It is estimated that one-third of all scholars are now active on Twitter. This means that conversations that previously took place within tight academic circles are now open for the general public to pitch in. The London School of Economics has produced a useful guide on Twitter for Academics. You can download the guide here.
One of the most important aspects of Twitter is the power of hashtags (#). Hashtags originated in Twitter; however, they are now used in most other popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Flickr. In a nutshell, hashtags are being used as powerful aggregators of information, movement supporters, and more.
Here are some of the ways academics and activists use hashtags:
- Support or contribute a dialogue for protest movements (e.g., #Iran (Bastos, et al 2013), #occupy (Milberry, 2013).
- Aggregate critical oppositional theory and politics (e.g., #RaceFail (Rambukkana, 2013), #feminism, #anticapitalism, #homophobia, #equality, #IdleNoMode).
- Target specific news or political issues (e.g., #climatechange, #robocalls, #shitharperdid, #RobFord).
- Link and raise the profile of subaltern publics and/or collective identities (e.g., #polyamory, #trans*, #desi, #goth, #metal, #comiccon, #fanfiction, #slash).
- Create both physical and virtual common spaces through practices such as live-tweeting conferences, protests, events, live news, etc.
Therefore, when you open up your Twitter account, don’t just follow people and instead seek to curate your own thematic lists and follow hashtags that are relevant to your research. You can also consider creating a new hashtag. If you chose to do this, you can create and register a new Twitter hashtag at Twubs. In this website you can search if your hashtag exists and if not, register it.
Lastly, register your Twitter Account with Academia Map, a website administered by The Social Media Lab at Dalhousie University. This website serves as the home for scholars to discover and connect.
Example: Topsy is a social media index and now lets you search through every single tweet sent since 2006. As a result, it’s the best place to research what people are saying about a given topic. It lets you search for tweets, photos, and videos. It also includes a free analytics tool that allows you to compare trends and mentions of subjects which can be useful in identifying what people are interested in and which topics are hitting the news agenda.