Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twitter Tips

So maybe you have started to use Twitter. You've realized that it is a great tool that can keep you abreast of new developments in your field. But with this new tool comes the headache of organizing, participating, and streamlining your experience. Below are some ways to create a smoother experience.


Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are two of the more popular Twitter clients out there. They add more robust functionality to the standard web based Both allow people to create "channels" that filter incoming tweets according to hashtags or search parameters. These clients are useful if you follow lots of people and want to organize and filter the content you see.

Within Twitter itself, you can also create Lists. Add different people to your lists, then use the lists to filter only posts from those people. Twitter has many ways to filter down information. Hashtags, Twitter handles, searches, and lists all do the same thing; make the chaos into some order.

Twitter Chats

One of the greatest uses of Twitter is the "chat." Simply put, people come together at a predetermined time and use a predetermined hashtag (#thisisahashtag) in their tweets. By filtering the specific hashtag, you can follow a conversation. Here is a great list of many of the educational hashtags that exist. Often, hashtags devoted purely to chats often have -chat as a suffix (e.g. #edchat, #edchatri, #1to1techat, etc). Also, many chats are discoverable just by watching your Twitter feed for the time and hashtag that will be used (you've been following important people in your field, right?)

You can follow and participate in these chats through the regular Twitter client or the clients mentioned above, but Tweetchat and Twubs are two tools that allow you to focus on one hashtag at a time. They also automatically append the hashtag to your posts, which saves time and can easily be forgotten if you manually append your hashtags.

Automation and Synchronization

If you want to receive or send posts to Twitter via other services (like Facebook, a blog, email, SMS, etc) there are tools for this, too. Facebook and Twitter both have settings that allow you to link the posts, so that you only need to post on one service while the other will copy that message. 

Twitterfeed lets you track an RSS feed to directly post its contents to your Twitter account. You might use this so that every time you update your blog (or website), the updated content automatically posts to your Twitter account.

Grouptweet and twitfwd allow you to manage a few different Twitter accounts and easily send content between the accounts. For example, I have a main Twitter account, but also have created accounts for each of my classes. I can use the tools above to post once on my main account, which will then retweet the content on the appropriate class accounts. This is perhaps unnecessary since I could broadcast all info for all classes from my main account and use hashtags, but I like the ability to keep the content separated. My main account is more for my own professional development, whereas the specific class accounts are for letting students know about HW, assessments, and class info.

Lastly, I need to mention Ifttt (If This, Then That) and Wappwolf. These deserve their own blog posts (perhaps I can follow up over my winter break) because they are very full-featured and there are some steps involved in setting them up correctly. Both services are masters at automation, and can transfer information in many forms (docs, pics, music etc) to many different services (FB, Twitter, Instagram, Dropbox, Google Drive, and many, many more). I have created a workflow where I can send an email with a subject like "#Lat1 Don't forget about the test on Friday" and it will automatically be posted both to my class-specific Twitter account AND to a Facebook Page I set up for the class. 

Twitter Shortcuts

All of the above is well and good, but sometimes simplicity is key. There are some shortcuts you can use within the regular Twitter client. This post from Edudemic has summed it up nicely.

One last caveat. Twitter is a service that is bound to change and improve over time. I don't know how long this post will remain relevant, but one way to stay on the ball may be to follow @Twitter itself.

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