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In this video, Dr Lee Fallin introduces Twitter as a scholarly communication tool.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read those that are publicly available. Tweets were originally restricted to 140 characters, but the limit was doubled to 280 for all languages other than Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages in 2017. Tweets can also include rich media including images and video.

Twitter has been described as “the SMS of the Internet”. One of the core features of Twitter are #hashtags. You can use a hashtag by simple typing the # character and following it with words or numbers. Hashtags cannot use special characters or spacing, so it is common to use camel case: #HereIsAnExample. It’s worth using Google or another search engine to find relevant hashtags for your field.

Twitter has become an important way for academics and students to communicate both with each other, and with the world at large. Some students have even built an international reputation on Twitter, simply by tweeting interesting things as they work through their studies – as well as responding to people who want to engage with them or find out more about their research.

Key stats

According to Twitter, there are more than 330 million monthly active users (Q1 2019).

How can it be used for scholarly communication?

Given the large audience that comprises both members of the public and academic/researchers, Twitter is a fantastic communication and connection platform. Tweets are very much ‘in the moment’, and so it’s a great way to relate research to current affairs and other news. Hashtags (see above) can be used to help share and connect with others following those topics.

Conferences and events usually have a Twitter hashtag, allowing people attending (either online or in-person) to connect using that. This will usually be included in conference programmes and publicity.

How can it be used for research?

Due to the large audiences and the wide range of hashtags, Twitter is often used as a research source. This needs to be carefully considered from an ethics perspective, which will be discussed more next week. There are automated ways to crawl Twitter to harvest data, allowing bulk data collection.

Getting started

You can create a Twitter account for free and then take a look at the Five-part guide to using Twitter as an academic

There are a number of related links beneath this article under the see also heading.

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