Social media is becoming increasingly important as a means of communication and networking. Big name brands like Pepsi and Nike have already figured out the importance of sites like Twitter for maximizing sales and improving brand loyalties, but not-for-profit organizations have been somewhat slow to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. Historians, like me, usually prefer our manuscripts and conferences to social media--but that's changing and there are lots of ways we can utilize Twitter for professional growth.
1. Getting Started: First you need to go to Twitter and set up your account. This part is pretty self explanatory. To create your twitter handle (your public profile name) I recommend using your real name, initials, job title, or some combination of all of those to make your account easy to find.
2. Privacy: Twitter does offer a privacy feature under account settings. You can choose to lock your account so only users you approve can view your tweets and follow you. I discourage using this feature. Twitter is a public social networking site and to get the most out of it you should really keep your account public. You can block spammers and anyone you do not wish to communicate with by clicking "block" next to the user's handle.
3. Tweeting: Click the white box in the upper left hand corner underneath your photo and twitter handle. Type your tweet and then click the blue 'tweet' button. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so pay attention to the character counter next to the blue 'tweet' button.
Use the @ symbol followed by user's handle to tweet directly to a particular user (example: to tweet directly to me you'd say @JennWelborn followed by your tweet).
If you would like to tweet to a particular user, but you would like that tweet to be visible to all of your followers insert a period in front of the at symbol (ex: .@JennWelborn).
4. Following: After you open your account and create your handle you are ready to connect with other users. You can search for organizations and people by name or email address in the search box. Click their name to see their profile, and then click "follow" to follow them. Once you're following someone all of their tweets will appear in your feed.
Your followers are users who have chosen to follow your account. The more you talk to people on twitter, the more followers you are likely to get.
5. Direct Messaging: If you are following someone and that user is also following you, you can have private conversations via direct messaging. Click on the little gray man's head in the upper right corner to bring up the drop down menu and then click 'direct messaging.' Click 'new message' and then type in the twitter handle for the user you'd like to message, and then type your message.
Using Hashtags to Connect
Twitter hashtags are a great place to start networking. So what is a hashtag? A hashtag is the pound sign plus text and it can be used to search twitter for specific conversations and topics (example: #hashtag typed into the search box would bring up all recent tweets containing hashtags about hashtags). Capitalization does not matter for hashtag use.
There are hashtags for just about everything. You can even make up your own hashtags.
Hashtags are also used for something called "tweet chats." My next post will be about tweet chats.
I have taken the time to compile a list of hashtags commonly used by historians, public historians, museums, historic sites, historic preservation pros, historic preservation agencies, archaeologists, and public history organizations.
Topical Hashtags for Historians:
#histsci (for history of science)
#histmed (history of medicine)
#envhist (environmental history)
Hashtags for Public Historians:
Hashtags for Community and Conferences
#twitterstorians (popular hashtag for historians using twitter)
#aha2013 (AHA annual meeting hashtag)
#session122 (you can follow particular AHA meeting sessions by typing in the pound sign + session + the session number)
#THATcamp (popular AHA meeting hashtag--but it brings up non-history related stuff the rest of the year)
#NCPH (National Council of Public History Conference)
Hashtags for Digital History
#dh (#dh does bring up non-history related tweets as well)
If you notice that any history hashtags are missing please let me know so I can add it to the appropriate list.