I admit it. I resisted Twitter for years. It always seemed trivial to me. I thought, “What good are 140 characters? You can’t do much with that!” Plus, the use of the word “tweet” as both a noun and a verb made the platform seem too trendy to be a serious communications tool. My problem of course was that I just didn’t get it. In 2014, however, I read a few eBooks on how to use Twitter and I began to change my mind. I opened an account, and after a few false starts I began to use Twitter regularly. Now, it is my preferred social media channel and I use it more than Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest combined.

I use Twitter only for professional purposes, and at present I have about four distinct ways of utilizing the platform. I have two accounts that I work with, one belongs to the College and it is the official alumni feed. The other is my own account, which I use for purposes 2, 3, and 4 below.

  1. Alumni Engagement – This one is obvious. Most alumni/development teams include at least one Twitter feed as part of their overall engagement program. The possible applications are endless. Campus news can be shared with links back to the institution’s website. Announcements can be made about upcoming alumni events, sports teams, giving day appeals, etc. With Twitter’s recent addition of live video, one can even take alumni on virtual tours of campus, showcasing new facilities and renovations!
  2. Professional Development – In addition to the alumni feed owned by the College, I also have my own Twitter account, and I am very selective about who I follow. That is not to be snobby, I just limit my followings to people who put out great content in my field, and because I do my Twitter feed is filled with highly useful links to professional articles, announcements of upcoming conferences and webinars, and tips and tricks of the trade that I had not considered. Because I am careful about who I follow, my Twitter feed has become a highly relevant, key professional development tool for me.
  3. Content Curation – Just as I am choosy about who I follow, I am very careful to only put out useful content myself. I want to respect my followers’ time, so I only tweet articles, videos, and other links that I find particularly helpful, and I do so in only three areas: alumni/development work, productivity, and personal development. My hope is to be of service to my colleagues in the field by sharing as much good content as I can.
  4. Blog Promotion – In addition to tweeting on alumni/development work, productivity, and personal development, I write on these subjects in greater detail on this blog. I share my posts on Twitter as a means of driving traffic back to this site where likeminded professionals can engage with each other in the comments section.

The key to all of this was figuring out how to make Twitter advance my goals and meet the needs of the alumni I serve. Now that I understand what the medium is, and what it can and cannot do, Twitter has become my go-to app for curating great content and communicating with alumni.

Question: Do you use Twitter for professional purposes and, if so, what kinds of things are you doing with it? Please leave a reply below.

Posted by Dr. Mark Zobel

Director of Annual Giving at Blackburn College

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