I’ve been active on Twitter as @JuneinHE for a couple of years now. I follow almost 900 or so people and organisations and I have about 1800 followers. I tweet regularly, some would say too much – every day, several time a day – and I engage in organised Chats and informal conversations. I try hard to encourage others to use this particular Social Media application, but it’s been an uphill struggle. In spite of the obvious benefits of sharing good practice and information, the asking and answering of questions and the organised discussions, there is still a belief that it’s mostly about seeing pictures of food, kittens, and inane chatter. And yes, there is some of that, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm your timeline.

Last week we had a ‘Twitter week’ in the Faculty. A special hashtag #brookeshls and a concerted effort for those of us who use Twitter to communicate interesting stuff and an opportunity to try to convert new Tweeps. The hashtag has been a great success, with information about a range of activities and achievements from right across the faculty being sent out and even three or four new Tweeps signed up.  Myself and a colleague offered to host question and answer session for an hour where anyone in the faculty (and beyond) could ask us questions about our roles, careers, and research or other scholarly activity. We’ve posted videos, celebrated and congratulated, introduced people to each other and generally had a great time. I made sure that I frequently contributed throughout the week, finding time to Tweet from or between meetings, over lunch, or in the evenings reflecting on my day. I also tried to respond to new Tweeps, encouraging them and suggesting interesting and useful people and organisations for them to follow. Many people shared what they were up to and it was a real success – so much so that we will keep the hashtag live now.

I’ve talked above how hard it is to convince people that Twitter is a great professional development and communication tool. It’s a shame that opening up to different ways of communicating can be dismissed without any real effort to engage with it. It really isn’t acceptable to say ‘I don’t do Social Media’ when so much of our world relies on it, and for those of us working predominantly with younger people it makes no sense at all not to at least try to engage.

As PVC/Dean of a large faculty in a leading university I am an evangelist for using Twitter for professional purposes. I use it to talk about my work and my experiences, to connect with others who are doing similar things, to get advice and to give advice. I use it to ask for information, to seek out publications, to get quick links to things that I can’t immediately get hold of myself. I use it to keep up with my discipline, to relate to new starters in my discipline, and to follow conference proceedings when I can’t attend the conference. I chat to students – from my own faculty and from other universities – and I hear from staff about their work and their achievements much more quickly than I would without it. It’s only one communication method, but it works on so many different levels.

At the end of the faculty Twitter week I caught a few tweets on the timeline from new Twitter fans that encapsulates the benefit beautifully. Just look at these, from @jululupostbox “We are converted! Great for making contacts, accessing information, contributing to discussions” and “Really enjoyed Faculty Twitter week! As Paula said – its like being at a permanent conference!” or @pjohnsonPaula “can’t believe how much info you can access by tweeting!”  and if you have more time check out the timeline on #brookeshls.

And if you don’t already – get Tweeting!