, ways to integrate it with your blog, and how to extend its functionality.

And one geeky point must be made before we start. Twitter shares its code with third parties through an API (application program interface) so that they can develop compatible tools. Sometimes Twitter changes its API, rendering some tools useless or compromising their functionality. So, don’t become too reliant upon them.


TweetDeck is a client now owned by Twitter itself. You might think this makes it more stable, but it has experienced some technical problems and uncertainty. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s completely free of charge means that it is a popular choice among Twitter users.

The TweetDeck interface comprises a series of customisable columns that you can configure to display your Twitter timeline, mentions, DMs, lists, likes, hashtags, or particular users.

Just click the + icon to add another column:

Each column can be filtered to include or exclude certain content.

You can also use TweetDeck to schedule tweets. As you can see, TweetDeck doesn’t need to be running when your tweet is scheduled to appear.

One of big advantages of a client like TweetDeck is that you can use it to easily switch between multiple accounts, so there’s no need to keep signing in and out. Once you’ve logged in with any other accounts, you can then add columns for those usernames.

A particularly nice feature is Collections.

Here you can drag tweets into a column to group them together under a name of your choice. This is a good way of organising your Likes.

The icons under each tweet are very similar to those on From here you can add or remove users from lists, block or mute them, and also share/save the tweet elsewhere.

TweetDeck is available through the website, or you can download an application to run on your computer.

In conclusion, TweetDeck makes it much easier to manage Twitter. Here are some of the advantages:

  • It’s free!
  • The interface is simple
  • You can easily add other accounts

And a few disadvantages:

  • There’s no phone app
  • You can’t use it with any other social media tools, e.g. Facebook
  • Twitter occasionally threatens to discontinue it.


Hootsuite is similar to TweetDeck, but also works with most other social media tools, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, and YouTube. If you end up spending a lot of time on social media, this is a must-have solution. I’ve been using it for around three years now, and (more impressively) it’s also favoured by President Obama.

Again, with Hootsuite you can select and customise columns to display the Twitter content you access most frequently. You can see here that I’m displaying a couple of lists, which means I can filter the content and reduce the time I need to spend on Twitter.

Those of you with multiple accounts can arrange them in tabs across the top. I can easily switch between my different usernames and also see any comments left on my Facebook page - all from one place.

I find Hootsuite’s AutoScheduling feature particularly useful. I compose a tweet, then HootSuite decides the best time to send it, based on when my followers are typically online. Alternatively, I can specify a particular date and time, or send it immediately.

If you schedule a lot of tweets, you can actually upload them as a CSV (comma delimited) file.

You can even view your tweets on a calendar. This makes it easy to check that your tweets are evenly distributed over a particular period.

There’s loads more functionality, too, most of it aimed at online marketeers. There’s also an App Directory to help you connect HootSuite with even more tools. For example, you could use it to monitor comments on your WordPress blog.

You do need to pay for some of the fancy stuff, though. A basic account - allowing up to three social media accounts - is completely free. With a pro account - currently costing $9.99 per month if you pay yearly - you can have up to 50 accounts and also enjoy more sophisticated scheduling features.

Unlike TweetDeck, there is a phone app for Hootsuite, which makes it really easy to keep up-to-date while you’re away from your desk. Here I’m displaying all the tweets using the #zotero hashtag. I tend to check this while I’m travelling - retweeting useful stuff and sometimes responding to appeals for technical help.

I reckon it’s worth giving the free version a try to see whether Hootsuite works for you.

To summarise, here are the advantages:

  • You can manage all of your social media presence from one place.
  • The scheduling features are excellent
  • The phone app makes it easy to keep up-to-date

And some disadvantages:

  • It’s moderately expensive once you start adding more than 3 accounts
  • The functionality is occasionally overwhelming
  • Some features, such as analytics, are already freely available through


Checking Twitter regularly is vital if you want to keep up-to-date and also maintain your networks. Fortunately, the official mobile app makes this very simple. It works on pretty much any device, including BlackBerrys and Windows Phones.

Unlike on, it’s also easy to manage multiple accounts through the app.

You can download it through the Apple Store, Google Play, or wherever you usually find your apps.


As I mentioned earlier, there are many apps designed to enhance or complement Twitter’s functionality, but many are ephemeral. Also, some now tend to duplicate features that are already available through Twitter itself.

