Twitter – Extended Guide

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(Image by Tamer Koseli and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.)

1) Go to and set up your account if you haven’t already done so. Try to pick a name that is as close as possible to your actual name, use something that is clearly identifiably you. Try to avoid using numbers where possible and try to keep your username as short as possible (maximum length: 15 characters). The longer your name, the less space people have to play with when sending you tweets!

2) Before you do anything else on Twitter, add a picture and short biography to your account. Quite often, these are crucial in helping someone to decide whether to follow you or not, particularly the bio. Make your bio as helpful as possible to those thinking of following you. Aim for it to include the kinds of things you are likely to tweet about, as well as indicating your specialist areas of interest. If people are clear on what you are about, you are more likely to find people of similar interests will follow and, more importantly, engage with you. Also use your bio to link to your blog (if you have one) and indicate whereabouts you are located.

3) By default you are given an avatar of an egg. This is not very appealing to other, more experienced folk on Twitter. You don’t have to use a picture of yourself (you may wish to protect your privacy – more on this later!), but it can be helpful to identify you as ‘a real person’.

4) After setting up your account and adding a picture, biography and other details you will then be prompted to follow a few suggested accounts. Skip this stage for now and head straight to your home or profile page.

5) The Twitter web interface is split into four main parts:





Home – the main timeline where you will see the tweets from the people you follow (as well as additional content Twitter has decided you should see).

Notifications – this is where you will see any tweets sent to you, any tweets of yours that have been retweeted (more on this later!), notification of new followers and other activities related to your account or the content you share.

Discover – activity by people you follow, including retweets and favourites.

Messages – this is where you will find all your private messages from people who you follow on Twitter (you can only message an individual that follows you, you cannot message someone who does not).

6) Before you start tweeting, it’s a good idea to start following people. I have created two Twitter lists (these are curated lists of people on Twitter that you can build and share) including general psychology accounts as well as tweeters in the School of Psychology. Put the following URLs into your browser and click to follow anyone you think you’d be interested in following:

The School of Psychology at UEL

Psychology General

7) To find more people to follow on Twitter use the search functionality at the top of the page. Once you have entered your search terms, you will be presented with tweets including those terms. Click to view People (top left-hand box) and you will see a list of all the accounts that include the word ‘psychology’ in their username or bio, a good way to find people likely to be tweeting about the subject.

Hashtag8) Hashtags are a great way to find people to follow as well as to find interesting content. For example, in the workshop we used the hashtag #helloUEL. Searching for this hashtag in Twitter will present you with a list of every tweet with this hashtag. Hashtags are particularly useful during conferences so that people not at the conference can follow the discussion and, if the conference is really responsive, enables non-attendees to engage in proceedings.

9) When it comes to writing tweets, you have 140 characters to play with. It may not seem a lot, but it’s surprising what you can fit in:

Many people put something like “hello world, this is my first tweet” as their first tweet. Try to be a bit more imaginative and give people a reason to follow you. For example, you might like your first tweet to indicate what area you are researching, or what your particular subject interests are. Try to give existing folk on Twitter a good reason to follow and engage with you.

10) Once you start tweeting, you need to engage with people to keep them interested and to develop your following (conversations help to raise your profile as more people become aware of who you are). Whilst you are under no obligation to reply to tweets, it’s good practice to try to acknowledge tweets where possible unless they are rude and offensive. In which case, block and, if appropriate, report the user.

A few pointers

be nice

(Image by Harlan Harris, edited under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license. Original here.)

There are no real ‘rules’ for Twitter, and you should use it in a way that suits you. That said, here are a few pointers:

a) Be nice. Don’t engage in so-called ‘trolling’ (being mean to fellow users) with others on Twitter. Be polite and respectful when you tweet at all times. Of course you can engage and debate with other users, but ensure this is always civil. How you act online can have ramifications off-line.

b) As with all information sources, be sure to verify information before you share it. If you cannot verify it, don’t share it with the community!

c) Avoid tweeting specifics about colleagues or fellow students, particularly if they are things you wouldn’t like to be said about you. Just because they are not online doesn’t mean to say they won’t find out about it! (And in the workplace this could have serious repercussions.)

d) If you are subject to abuse or harassment, you can block individuals by clicking: profile name > cog icon > Block or report. That user will then no longer be able to see your tweets.

e) In the unlikely event you are subjected to abuse, or if you feel the need to protect yourself, you can set your account to locked (Settings>Security and privacy>Tweet privacy>protect my tweets). People who do not follow you will not be able to see your tweets (even if you tweet at them) nor will any tweets you hashtag be visible. However, sometimes the loss of freedom is outweighed by the gains from being on Twitter, so don’t feel that it is a waste of time having a locked account.

f) When you start a tweet with a Twitter username (for example, during a conversation), anyone that follows you and the person you are tweeting at can see the conversation. Anyone that doesn’t follow you will not be able to see these tweets. When you want everyone to see your tweet (and be wary of this as people may not wish to see every conversation you have!), start the tweet with something other than the username. So, for example:

@psyclib_UEL recommends we use PsycInfo to find journal articles

will only be seen by people that follow you and @psyclib_uel. You might want to phrase it differently:

According to @psyclib_uel, PsycInfo is the best resource for journal articles


.@psyclib_UEL recommends we use PsycInfo to find journal articles

In both examples, everyone who follows you will see these tweets, not just the people who follow both of you (as well as a full stop, you can use a hyphen or any other character – other than a # of course!)

Now you have the lowdown on tweeting, you should be able to start engaging with the wider psychology community, sharing resources and building networks of support! A glossary of the various terms is available on my blog, along with these notes. Do drop me a tweet (or email if you are old skool!) if you have any queries. Happy tweeting!

Ian Clark

Subject Librarian – Psychology

email: | twitter: @psyclib_uel


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