Twitter for academics

Twitter for academics

Hey! Are you on Academic Twitter?

Today I want to talk about why I joined Academic Twitter (#AcademicTwitter).

And I’m going to share the first steps to have an effective Twitter profile as an academic or researcher.

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, The Academic Designer. Welcome to The Social Academic, my blog about online identity in the HigherEd world.

These are tips for your profile. For tips on engaging with people on Twitter, download my guide at the end of this post.

I just joined Twitter this year

Jennifer van Alstyne @HigherEdPR

I’m part of a subset of millennials who grew up with social media. We weren’t sure if we wanted to be a part of it.

We saw people lose their jobs for posting photos of drinking, people cheating, catfishing, fake accounts, and more.

I’d been on Facebook since middle school, and had a sporadically used Instagram account.

But Twitter? People had thousands of followers or friends.

I couldn’t imagine living that public of a life.

Many of my peers and colleagues felt the same.

The bottom line

People say you need to be on #AcademicTwitter, but really you just need to be an academic on Twitter.

I recommend a Twitter profile for academics and researchers

  • headed on the job market
  • looking to publish
  • requesting/justifying funding

Not finding someone on social media isn’t a bad sign, but not finding a concrete online presence is.

People want to find what they’re looking for.

As researchers and academics, we’re trained to exactly that.

How many Google deep dives have you done searching for an article not available from through your database access?

Why I joined Twitter

After brushing up my more established profiles, I joined Twitter for a number of reasons.

HigherEd Social Media

First, I became an #HESM or HigherEd social media person while working for @ULEnglishDept.

I was part of the team to get it’s online presence set up across platforms, write engaging website copy, and develop systems and strategies for future teams.

My time was limited and I had to work fast! It’s how I discovered my love of strategy.

It seemed odd helping my department and not myself after all the research, training, and planning I’d done.

Medieval Twitter

My research interests already had massive Twitter followings.

Medievalists love Twitter. Research, conversation, and debate is shared on a daily basis.

This is true of academics and university presses as well. Most Twitter communities exist through hashtags (like #ReadUP).

TIP: Find hashtags relevant to your field by searching key terms or popular names in your field.

Poets are easier to find and follow on Twitter, than on Instagram or Facebook.


Here’s the real motivation behind my business.

My fiancé, Matthew, is a modern American literature PhD candidate.

Let’s just say he was not good at social media haha!

I wanted to use my skills to help him as he goes on the academic job market and book market.

He said, there is nothing on social media for me. It’s all politics!

I told him he wasn’t following his people yet.

Matthew wanted to find other scholars and critics interested in women crime writers and noir.

I found hundreds for him to follow. He discovered new communities which enriched his research and thinking.


It’s all about audience

I soon realized the things I was teaching myself, that the #HESM and marketing folks at @ulllafayette were training me for in professional writing and recruitment, were things every researcher could benefit from.

They asked

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are their interests/needs?
  • What is the best way to communicate with that audience?
  • How can I practice this successfully with the least amount effort?

I founded The Academic Designer LLC to empower academics and researchers share their work with a wider audience.

I built Matthew a website, cleaned up his social media, taught him Instagram, and Facebook – and watched his research reach people.

An editor he reached out to for a book review, checked out his website and requested an essay on his dissertation topic within one week of these going live.

There are social media experts out there who will say you need thousands of followers.

Yes, that helps. But it isn’t necessary for you to be a good communicator.

Matthew didn’t want to be on social media, but after seeing the results, learning it didn’t need to be as difficult as it sounded, found he enjoyed it.

Are you an academic on Twitter?

For those of you on Twitter already – you’re awesome.

I see thousands of academics on Twitter.

You’d be surprised how few of us are communicating who they are and what they do.

You just have a moment as a potential connection scrolls through a list of academics on Twitter, or reads a tweet you posted and your colleague liked.

If you don’t provide answers to questions like who you are and why they should follow you, the answer will always be, maybe another time.

Who and Why?

So, who are you?

Most people want to follow people, especially ones who interact in some way with their followers.

Why do people follow people?

Sometimes it’s a shared interest or research topic.

Maybe we met at a conference and one of us is trying to expand our network.

People follow each other for all sorts of reasons.

Subscribe to the blog

Find your community with academic hashtags

10 academic hashtags to find community: a guide @HigherEdPR

Looking for people to follow and engage with on Academic Twitter?

I made a hashtag guide to help that gives my top tips for Twitter and Instagram.

Download your free guide by joining my community, The Social Academic.

Join my community

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and public relations consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help academics, researchers, and writers control their online presence and share their work with the world.

She holds a B.A. from Monmouth University in English, and an M.F.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Poetics where she was the Jack Kerouac Fellow. Jennifer also holds an M.A. from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Literature and Cultural Studies where she was one of four master’s fellows and a finalist for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award.

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