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How to...use Twitter for academic research

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The very mechanics of Twitter, with its reciprocal following, ensures that you will add to your network.

It is also an excellent way of reaching new audiences: try to connect with people in relevant professional fields, as well as academics in other countries.


One of the most common, and most interesting, uses of Twitter is for conferences. Reinhardt et al. (2009) describe how it is used before the start of the conference to announce events, workshops and keynotes; during for last minute changes; and afterwards for thanking attendees, reflections, and interesting statistics.

But perhaps one of the most interesting uses, described by Ross et al. (2011) but also noted by Reinhardt et al. (2009), is the creation of a conversation stream between delegates and speakers at the conference, about conference topics.

This process is known as ‘backchannel’ communication, and can turn a conference from a one-way event with a speaker and then questions into a conversation, with Twitter-enabled chat taking place during the presentations themselves.

Reinhardt et al. (2009) actually mention one delegate whose presentation had its own hash tag and ‘Twitter breaks’.

The Digital Humanities conferences which Ross et al. described made use of conference specific hashtags, and the authors concluded that ‘the use of a digital backchannel enhances the conference experience, creating a more participatory conference culture.’