Twitter 101 for the College Grad

If you had asked me 3 years ago if I would be active on Twitter, I – pretty embarrassingly – would’ve scoffed and stated that I wasn’t a fan of Twitter. As a current college graduate, I can definitely attest to the fact that for content alone, Twitter is my premier resource for finding out what’s going on in my two favorite fields, marketing/social media and higher education. Plus, getting to tweet at my college president definitely makes having a Twitter 500% worth it.

On a non-professional level, there are tons of casual activities you can do on Twitter. You can get news updates, follow companies and get sales/deals, and plenty of other things in an insanely quick format. When I first started using Twitter, it gave me the chance to check out comedians, funny facts, and some CEOs I was really fascinated by. And it’s incredibly easy to sift through information when it’s only 140 characters.

Though even if you’re using it as a social outlet, I always caution people to make their tweets private if you’re going to use your name and picture. Most people don’t want to be the student who gets caught skipping class because they tweeted that they were smoking downtown. Just remember, your bosses/administrators/etc. don’t live in caves. They’re probably online as well.

But if you’re a college grad, you’re probably not all too interested in hearing that you can retweet Conan O’Brien unless you’re going for a career in comedy. Though I use Twitter as a part of representing my identity as a Lafayette student (now alumni) and promoting my blog posts, remember that Twitter should ultimately be a social experience even if you are using it on a professional level. The most important part of Twitter for me is connecting with thought leaders and expand my interests in the field of social media marketing. Depending on what you’re interested in, Twitter is an simple way to keep yourself updated and engaged in what’s going on in relation to your work. There are also many other general benefits to using it professionally such as:

  •  Establishing a quick online presence: most college students and grads don’t really want their Facebook profiles on their resumes, and more often than not you shouldn’t. But for those especially applying in fields where an online presence is beneficial and should be listed on one’s resume, having a Twitter profile is a pretty easy way to show that you’re active online without (hopefully) having to give out any info that could be seen as unprofessional.
  • Engaging with brands informally: Are you looking to work at X company? See what they say and do on their Twitter page. This will also give you an idea of how important social media could be to them. Do they only share their own content or are they actively engaging with customers? How frequent do they post? What is the tone and voice of their posts online? This can be especially helpful if you’re looking for a job and crafting a cover letter as you can use their voice to show that you get the company culture.
  •  Connect to those in your field: For recent grads, it’s always important to figure out who counts as at least one or two steps above you, and how they got to the position that they are at. Especially if you’re hoping to be a trailblazer in your specialty one day, figure out who are some of the people that you might be able to reach out to, and learn more from them. If nothing else, you may also learn a lot by seeing how their handle their social media presence, and what kind of content they find relevant.
  • Improve your writing skills: Can you say something intelligent in 140 characters? Can you do that while sharing articles, including pictures, and commenting on other’s work? I’ll admit, I definitely had trouble doing so when I first started out with Twitter. I always had so much to say, but so little space to say it in. And I really enjoy Twitter for helping me to push to be more concise online. While I’ll never lose my penchant for long-winded thoughts or conversations, there is definitely a useful space for being able to keep things short and sweet. If you have similar trouble, I recommend using Twitter as a practice tool for writing. If you can tell a story in 1000 words or 140 characters, you’re in good shape for a lot of careers.

So after all this, you’re probably thinking what exactly do I have to do to get active? The best medicine for social media often happens through trial and error, but here are a few 200-level tips for those hoping to create a great professional Twitter profile.

Join TweetChat sessions: TweetChats are really amazing opportunities to connect with other thought leaders – or other interested grads – via online. Essentially it’s a live Chat session that can be followed with a specific hashtag. For example, if I wanted to do a live chat of my graduation, I could use a hashtag such as #laf14gradday or something along those lines. For a more comprehensive description check out this great Forbes article on TweetChats. You can easily do one yourself if you’re interested in gaining prominence as an expert in your field. Alternatively, joining other TweetChats is not only a great way to meet thought leaders, but also a potential way to gain more followers depending on the content you publish.

Participate in Follow Friday or look for groups: On most Fridays, you can use the Follow Friday #ff hashtag to find interesting people to follow. If you’re not 100% sure whether that will be too much information to sift through, see if there are groups that you can be added to. For example, I’m part of a social media rising stars group and the HerCampus Blogger Network group on Twitter – and those resources definitely help when trying to find more people within a similar field.

Recognize that you lose a level of brand agency: While it’s up to you to make an amazing profile and start connecting to others, there is a certain level of agency you lose when going online. You can control what you say, but you don’t have agency over what others say about you. While this usually causes more issues for those running company over personal profiles, it’s still a good thing to keep in mind.

Got any more tips on how to run a professional Twitter profile? Leave them in the comments!
And a special congratulations to the Class of 2014!

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