I feel I have a bit of a headstart on DH Thing 4: Building a network and Twitter as I have been working the CRASSH Twitter account for nearly two years. That said, this blog post provides a wonderful opportunity to pause and re-examine how I’m using Twitter on behalf of CRASSH, something I’m regularly required to do – albeit in a more formalised manner – for the Centre’s Management Committee.
CRASSH is using social media to engage with and in the online communities of arts and humanities in higher education and more broadly. While some of the content we tweet is here is clearly self-promotional (announcing upcoming conferences and events), the most interesting content is a soundbite that conveys some of the activity going on at CRASSH. Most importantly, it’s a way of keeping in touch with CRASSH’s global community. A number of graduates convening events at CRASSH are on Twitter, as well as current and past visiting fellows, and conference delegates. I recently started a public CRASSH Twitter list to try and stimulate some cross-fertilization of Twitter activity from CRASSH’s constituency (DM @CRASSHpublicity if you’d like to be added to it) and it’s also a very useful way for me to source content. Cambridge University’s list and LSE’s Impact Blog lists are other great resources. I’ve found both lists and hashtags invaluable in making sense of all the noise of Twitter. You can also set up private lists which can act as a private list of key followers whose tweets you don’t want to miss.
For public events which are being filmed or podcasted (i.e. content clearly earmarked as public), we live tweet so people can follow the event online and also to produce an archive that we can storify and combine with images, audio, video, abstracts and presentations to create a neat post-conference package. One thing that has to be said about live tweeting and storifying is that it’s very time-intensive, not to mention exhausting, when you’re the one doing the live tweeting. The content requires collating and editing after the event to produce an archive that gives a flavour of the activity of the conference. My epic storify of the conference New Approaches to Maternal Mortality in Africa took days of work after the conference and still isn’t quite finished. I was encouraged to hear that Melissa Lane’s notes from the conference ran to 50 pages. It was a particularly meaty conference and the participants have appreciated having this multimedia content available.
As I mentioned at the end of my last blog post, there is a clear difference between a host institution tweeting and an individual partly because of the difference in ‘official’ status but mainly because of the expertise they bring to a particular event, especially when the institution’s remit is as broad as CRASSH. While I feel comfortable picking out bite-sized chunks of content for Twitter (always credited to the speaker in the tweet) unless the conference is on speech acts in Milton or the endings of Tennyson’s poems (I’m still waiting for those events at CRASSH) I’m less able to add commentary beyond links I can make between different presentations and perspectives that have emerged throughout the day as I don’t have the appropriate academic background. The advantage of being at CRASSH is that as all its events are interdisciplinary, many of the academics face the same challenge in being on new ground.
I was recently asked whether CRASSH or the University has a Twitter policy. As far as I’m aware (and this is something that came up at the first Social Media Knowledge Exchange project steering group meeting) most universities don’t have a social media policy, perhaps through lack of time but, I hope in most cases, because that rather goes against the grain of social media. There are I would argue unspoken codes of conduct, some of which were articulated in the recent #Twittergate debate brilliantly summarised in 10 rules of thumb for the Guardian Higher Education Network by Ernesto Priego. Most of the rules of etiquette for social media are commonsense and underpinned by the normal rules of academic etiquette. Many events that take place at CRASSH simply aren’t suitable for live tweeting, for example closed seminars or reading groups where people want to try out new ideas without worrying that someone is broadcasting them outside the room. And of course we respect that.
On the tools front that we’re supposed to explore this week I can certainly recommend Hootsuite. It’s not pretty but it does mean you can have multiple people managing the Twitter feed, save hashtag searches, manage multiple twitter accounts and even different social media channels and schedule tweets. I’m sceptical as to how far you can post content to a channel from outside that channel and still find the appropriate tone of voice. I find scheduling event news tweets very useful, but you still have to keep an eye on Twitter to engage with your followers and see how the tweets is picked up by others. Paper.li I find slightly annoying as it’s automated and I think automation reduces the editorial aspect of sharing other people’s content on Twitter. I’ve just signed CRASSH up to listorious but not quite sure what it adds to Twitter’s list function. It also looks like it doesn’t carry over Twitter’s lists so you would have to curate lists in two places. I couldn’t get Tweetcloud to do anything for me as it kept telling me the words I was using weren’t in anyone’s top five. I like Tweetgrader as it told me CRASSH scores 93/100, although I do find using algorithms to measure Twitter interactions meaningless. It’s what is said by whom not how often that’s interesting (back to altmetrics) hence my Understanding Society storify is picking up on what people are saying not just counting the number of retweets.
Being on Twitter is a really fun way to hear what ‘word of mouth’ is saying about your organisation and have direct conversations with real people. Even for institutional accounts, I think Twitter needs to remain personal and be in character with the person tweeting. I’m going to end then with my two obvious things about Twitter: it’s fun and it’s personal.