Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide 2: Creating and Curating Your Unique Voice
New Professionals and Graduate Students
October 30, 2017
Hello again members of the Student Affairs profession! Welcome to the second iteration of the Student Affairs Twitter Resource Guide! If you have not read my first blog on this topic where I highlight tips on how to start your Student Affairs Twitter journey, check it out here first. Since the first publishing, I’ve added a section where I include more first follows, hashtags, and chats to participate in. As always, please feel free to comment with suggestions on other hashtags, chats, resources, and tips as well as questions about the platform!
The premise of this follow-up blog is this: “I’ve started my Twitter and engaged a bit, what now?” While the previous blog focused on starting your presence on Twitter, this blog will focus more on active engagement strategies and maximizing your brand on this social media platform. “Can’t Student Affairs be my brand?” Yes and no. Student Affairs more than likely is a differentiating factor between yourself and most users on Twitter, but not within the field. I hope through this blog readers can bridge the move from using Twitter passively to curating content to promote your specific brand within Student Affairs!
After presenting about Student Affairs Twitter at a regional Resident Assistants conference, the most popular questions revolved around the lists feature. On Twitter, you can group multiple accounts in a list that you give a name and description. With the list open, you’ll have a curated feed of specific Twitter accounts, their original tweets and tweets they retweet. Often these lists are created by folks who want to gauge how many individuals on Twitter are engaged in a specific topic. Earlier in the year, I was added to a ‘Higher Education Social Media’ list due to my
interest in the topic, all my tweets featured amongst others that tend to revolved around that specific subject matter. All users can create a list and add other users manually via their profiles.
One important aspect of creating lists is the ability to create feeds about specific topics or from accounts related to your goals. This strategy is important in getting started with sharing and adding your voice to curated content. For example in my role as the Master’s level Graduate Intern for NASPA this past summer, I created lists for the NASPA Divisions and Groups, Knowledge Communities, and Regions via the @NASPAInterns account: https://twitter.com/NASPAInterns/lists. A couple times a week, I’ll browse through these lists to retweet relevant blogs and promote educational initiatives and opportunities that come from the staff and volunteers at NASPA.
For instructions and more details on creating lists: https://support.twitter.com/articles/76460
Make Twitter a Routine
If you’re serious about using Twitter as another avenue for professional development and for name recognition, try a few of these tips to stay current and active the platform regularly:
- Set Twitter activity goals. Why are you on Twitter? To directly chat with professionals you admire, to gain a sense of community outside of your campus, to find the latest blogs and share them with colleagues? These focuses all direct the type of content you create and promote and how often you do. As stated in first blog, posting more than once a day on Twitter is normal and often encouraged! Try tweeting three times a week: two original tweets and one retweet, and see how that feels. Are you connecting with folks? Are you learning more about the field as you scroll through your feed? Gauge your successes regularly and update your goals as you meet them!
- Check Twitter every day. I’ve recently stumbled upon this great article on how professionals can use LinkedIn at least 15 minutes a week to maintain their activity. Great insights include making sure to like and comment on people’s statuses (especially if you’re hoping to maintain a relationship with them and reach out more meaningfully in the future) and spot-checking your profile for typos and incongruencies with your brand. What else can you apply from this article to your Twitter game?
- Don’t want to tweet every day? Schedule them out! Try an app or website (I use Tweetdeck for example) that allows you to schedule pre-written tweets. Though scheduling is helpful with remaining active, you’ll still want to check the platform every once in a while to reply to others, to remain updated with local and national news that you may want to learn about and respond to, and be sure that any scheduled tweets do not go out on unfortunate times. There are some horror stories of innocuous tweets coming out during times where they contextually read as offensive. For example, a weekly Friday joke may look different if the tone for the day is somber after a national tragedy. Overall, a good mix of scheduled tweets and in the moment tweeting helps make the platform less time-consuming to use while also looking fresh and active. Here’s an informative article on balancing scheduling more generalized content and in-the-moment tweets.
- Ride the Trending Wave. Every day, on both the website and the mobile app, Twitter will highlight trending hashtags and topics for the day. These insights allow members to celebrate fun and informal holidays such as #NationalCoffeeDay (September 29th) and connect that lightheartedness to your company, department, or personal/professional brand. They also ensure that your content is being pushed out to large crowds on the site, helping you engage with new people. Twitter also provides hashtags for your region which can key you into what topics are most salient for folks living around you. For example, #NASPA17 was trending in San Antonio during the conference!
Your Own Voice
One defining trait that distinguishes you from HAVING a Twitter and USING the platform is sharing your unique voice, not only reaffirming the voices of others. This is where one’s unique Student Affairs branding truly starts. What distinguishes me as a Diversity and Inclusion professional (or ResLife, or Service Learning, etc. from professionals in other areas? What areas of expertise have I been honing in my work that I have research to back up and opinions that I’ve formed? Don’t just follow people and pages that resonate with your interests, but also contribute to the knowledge shared!
- Don’t only retweet! If an article or blog shared by another personal resonates with you, don’t just reshare it! Quote the tweet with your opinion, with a suggestion, with a quote in it that stuck out to you and why, with an opposing stance, etc. Use this space to also share your original content. This may be photos that you take, a blog that you have recently posted on your website, an article that you were mentioned in, etc. All of these pieces of content help establish you as a contributor of knowledge.
