How to Twitter Part 3: 5 Points to Consider Before Creating Your Twitter Identity

How to Twitter Part 3 is the final post in my series on how I understand and use Twitter. My first two posts covered the Myths and Realities about Twitter and 5 Reasons Why I think you should use Twitter. This final post will discuss 5 points you should consider before you create your Twitter identity.

5 Points to Consider Before Creating Your Twitter Identity

1.     Why Are You Tweeting?Twitter Istock

  • To create a platform for your research and publications? 
  • To interact and network with like-minded people?
  • To stay up-to-date on the latest celebrity gossip?

Knowing what you hope to gain from your Twitter experience will help you craft your Twitter persona—the version of yourself that you present on Twitter.

2.    What Do You Want Your Twitter Persona to Be?

Do you want to tweet mainly about work or play? Will your tone be mostly serious or funny?

Self-assess your personality. Tweet with the traits that will appeal most to your desired audience, but that will also present the genuine “you.” Your Twitter persona should represent a polished, but not too polished, version of you.

I use Twitter primarily to network and converse with other historians, writers, and alternative academics. I also use it to keep up with friends, news, my favorite sports teams, and events around Boston. I use the same account for all my tweeting, but I tweet more about history and writing than I do about the Red Sox.

Tweeting3.     What Are Your Boundaries?

How much information will you share on Twitter? Will you tweet about your friends and family members? Project your political and religious opinions for all to see?

I want my followers to know about my work and who I am as a person. I typically use first names or relationships when I tweet about family. One weekend I tweeted: “Enjoying a family day at the New England Aquarium.” This tweet allowed my followers to see that I have a life outside of my work and that I value time with my family. Its vagueness also maintained the privacy of my family members.  

I do not over share. I may tell you that I am at a Red Sox game, but I won’t disclose what I am eating, wearing (usually my food), or cheering at the game.

With regards to hot button topics like politics and religion, I haven’t tweeted about them. I enjoy a good discussion or debate, but I would rather have them in person.

4.   What Will Your Twitter Handle Be?

Your handle will be part of your brand so create one that people will easily identify with you, like your name.

Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters so shorten a long name with a nickname or initials. I publish under my full name: Elizabeth M. Covart. 16 characters is a bit much for people to Retweet (RT in Twitter lingo) so I use @lizcovart.

If you have a common name you might need to be creative by adding numbers, underscores, and abbreviations to your handle.

5.     Will You Adhere to Good Twitter Etiquette Practices?

There are many rules for good Twitter Etiquette, but I think one rule is the most important: the 90-10 rule.

Twitter90% of your Tweets should be about something other than self-promotion. Most Twitterers hate it when a person tweets only about their book, product, or blog posts. The best Twitterers are those who tweet to discuss, start a conversation, or to bring something of interest to the attention of their community, such as a blog post, book, news article, or event.

Promote your work on Twitter, but make sure that it represents only 10% of what you tweet about.

One final tip, you might find it handy to know that Twitter has a glossary. Twitterers use a lot of abbreviations to save character space and the glossary will be helpful when you need to know what RT, MT, & FF means.


How to Twitter Part 2: 5 Reasons Why You Should Use Twitter

How to Twitter Part 2 is the second in my three post series on how I understand and use Twitter. (How to Twitter Part 1: 4 Myths and Realities) This second post will discuss my top five reasons why YOU should use Twitter.

Twitter Istock 5 Reasons Why You Should Tweet


Reason 1: Networking with Like-minded Individuals

Twitter will connect you with a worldwide network of historians, writers, archivists, and publishers. All historians can benefit from these connections, but they are especially important for independent historians. Twitter can help us escape our isolation by recreating the departmental camaraderie we miss out on by being unaffiliated scholars. Need someone else to talk to? Try starting a conversation on Twitter.


Reason 2: Research Tool

Have a question? Twitter can help you find an answer. In the last week I have asked, answered, or seen requests for book and primary source referrals, historiographical inquiries, restaurant and hotel recommendations for upcoming research trips, blog suggestions, and technology questions.

Although I have not tried it, I believe Twitter will be a useful hack to getting around our diminished access to J-Stor and other journal databases. The scholars on Twitter are a helpful and generous group of people. I have no doubt that if you Tweet a request for an article that someone will help you access it. 


Reason 3: Instant Knowledge

TweetingTwitter will provide you with up-to-date information. You will learn about history-related news, events, books, scholarly debates, articles of interest, fellowships, and the work of other scholars almost the moment they happen or when someone has posted about them on the web.


Reason 4: Enhanced or Virtual Conference Experiences

Tweeting scholars have become a fixture at modern-day history conferences. Conference tweets will enhance your conference experience because they will allow you to keep up with and attend more conference panels.

No longer do you have to choose between the three really interesting panels you want to attend during the same 2-hour time slot. No matter which panel you attend another Twitterer will likely attend and tweet one of the others.

Can’t attend a conference in person? Attend it virtually by using Twitter to follow the official conference hashtag.

social media logosTwitter will also help you improve your conference sociability by providing opportunities for in-person meet-ups with fellow Twitterers. Want to dine or have coffee with other historians? Send a tweet and see who is available. Unfamiliar with the conference’s host city? Tweet for dining or activity recommendations.


Reason 5: Authorial Platform

Twitter will be an important part of your authorial platform. Publishers will require you to participate in the marketing of your book. Your authorial platform serves as the podium from which you will introduce (and hopefully sell) your work and publications to your followers. Independent historians need strong authorial platforms because we lack the pizazz and built-in platforms that our affiliated counterparts enjoy with their institutional affiliations. (I will further define and discuss how to build an authorial platform in future posts.)

These are my top 5 reasons why historians should tweet. What are your reasons and which reason do you think is the most important? Please leave a comment or send me a tweet @lizcovart.