One app that I find particularly useful is Crowdfire. Earlier I gave an overview of its features, but here’s a bit more about what it can do.

Essentially, it’s designed to help manage your followers - quite an onerous task if you want to build up a significant following. Using either the phone app or the web-based version, you can easily view your recent followers, recent unfollowers, people you’re following who have become inactive, and fans.

Fans are followers who you aren’t following back. Of course, there might be a good reason why you haven’t reciprocated, but this feature does help avoid shunning somebody inadvertently.

On this screen I can see my recent followers and just click the big green button to return the favour.

By viewing All Following, I can view everyone I’m following and sort them by date. This is useful for having an occasional prune. From this screen you can also add users to lists - as we saw earlier, this is a good way of keeping Twitter more manageable.

With Copy Followers, you can find another user’s follower list and then go through and quickly add any that interest you. Don’t just do this indiscriminately, though.

Through Keyword Follow, you can display the users who have used a particular hashtag.

Whitelist allows you to flag users who you don’t want to unfollow, even if they’re not following you - they then won’t appear on the list of unfollowers. You might want to use this with celebrities or corporate accounts.

Blacklist hides a user so that they’re never shown as a suggestion to follow.

Friend Check is a nifty way of finding out whether someone follows you, or indeed anybody else.

As I explained earlier, automating any aspect of Twitter is risky. Although you can use Crowdfire to automatically send a DM to new followers, I really wouldn’t recommend it. By all means send them a friendly tweet, but make sure it’s personal and not salesy.

Crowdfire would very much like to tweet your unfollower and follower stats, but I’m not sure why anybody else would want to see this information.

The free version of Crowdfire limits the number of follows or unfollows to 25. There are a number of paid plans available, but for most individuals the Pro account at $24.99 pa would be sufficient. This allows unlimited follows and unfollows and you can also link up to 5 Twitter accounts.

If you want a really effective way to manage and build your Twitter following, Crowdfire is definitely worth $2 a month.


One of the most effective ways of building a social media presence is to ensure that your various accounts are linked. If you maintain a blog, it’s very simple to create a widget that automatically displays your most recent tweets and also allows readers to follow you on Twitter.

Implementation will vary according to your blogging platform, but here’s how to create the widget on Twitter

Under Settings click the Widgets tab.

Click Create new

Choose what you want to display (I think you should exclude replies, as this is content over which you have no control.)

Specify the height and colour, if it’s important to you (for example, if you need it to conform to your blog design).

You’ll see a preview on the right to show you what your finished widget will look like.

Once you’re happy, click Create widget

You now need to copy and paste the HTML wherever you want it to appear on your blog. They’ve made it very difficult to actually see the code, for some reason. If you’re having trouble copying it, click in the box and press Ctrl+a (Cmd+a on a Mac). That selects all the content.

If you return to the Widgets tab again, you can see that it’s also possible to create them from your likes, lists, a search, or a collection. Collections can only be created in TweetDeck, which I showed you earlier.

You can also use these widgets on Virtual Learning Environments, such as Moodle and Blackboard.


Technology is most useful when different apps co-operate. Unfortunately, that tends not to happen very often.

Happily, there is now a marvellous website called IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That. This isn’t an app as such, rather a collection of ‘recipes’ (or scripts) that connect tools such as Twitter, GMail, and Evernote.

A particular action in one app can trigger a response in another. For example, I have activated a recipe that saves all my liked tweets to Evernote (there’s also a recipe to do the same with OneNote, if that’s your preferred app). You could even opt to save all your own tweets to Google Drive, or anywhere else in the cloud. This is great for keeping your own archive.

I also use a recipe that automatically adds users of a particular hashtag to a Twitter list. I’ve done this with the #zotero hashtag, so I have a self-building list of people who are interested in this bibliographic referencing tool. I’m sure you’d be able to think of your own much more interesting example.

I can easily deactivate the recipe, check that it’s working, see what it’s done so far, or edit it. You can see here that it’s run 346 times - so, 346 users have been added to my Zotero list without me having to do anything. It’s not often that technology actually makes life easier.

IFTTT is completely free to use and you are also encouraged to share your own recipes. The only disadvantage I’ve experienced is that you have to set up a completely separate account for each Twitter username.

Zapier is very similar, but you do need to pay if you want to use it extensively. The free account limits you to 5 zaps (their equivalent of recipes) each month, up to a maximum of 100 actions or triggers. Zapier is certainly slicker than IFTTT, but it’ll cost you $220pa to use all of its features.


