5 Tips To Building A Healthy PLN With Twitter

Nick Grantham is an Australian educator living and working in Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and e-learning, he founded Fractus Learning to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.

 

The more I use Twitter, the more I understand the power that comes from connecting. Connecting with friends, connecting with colleagues, connecting with leaders and connecting with valuable sources. It all builds into what has become my most trusted source for professional development and generating ideas.

With a real opportunity to impact personal, professional and intellectual growth, here are five tips to help you build, nurture and grow your PLN with Twitter.

 

1. First Impressions Count

What would you think if someone introduced themself without looking at you, telling you their name or who they are? You would probably not be too interested in engaging much further with them. Well, the same principle applies to Twitter. Your Twitter profile is your identity on the network and it needs to truly reflect who you are and what you are about.

Look at the difference between these two profiles and think about what would attract you to follow each.

Twitter Blank Profile

Example of a profile that could be more engaging

Good Twitter Profile

Example of a profile that is much more appealing to follow

So what are the key features of an engaging profile:

  1. Friendly, high quality profile picture
  2. Name that people recognize as a real person
  3. Description of who you are. More than just your job
  4. Link to your blog or site of relevance

These small details make a huge difference in building a follower base that cares about who you are, as well as attracting the kind of followers that build a healthy PLN. For some more detailed ideas on setting up a great profile, check out a recent article, 5 Education Twitter Profiles You Really Can Learn From.

 

2. Start Slow, With Who You Know

When first joining Twitter there is an overwhelming urge to follow anyone and everyone. This is not a great way to build an understanding of Twitter as a tool or Twitter as a community. I suggest starting small. Follow a handful of people that you know personally or you know as thought leaders and trustworthy sources. This will let you get used to the vast amount of information shared on Twitter as well as get a clear idea about how to start growing your PLN.

The easiest and best way to find the people you know is to use the “Find Friends” feature on Twitter. This is found in the ‘#Discover’ tab. Any contacts that have Twitter accounts can be added directly from your email and IM accounts.

Find Friends

To once again draw parallels with real life – You would not walk into a crowded party and start chatting to strangers that you perceive could further your social status. You mingle with the people you know and based on who they introduce you to, your network will naturally flourish.

 

3. Finding The Right People

A healthy PLN is one that you can rely on for great information, contacts and discussion. Building this involves interacting with both people you know as well as people you may not. The important part is finding people that share your values and interests. As mentioned, finding new Tweeps to follow will occur naturally, but how do you begin to fill out your PLN with the best people out there?

Twitter suggestions

A surprisingly simple but very effective way to find new people is using Twitter’s “Who to follow” feature. Looking at individuals that are popular with people you already follow, Twitter does a very good job of suggesting who may be of interest.

Who To Follow

Hashtags

Using hashtags is a great way to find conversations that interest you. As part of these conversations it is easy to find users that share the same passions. For some ideas on hashtags to get you started, check out a great post on 20 Twitter Hashtags Every Teacher Should Know About.

Third party tools

There are a huge number of great tools out there to help you discover great new Twitter sources. Here are a few recommendations to try when looking to expand your PLN:

  • Twellow – search by categories such as education, technology, etc.
  • WeFollow – great for finding influencers and popular Tweeps
  • FollowerWonk – useful when looking for specifics in Twitter profiles
Lists

One of the absolute easiest and best ways to find new users for your PLN is lists. Because lists are created and curated by individuals on Twitter, they are a great way to find people recommended by users you trust. The below example shows a list created to track people Tweeting about Technology Resources. You can choose to subscribe to the whole list, or follow individuals who particularly interest you.

Lists

 

4. Consume, Contribute And Collaborate

Like any healthy diet, building a healthy PLN on Twitter is all about balance. There are many ways to use Twitter, but to really take advantage of the network you need to work with the the 3 C’s.

Consume

Consuming is one of the greatest features of Twitter. The amount of valuable information being continually fed into your feed is like no other network. It is your job to curate and manage this feed so that only the highest quality Tweets are being consumed.

Contribute

It is very easy to ‘lurk’ on Twitter and only consume information provided by others. The real power of Twitter comes together when you begin sharing your own thoughts, links and information. Not only will this help you develop your own voice, but you may begin to gather a respectable following.

Collaborate

A combination of both consuming and contributing, collaborating is creating conversations with your PLN. This is the best way to build personal and professional relationships on Twitter. It is also a great way to ask and answer questions as well as get noticed as a thought leader within your network.

 

5. Promote Through Other Channels

Your PLN goes far beyond Twitter and the followers you have on the network. Take advantage of this and broaden your PLN by promoting your Twitter profile elsewhere:

  • Link to your Twitter profile on other social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc.
  • Include Twitter buttons on your blog or website
  • Embed tweets and conversations in your posts
  • Add a Twitter link to your email signature
  • Mention your Twitter username in presentations
  • Print your Twitter ID on your business cards or hard-copy work

 

Leave a comment and let us know what other tips you would give to those starting out building their PLN on Twitter? And what do you see as the biggest benefits of the network?

 

If you have any colleagues or friends looking to get involved on Twitter, or build their current knowledge and network, check out our upcoming online course - Twitter For Use In Schools and The Classroom

 

Image courtesy of Flickr, Coletivo Mambembe

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  • SAASE KWASI BAAH

    Until now I had never thought of the unlimited opportunities I stand to gain from building a good PLN through the effective use of Twitter. From now onwards I will make good use of this great internet facility.

  • Javier Zurita

    Interesting ideas Nick, I am from New York, and I have question. I am not sure if it would be professional to print business cards. I have Master in Science of Business in Human Resources and I am doing a Doctorate of Business Healthcare Management. The company I work does not provide Business card, but I want to create my own, personal. Is it good idea to put my MSB. I do not want to look ridiculous, but I want to promote myself. Do you have any suggestions.

    • FractusLearning

      Hi Javier! Thanks for the comment and question. In my opinion, your card is there to promote yourself. You won’t be giving it anyone who will judge your qualifications or think you are ridiculous, But you will be giving it to people who will want to know more about you and know what you have done and what you are about. So, for me, you should definitely put your MSB on the card. It doesn’t have to be in big red text, it can be subtle. Subtle is good. Simple is good.
      Also, if you need to get cards printed yourself. I got cards done with moo.com and I can’t recommend them enough! Best of luck mate.
      Nick