- Giving a name to your brand. First, if you aren’t 100% sure on what exactly your brand is, don’t let that stop you from engaging online. As you engage, you gain exposure to how others invent and reinvent themselves which can hopefully help you gain insight on what makes you unique! To start thinking about what your brand is, ask friends and colleagues what helps make you unique. Perhaps your penchant for writing and research could help you brand in a different way than your commitment to infusing humor and pun-making into your work. Both are valid aspects of the self that you could focus on that help you distinguish yourself. This is an area that I’m working on too!
- Balancing personal and professional tweets. For those who wish to not keep two separate Twitter accounts for the personal and professional, thinking about how you wish to balance these spheres is important! For example, more personal posting is more likely to gain engagement from folks that you know in-person while focusing on the professional usually connects you to others in the field. There is no perfect formula or percentage breakdown for success in this balance. Thinking again to the brand you wish to present, what balance works best? For example, in my case as a second-year graduate student, my more personal posts (like about a hard week or hearing the ice cream truck near my apartment) are more likely to expected due to my student status. Additionally, it’s important to showcase your personality and your interests outside of Higher Education. Interest groups like Student Affairs Runners wouldn’t have come about if everyone engaged only about the field!
- Own your knowledge! Don’t be afraid to nerd out a little bit in 140 characters (or 280 if you have that now!) Find accounts and chats related to your expertise and share it. For example, there are hashtags who folks who share expertise on being a professor, on content writing, on alumni services, etc.
- Own your learning! Twitter chats are a great place to find out what you don’t know and use the collective to help you find resources to further educate yourself. You can use a tweet to ask a question or use Twitter polls as an engaging way to gain public opinion on a topic. Asking a question every once in a while doesn’t make your brand ‘Doesn’t know things.’ Instead, it allows you another way to engage with your followers and continue your learning.
Give Your Notifications Some Attention
Twitter has started sending out more notification types lately, some more arguably ‘annoying’ than others. Why would I want to know if someone has started tweeting again? Or that five people I follow are chatting about a specific hashtag? Though these notifications may push to your phone more than once a day, these are useful insights if you act on them within the day!
- A person you follow just started tweeting again? Tweet at them or message them welcoming them back to Twitter! They may follow you after you connect with them and that may encourage them to continue participating
- Folks you follow are tweeting about #SAChat or #TuesdayThoughts? Check out the conversations and see if you can contribute! Participating in these hot topics can help you get noticed and help you stay current in the field and with local and national news.
- General notifications. It’s tempting to turn off your notifications as a whole, especially during a highly-attended Twitter chat, but don’t turn them off long-term! It’s important to engage with folks on the platform while they’re on it. And like above, seeing what your notifications are and the types of posts that your followers and others are engaging with are useful bits of information for future post making.
Practice Makes Perfect!
Promoting yourself as a brand is difficult. Sometimes it’s hard starting off without a mission and vision statement about yourself. It’s often easier to read up on and embody the values and brand of an organization that you run or a department that you serve in. And often, by tweeting through another account, you can learn what works with the populations you’re trying to engage and how to transfer those skills to you personal account! Here are some ways that you can continue to gain social media experience.
- Find opportunities to moderate a Twitter chat. Moderating a Twitter chat is tough work. You need to have the questions prepared, the chat well-advertised beforehand, and skills in facilitating dialogue about tough conversations. However, these skills can be taught! Historically, the Student Affairs Collective has had volunteers who take turns to “MOD” their weekly chats. As the opportunities are open, they should share them out! Additionally, every Spring the #SAGrad chat looks for a new moderator. Keep on the lookout for these opportunities if available!
- Be Their Guest. Some Twitter chats are looking for guests to help co-moderate a chat and provide their expertise in a subject area. @BlogElevated does a great job of partnering with marketing experts and corporate partners to broaden and deepen the scopes of their chats.
- Twitter Takeovers anyone? I have had the opportunity to engage in a Student Twitter Takeover during my first year of graduate school. Slippery Rock University allows students of all years, majors, and backgrounds to apply to take over the @srustudents Twitter account for a week during the semester. I used my run as the Twitter takeover student to educate about entering the field of student affairs, chat about what it’s like as a graduate student, and to promote a networking night that I was hosting with Student Affairs Professionals on-campus. I learned a lot about patterns of Twitter usage from students, how to pre-write my tweets in advance so that I had content, and how to hone my student voice in order to relate more to undergraduate students.
Twitter seems like a lot of work, huh? It definitely can be if you try to do everything all at once. However, a little work every day (or most days) can help you develop a unique voice in the field. Engaging in Twitter and using it to create and promote your brand can pay off in views to your content such as blog posts or your LinkedIn. Standardizing your engagement can also pay off in the relationships that you build and maintain through the website and find yourself a community of supporters in our profession. The opportunities available to demonstrate your expertise and to learn will hopefully bring you back regularly. This openness to a non-traditional form of professional development and education can certainly kick start your brand from the start!
Do you have thoughts on this blog post? Share them with us on Facebook @NPGSKC, on Twitter @npgs_kc, or on Instagram @npgs_kc!
Sammie Walker is a second-year graduate student at Slippery Rock University studying Student Affairs in Higher Education. She is a Graduate Assistant for the SRU Office for Inclusive Excellence and a Graduate Advisor to the SRU Student Veterans of America chapter. You can find her on Twitter @sammiemlwalker participating in chats!