Sometimes you’ll want to grab all the best tweets and make them easily accessible.

This is where Storify can help you. With Storify you can find, organise, and publish collections of tweets, simply by dragging and dropping them. It also works with YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Google.

You give your story a title and summary, then add your content, along with some commentary to build a narrative.

Here I’ve started creating a story with some technology tips from the last month. I can keep them categorised by adding descriptive text between each block of tweets.

Click Publish when you’re done, then Storify gives you the opportunity to notify any Twitter users who you’ve mentioned.

Now you can share a collection of tweets, and your additional material, with just one URL.

The basic version of Storify is free, and is probably all you need. Business users get some fancier options and the ability to make stories private.

If you use Hootsuite, you get the option to send tweets straight to Storify.

Many Twitter chats are curated using Storify so that you can easily catch up with the most important points. Use the search box at the top to find what interests you, or browse if you prefer a more leisurely approach.

OK, so those are some of the best tools you can use to complement Twitter. As I said earlier, I haven’t attempted to cover everything out there - only those that I think will help you. You’ll no doubt discover more of your own.

Twitter Tools
Settings & Privacy
1 Lecture 11:01

Hello, this is Catherine from The Digital Researcher. In this lesson, I’m going to talk you through the Twitter settings. This is possibly not the most exciting part of the course, but tweaking your settings can certainly improve your Twitter experience. I’ll also provide details on how to delete your account.

To access settings, click your avatar, then Settings.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on here.

Starting with Account

Here you can change your username, the email address associated with it, and your language and time zone. Changing your username won’t affect your existing followers - they’ll just see a new username next to your profile. It’s a good idea to alert them to the change, though, so they can direct replies or DMs to your new username.

(To change your real name - the one that appears alongside your username - go to your profile and click Edit profile.)

There are some further options in this section, too. You can flag the media you tweet as containing sensitive material. This means that users are warned and are less likely to report you for sharing content that could be deemed controversial.

By default, Twitter informs you when other people’s photos or videos contain sensitive media. If you have a strong constitution, you can turn this off by checking the box.

Underneath is very useful option.

Uncheck this box to stop videos autoplaying on Twitter. Quite apart from the fact that tweets suddenly springing into life can be quite annoying, this could also save you some data allowance if you’re accessing Twitter from your smartphone.

I’ll cover deactivating your account in a moment, but now let’s take a quick look at Request your archive. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know what will happen to Twitter in the future, so it’s important to save any tweets that are a key part of your research.

Clicking Request your archive sends you an email with a list of all your tweets attached. Depending on how many tweets you’ve sent, this might take anything from a few minutes to a few hours. You’ll get your tweets in a CSV (spreadsheet) file, and also as a searchable offline webpage.

Don’t forget to save your analytics reports, too, if you need them to demonstrate public engagement.

Now moving onto Security.

Once you’ve spent a lot of time building up your Twitter profile and network, it would be very frustrating if you succumbed to hackers. Twitter, like all major websites, is a key target for cybercriminals. Mostly they use automated software to force entry - often succeeding where the user has a weak password. Even the Pentagon’s Twitter account was hacked last year, so there’s no room for complacency.

In this section of your settings, you can add a few more layers of security.

Login verification means that you have to enter a code to log in. The code is sent to the mobile phone associated with your account. As the message says, you’ll need to add details of your phone first.

If someone gains access to your account after finding you still logged in, the first thing they’ll do is to change the password. Checking the Require personal information to reset my password box means that they’d also need to know your mobile number.

If you’ve forgotten your password, you can request a temporary login code via email or SMS text message (this option appears after you’ve entered an incorrect password). You can then use this code to log in and reset your password. To opt out of this feature, choose the option Always require a password to log in to my account.

The Privacy options allow you to control how much information you share on Twitter. I’ve already covered photo tagging and protecting your tweets earlier on.

If you like people to know where you are at all times, you can enable Add a location to my Tweets. This is usually just your town or city, but some devices actually display your grid co-ordinates. In case you change your mind, you can later opt to Delete all location information.

One of the easiest ways to find people on Twitter is through their email address, especially if they have a common name. If you don’t want contacts to track you down this way, just uncheck the Let others find me by my email address box.

