Using Twitter to Build your Professional Network

Published: Tues., April 6, 2020, by Carmen L. Cano Roca

Social media keeps us connected to our family and friends, but it can also provide opportunities to enhance our professional networks. Spaces such as Twitter can be very democratic, making it easier to meet and engage with people at all career stages in your field. Here are some tips from my experience on Twitter that could be translated to other social media platforms.

Set your expectations. This is very useful whether you are first starting to use Twitter or pivoting a personal account into more of a professional account. People use social media to enhance their professional networks, to practice their science communication skills, to build support groups, to advertise new positions or look for new collaborations, or even just to share their graduate experience. Having an overall objective can help you decide what to post and who to follow.

Be yourself. Everyone has different skills and will manage their social media profiles in different ways. For example, I like to post pictures from the laboratory where I work or from the seminars that I attend. Other people prefer to do threads explaining science concepts or tweets promoting their recent papers. Others share their science art. There are also great people that advocate for social justice in science. Whether you are straightforward or funny or artistic or an activist, there is space for you on social media.

Connect with your people. The benefits you get from Twitter depend on you building a strong and relevant network. Find people who are relevant to your field by looking up the names of people in the literature you read. Follow your professors and peers from UNL, as well as institutional accounts from professional societies or government agencies. Explore hashtags that are meaningful to you, such as #AcademicChatter, #PhDchat, #WomenInSTEM, #BlackInSTEM, or #LGBTQInSTEM. Many of us can find community online that we could not find in person.

Engage. Once you have a profile and follow some people, interact with them! Liking other people’s posts is a good start, but you need more engagement to build a network. Reply to posts that are meaningful to you, congratulate others on their wins and support their struggles. Tag people in your posts. Interact with hashtags, ask questions, and retweet relevant posts while adding your opinion.

Be respectful. Respect is as important on social media as it is in the real world. Don’t be rude to others. On the other hand, there is always people who will disagree with you. You have the right to not engage with them or to block them.

Take it to the real world. Once you have built relationships with people on Twitter, you can transition them to the real world. I have yet to collaborate on a project or find a new job due to Twitter, but it is possible. However, I have sent and received science postcards, attended virtual dissertation defenses, and participated on podcasts with people I met on Twitter.

Graduate school is tough, so build as much of a support network as you can! You can follow me at @lulutuits.