Twitter in ELT- Do’s and don’ts: an etiquette guide to Twitter


One of the trickiest things about using a social network for the first time is understanding the particular etiquette of how people interact. In essence, how to act online without instantly being recognised for being – brace yourselves – a newbie.

While I’m sure many of you will already be well-versed in ways of Twitter, you have absolutely nothing to worry about if not. As always there are numerous helpful guides online to help those getting started: Mashable has a very popular Beginner’s Guide to Twitter and you’ll find a useful Twitter Cheat Sheet  on edudemic. The beauty of the twitterverse is that the easiest way to learn is to sign up online and give it a go.

What follows is a short list of some of our own do’s and don’ts to help guide you in the ways of Twitter etiquette – so you’ll be tweeting like a pro in no time!

1) Do remember that everyone can see all your posts

Yes that’s right, everyone. While it might seem like an obvious first point, you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked.

One useful tip I’ve found is to always ask yourself when you tweet: ‘would I be embarrassed if my boss read this?’ Or perhaps more importantly if you’re teaching: ‘would I be worried if my students read this?’ If the answer is yes in either case then simply don’t do it. The internet has a long memory and Twitter is not, as this particular student learnt, a good place to vent your personal resentments.

While Twitter does have an option to create a protected account, which only allows approved followers to view your tweets, my personal opinion is that this largely defeats the point of Twitter. Other social networks like Facebook are a much better medium for engaging within closed communities, so if you don’t want everyone reading your posts, then Twitter probably isn’t the right platform for you.

2) Don’t just follow who you feel you should follow, but who you want to follow

Again, you’re not on Facebook anymore so don’t feel the need to follow all your real-life friends just because you’re worried it would be rude not to. Similarly, don’t be offended if someone you know doesn’t follow you. It’s okay to use Twitter with a specific interest group in mind and to tailor the accounts you follow for this purpose.

Follow accounts you think will be genuinely interesting to you. The great thing about Twitter is that it allows you to reach out to people you may not otherwise get to meet in person, so do start up conversations and @mention accounts outside your immediate circle – you never know what may come of it!

3) Don’t be afraid to be personal (just not that personal…)

Everyone has a point of view so it’s only right that you use yours to make comments and share content you think your followers will engage with. While it’s one thing to overshare (none of your students want to know how much you drank over the weekend), it’s another to just fill your twitter feed with bland statements that people are unlikely to be interested in: ‘the weather is still cold in London’ or ‘today is pizza day in the canteen – again’.

4) Do tweet little and often

Twitter is a continuous stream of activity so if you want to be heard make sure you regularly post topical tweets, without just spamming all your followers in one go. If you’re just getting started, don’t feel you need to constantly have something to say every minute – just tweet as and when you genuinely come across something of interest.

5) Do @reply to people who @mention you in an interesting post

It’s only polite after all. If someone said ‘hello’ to you across the road you wouldn’t ignore them, so don’t ignore them online.

6) Don’t make excessive use of #hashtags to #hashtag #every #single #word #in #your #tweet

The purpose of hashtags is to make sure your tweets appear in relevant searches. So if it’s so specific that no one will search for it, or your tweets are starting to look like spam messages, then just remember: less is more.

And if you’re unsure of which hashtags are relevant for teaching, then you may find this list of popular educational hashtags useful.

Next week I’ll be looking more specifically at teaching ideas for using Twitter, so do stay tuned if you’re interested in finding out more.

And finally of course … don’t forget to follow us @macmillancampus and @onestopenglish for all our latest ELT updates! Tweet us there or leave us a comment below as we’d love to hear from you.





Read more top Twitter tips in the posts below:

Twitter in ELT: Introduction

Teaching ideas for using Twitter

Twitter as a professional tool

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