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Guide to using Twitter

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online discussion platform. It uses a shortened format of 280 characters per “tweet,” or posting. Tweets allow you to promote material by linking to other sites or using hashtags; sharing images, short clips, or gifs. A tweet also may stand alone as a personal comment or response. Your tweets appear in the chronological lists (known as “feeds”) of people who elect to “follow” you – so the best way to build your audience on Twitter is to follow other people and engage with their content in the hopes that they will follow you back. To be successful, update your feed on a regular basis and be strategic about what you post and why. There are lots of online resources that can help you learn some Twitter best practices. We offer some below.

Use Twitter if you are looking to invest between five to 10 minutes per day and want to convey brief messages or direct readers to other sources. If your needs are different, consider using a different social media channel.

Pretty Lake, Indiana during summer
  • Make sure you’re using the best tool for the audience you want to reach and tweet often. You need to post at least once a day (ideally more) in order to maintain your followers.
  • Make it a conversation and consider your message. Retweet, or share, other users’ posts, respond to their tweets, and tag other users’ handles. Users will be more likely to connect with and follow you if you engage with them.
  • Use hashtags (“#”); your tweets are more likely to be noticed. People often search for topics by a relevant hashtag, for example, #ScienceisEssential, #SciPol and #SciComm are used for science policy and communication.
  • Live tweet from relevant conferences (like #AGU18) or events to connect with people interested in or attending those events. Tweet about what’s interesting, new, or striking, and use the hashtag(s) for that event to reach a broader audience.
  • Stay organized. Social media tools are available for free or low cost, like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, allow you to schedule tweets, manage multiple accounts, and track your interactions. Use a URL shortener to make links fit in tweets.
People hiking up side of mountain with lake
How to use Twitter

Tweeting to policymakers

Policymakers are a unique audience you may want to reach on Twitter. All members of Congress and congressional committees manage a social media presence and staffers often use Twitter to stay up-to-date on news. As a constituent, engaging with your local representatives is a way to share your opinions and engage on issues or legislation. We offer some tips to help you tweet effectively to your policymakers.

  • 1
    Keep it short. Members of Congress and their staff are busy so shorter, relevant and impactful posts will get the most attention.
  • 2
    Be timely. Make sure your posts are current with what is happening in Congress. If a budget resolution is being considered for tomorrow, tweet now!
  • 3
    Be engaging but informative. Use infographics and photos to make your post engaging. Infographics distill information in an easy to understand way.
  • 4
    Thank your representative. If you agree with something they have done, tell them. It signals that they should continue to fight for an issue.