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.
So what are the key features of an engaging profile:
- Friendly, high quality profile picture
- Name that people recognize as a real person
- Description of who you are. More than just your job
- 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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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