How to Twitter Part 1: 4 Myths and Realities

How to Twitter Part 1 is the first of a three post series on how I understand and use Twitter. TwitterTwitter is a powerful social networking tool that allows users to spread information quickly and widely in succinct, 140 character conversations. It is an important tool to master and one I misunderstood until recently.

This first post will focus on myths and realities about how to use Twitter. The second will open a discussion on why historians (especially independent historians) should use Twitter. The third post will discuss how you can get started with Twitter.

I began using Twitter about eighteen months ago after I heard other historians talk about how they used it at the AHA 2012 THATCamp. I loved the idea of using Twitter to meet and converse with other historians. However within a few days of creating my account, I became overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information on Twitter and within a few weeks I stopped using it. The source of my frustration: I did not really understand how to use Twitter.

Recently, I attended a workshop on how to Twitter. For three hours, Lauren MacLeod (@bostonbookgirl) walked me and other writers through Twitter and dispelled the misconceptions we had formed about using it


Myth #1: You have to Follow and Keep Up with Every Twitter Conversation

Reality: Twitter is an information blitz. You cannot keep up with every conversation. The best you can do is check in periodically and add your two cents.


Myth #2: Using Twitter Takes Up Too Much Time

Reality: Using Twitter takes only the amount of time you let it. You can Twitter in as little as 10 to 20 minutes per day. I spread out my daily 10-20 minutes to check Twitter at 2 or 3 different times.


Myth #3: Twitter is Disorganized and Hard to Use

Reality: Twitter Lists organize Twitter conversations into user-friendly categories. You can set up lists around hashtags, such as #twitterstorians, or customize Twitter Istockthem by topic. I have lists organized around friends and family, historians, writers, archives, presses and publishing, digital humanities, Boston news and events, Boston sports, and product news. When I check-in I simply click on my lists and scroll down to peruse what people are tweeting about.

Incidentally, I use Twitter apps such as Janetter on my Mac and Tweetcaster on my iDevices. I have found them easier to use than Twitter as I prefer to follow Twitter using lists; in my opinion their list browsing functionality is better and easier to use.


Myth #4: Twitter is Only for Work OR Personal Use

Reality: You can use Twitter for both. Recent studies have shown that the social media works best when you tweet a mixture of work and personal news. Your followers like to know who you are by learning about your other interests and activities.

With that said, your Twitter profile and tweets are highly Googleable. Therefore, you should decide how you want to represent yourself on Twitter before you tweet. What is your primary purpose for being on Twitter? Professional networking? Or, personal pleasure? Most of your tweets should concern your primary purpose.

My primary purpose on Twitter is professional. With that said, I am also a Boston sports fan and I use Twitter to converse with other fans. I tweet history by day and sports by night.


A Happy Twitter Ending

Now that I understand how to use Twitter I am having a lot of fun with it. The historians, writers, and publishers I have met and follow are very nice and helpful; they always draw my attention to articles, blog posts, books, events, and facts that I might have missed. They are also generous with their time. @OUPAcademic recommended sources on early American diplomacy after I asked if they had similar titles to [amazon_link id="0199640351" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Remaking the British Atlantic[/amazon_link] by P.J. Marshall. And, several historians responded when I queried about peace talks between the United States and Great Britain prior to 1782.


What Do You Think?

I would love to know more about how you use Twitter and about the great hashtags and people you follow. Please leave a comment if you have suggestions or send me a tweet @lizcovart.


Read Faster: How Amazon Kindle Makes Research More Efficient

kindleRecently, I posted how Evernote has modified the way I work as a historian. The Kindle Touch also has changed the way I work for the better. Amazon Kindle helps me read faster and more efficiently with its my clippings feature. For reading, I find my Kindle better than my iPad because it is lightweight, easy to hold, and easier on my eyes. I am also a big fan of Kindle's "My Clippings" feature, which Amazon does not include in the Kindle app.

As with the Kindle app, the Kindle device allows you to make notes and highlight text.

To highlight text on the Kindle Touch you briefly hold your finger on the word that starts the passage you want to highlight and then trace your finger to the final word of the excerpt.

When you lift your finger off the device the software asks you whether you want to highlight the text or add a note.

If you press the "add note" button the Kindle gives you a blank note bubble where you can write down your thoughts on the passage.

Unlike the Kindle app, the Kindle device adds all of your highlighted text and notes to a file called "My Clippings," which you can access via the home screen or from your PC or Mac. The fact that you can download and modify this file on your computer represents the best part about the Kindle because it is can be a HUGE time saver.

I use a pencil to bracket passages and make margin notes when I read a book.

After I am done reading, I spend a lot of time transcribing these important passages and notes into Zotero or Evernote.

The "My Clippings" feature saves me a lot of time. When I finish reading a book on my Kindle, I load the "My Clippings" file onto my computer and then cut and paste my note and passages into Zotero or Evernote.

Although I love my Kindle, it does not always make my work easier.

Not all of the books I want/need to read have page numbers associated with them.

This presents a problem in that I have to look up the passages I highlighted in the actual book in order to properly cite them. Sometimes this process cancels out the time I saved by downloading the "My Clippings" file. As I have yet to find a way around this problem, I sometimes have to decide whether or not it might be better to purchase the hard copy of the book over its eBook version. My decision usually comes down to the weight and size of the book and the price difference between the two formats.

With that said, the Kindle has increased my productivity.

I read more with Kindle. Whenever I go out I slip my Kindle into my purse, briefcase, or backpack so that I have it when I sit in waiting rooms, travel, or find myself with a free moment. If the eBook has page numbers I also save a lot of time using the "My Clippings" feature to keep track of and transfer my notes into my research files.