Ads on Twitter are a necessary evil. If you don’t want the Twitter elves to promote you stuff based on your content, then uncheck this box. You’ll then see just generic ads.

I’m not covering Twitter for teams, as it’s beyond the core functionality. In any case, nobody enters academia because they want to work in a team.

Finally, you can opt to receive Direct Messages from anyone. I really wouldn’t recommend it, though.

And now for a nice simple screen. As you’ve probably guessed, this is where you change your password. There’s also a timely reminder to associate a mobile phone with your account for added security. As I mentioned earlier, this can help you gain access to your account if you forget your password or it is hacked.

If you think someone might have your password, do please change it. A strong password comprises a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t make it easy for hackers.

Remarkably, you can now actually buy stuff directly from Twitter - not great news for those of us with poor impulse control. If you do want to take advantage of this feature, you’ll need to add your payment and shipping details. Then you can just click the BUY button on relevant tweets. It’s currently only available in the US, but I suspect a global rollout is imminent.

Your purchases appear in the Order history below.

Here’s where you enter your mobile number to take advantage of additional security features.

When you first start using Twitter, you might want to be alerted every time someone engages with your tweets. However, this is a good way of quickly filling your inbox with notifications.

Twitter now automatically trims the number of emails, but you can opt to receive them all by clicking Turn off smart setting.

If you don’t want to receive any notifications at all, click Turn off.

Underneath are what seems like several hundred checkboxes so you can control exactly what is sent. I’ve switched them all off, as I’d rather keep up-to-date from within Twitter itself.

Web notifications are far less obtrusive. They are a little bubble that appears in your browser, usually in the bottom right-hand corner, when you are logged into Twitter. With this feature enabled, you’ll be immediately alerted when someone engages with you.

Using the checkboxes, you can decide what notifications you want to see. You can switch them off entirely, allow Twitter to decide what’s important (Tailored for you), or see everything (By anyone).

I like web notifications, as they give a greater sense that Twitter is a live conversation.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this course, you can allow Twitter to rummage through your email contacts to find friends.

If you’ve felt obliged to either mute or block certain users, you can view them in the next two tabs. From here, you can also unmute or unblock them.

Moving onto happier settings. Through the Design tab you can set a theme, choose your own background, and select a colour scheme.

If you want your background image to be repeated, check the Tile background box.

Other users will see the design that you create for your profile page.

In the previous section, we looked at some of the third-party apps you can link with Twitter. If you decide to no longer use them, it’s important to revoke their access to your Twitter account.

It’s unlikely that they’d do any harm, but there’s no sense in giving unnecessary access.

We covered creating Twitter widgets in the previous section. You can view and manage them from this tab. If you edit a widget, you’ll need to copy and paste the code again into your website. Deleting a widget from here means that it’ll no longer be displayed on your blog.

You’ll need to enter your password to enter the Your Twitter data tab, as it gives you a wealth of information about your account. That’s why I’ve made it look foggy.

You can see when you’ve logged in, and also when any third-party apps have access your account. This is a good way of spotting suspicious activity. If apps are behaving badly, revoke their access under the Apps tab; if there’s a suggestion in the logs that anyone else is accessing your account, change your password immediately.


If Twitter really isn’t your cup of tea, or if you’ve encountered significant problems, you might want to delete your account.

First go to the Account tab in Settings. Scroll down to the bottom and click Deactivate my account.

You’ll be asked to confirm the deletion.

All your user data is retained for 30 days but isn’t visible to anyone. After 30 days, it’s irrevocably deleted. If you do decide to reactivate beforehand, everything will magically reappear, including your lists, followers, and likes.

Don’t forget to download your tweet archive before your account dematerialises.

So, we’ve covered the most important settings in Twitter. You should now know how to stay safe and protect your data.

Settings & Privacy
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About the Instructor
Dr Catherine Pope
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5,787 Students
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Digital skills trainer and author

I'm a digital skills trainer and author, helping researchers and writers make better use of technology. I've been running workshops for 5 years and have helped hundreds of students with everything from creating a blog to keeping up-to-date in their subject. My recent ebooks include Managing Your Research with Evernote, How to Write Your Thesis with Scrivener and How to Manage References with Zotero.

For 12 years I worked as an IT manager and web developer, before gaining a PhD in Victorian literature from the University of Sussex. I'm now combining my experience of technology and education through online teaching.