Finding your community with Twitter: Case Study


We’ve touched on the value of Twitter as a tool for promoting your research and its potential impact value in general, but today we are going to focus on a specific example of this in action. We’re going to look at our targeted efforts to promote Professor Hugh Craig’s recent PhD Scholarship and how – with just a little bit of focus – we had the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, tweeting about it.

Twitter 101

We know Twitter is an excellent tool for spreading the word; the length and breadth of your potential audience is practically limitless. So providing you know a little bit about your audience, you can enlarge it a whole lot more while you learn more about it. Expanding your audience on Twitter opens up your network and creates more room for positive exchange too, so there’s every chance you’ll learn more about your field. Wins all round.

Summing up

So while we’re on Twitter, let’s just touch again on the most effective ways to use it. If you’re following these principles you’ll be attracting new followers and will keep them engaged over time.

  • Be brief: Twitter has precise parameters that encourage brevity, so you won’t be writing a novel here anyway, but be as concise as you can. Try to focus on a specific event, publication or whatever it is you’re tweeting about – don’t try and do too much with your Tweet.
  • Link: Ensure you include links in your Tweet. Steer people to the source, whether it’s a blog post, a seminar you’re giving or a journal article you’ve just published. Twitter is a very useful tool not only for sharing information and content, but for promoting that content in a way that drives your audience to the core of it. Twitter might appear to be all surface, but it is an excellent gateway to the real content.
  • Use visuals: where relevant, images and videos will give your Tweets added appeal. According to Twitter, people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that contain images or videos.
  • Use relevant hashtags #: hashtags are a powerful and essential Twitter currency. They will allow you to expand your reach and tap into relevant conversations. Think of them as keywords that are relevant to your work. Using hashtags astutely enables you to join a wider conversation. Search for hashtags your self (more on this in a bit) and appear in the results in the searches of others.
  • Ask / reply / retweet: being an active, effective Tweeter isn’t a monologue. Ensure your respond to questions put to you (you can join any conversation by mentioning someone using their account name – @name), ask questions of others and retweet, with or without comment, Tweets that are of particular interest. Being active in these spaces will broaden your community. It’s all about engagement, really. Twitter can function as a fertile forum; a sort of digital village green, very, very effectively.

Targeted Tweets

Once you know your audience and have established a presence within a community, Twitter will work for your research profile. No doubt about it. But taking the right steps are crucial. There is a lot of activity on Twitter. It’s torrential. And your Tweets can quite easily be lost in the Tweet roar, so the only answer you get is a resounding echo. Obviously, this is not what we want. You need to Tweet with purpose. You need to Tweet in an informed way.

In order to target your audience, before anything else, you need to know:

  • what conversations they are involved in
  • who they are

A good way to answer these questions is to utilise Twitter’s search function. Like any search function, this is only as good as you make it. It is quite broad, in that it operates primarily on a keyword logic, but it has some very useful filters. Let’s get started.


From your Twitter account find the search window toward the top right of screen. Now there are plenty of methods to search on Twitter, which will uncover all sorts of things. As I mentioned, we’re operating on a Keyword principle, so if you enter one or more keywords and search you will get hits based on matches in Tweet content. This simple strategy could yield some interesting results, but more than likely you will end up trawling through a lot of irrelevant content, especially if your keywords are broad. Let’s get a little more specific.

Find what your audience is Tweeting about

One of the best strategies for promoting your work on Twitter is to place it within a relevant and healthy discussion. How? Use the search function to find conversations that are of interest and are likely to increase engagement with your Tweets and thus, your work. #youthunemployment #homeschooling #climatechange. Try it.

The best thing about this method of searching is focus. Talk to who you really want to. Smart hashtags are excellent links that will lead those who are interested, invariably, to what they are searching for. They are excellent for short-term events like conferences, where a very specific conversation thread can be pushed, but they work well for ongoing conversations as well.

Find who your audience is

Your Twitter community will consist of those with a shared interest, right? Identify them by searching and filtering by account.

Twitter Target 2

When this “Australian Cinema” search is filtered by account we get plenty of interesting results including bloggers, publications, publishers, professional associations and writers. Try this out too, you might identify some valuable contacts who you can follow and engage with. New contacts breed more contacts.

“Speak to it, Horatio” – the network in action

When we set about Promoting Professor Hugh Craig’s PhD Scholarship we did a couple of things. First we said, very briefly, what it was and linked to the story on the UON website. We also included 4 hashtags to open the conversation, based on the specifics of the Scholarship (#Shakespeare, #LiteraryStudies, #ComputerScience and #Statistics) and directed the Tweet toward some key members of this community:

  • @dnmcinnis (Shakespeare scholar based at the University of Melbourne)
  • @ALSjournal (Australian Literary Journal)
  • @Wwm_Shakespeare (the Bard as 21st Century Tweeter)
  • @EnglishWarwick (English department at the University of Warwick)

After a little bit of searching, we concluded each of these had something to offer as a voice in a dialogue we were attempting to initiate.

The Tweet resulted in some very positive results.


David McInnis retweeted. This opened up the topic to his and our community.

Even better …


It was retweeted by William Shakespeare and exposed to his 106,000 odd followers. And that’s what we’re talking about here: enlarging the scope of a conversation.

With a touch of targeted Tweeting, shortly after we had gathered 10 retweets (some by people with a large number of followers), 25 likes and 31 unique visits (learn more about Twitter analytics) to the UON PhD scholarship web page – a great result for such a specific topic!

After things had wrapped up, Professor Craig duly reported some quality prospective applications.




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