In my blog Lab Soft News, I began to discuss the advantages of "professional blogging" almost ten years ago (see: Professional Blogs as Publication Vehicles for Physicians in Academic Clinical Tracks). By this term, I was referring to blogging by an individual in his or her area of professional expertise. In the case of Lab Soft News, my goal has always been to communicate directly with lab professionals and, to a lesser extent, healthcare consumers interested in the field. At the time that I posted this note, I was hopeful that blogging would become an important facet of academic publishing. I am not sure that even now blogging has gained much traction for academics but a google search for the term "academic blogging" did yield a number of hits. My focus today is another. and equally important, social media channel: Twitter. It offers a less time-consuming option for reaching out to a professional audience. All of the notes that I post in Lab Soft News are automatically replicated to Twitter (#labsoftnews) and to LinkedIn. My blog notes are thus shared with two broad audiencess.
Here are links to two articles that may be instructive for academics who are interested in tweeting (see: Academic tweeting: using Twitter for research projects; Using Twitter in university research, teaching andimpact activities; PDF). However, a reasonable question at this point is what specifically can be accomplished by becoming active on Twitter? Putting the question another way, would the chairman of a department view "professional" tweeting by a faculty member as important or frivolous? I personally believe that academic tweeting yields a host of benefits. Below is a list of reasons for tweeting (the "whys"). The list is derived, in part, from the first article linked to above:
- Tweet about new research publications, either personal one or those of others. Such tweets can include a critique of the publications or speculation about future directions for the research.
- Tweet news of interest to your followers that can affect the field such as regulatory changes.
- Tweet to organize a network of colleagues to keep up-to-date or perhaps attract attention and funding for one's own projects. This is also a way to reach out to new audiences such as potential graduate students
- Tweet to ‘crowd source’ opinions and reactions about new ideas. Others may respond to or retweet your ideas, creating an opportunity for an ongoing dialogue.
As to the "how" of tweeting, I would advise novices that writing tweets is not intuitive at first. The biggest challenge is generating thoughtful messages limited to a telegraphic 140 characters. In many cases, it's important to include a link to other articles on the web with a comment abut why the information is important. You may also choose to retweet an item that you find relevant. Choosing other people or organizations to follow on Twitter is also important because such choices create filters for your feed so that the information you view is timely, and newsworthy. In short, the best way to understand how Twitter works is to start using it.