Sometimes you need to quickly immerse yourself in a new field. You might want to gain expertise or quickly gauge what the current issues are around a particular topic. One way of doing this is by creating a dedicated Twitter account to follow a topic. Below some instructions on how you could do this.
Setting up a Twitter account with the right settings
- Go to Twitter.com.
- Create a new account by filling in a name, password and email address. Unfortunately the email address needs to be unique. If you have an gmail account, then this limitation is easy enough to get around.
- In the next step you get to pick a Twitter username, this is the name that will be displayed in front of the @ sign.
- Twitter will now ask you to go through a set of steps designed to give you a good first user experience. You can ignore most of these steps. Probably the quickest way to continue is just navigate out of the welcome screen by going to the Twitter main page. Twitter will also send you an email with a confirmation link that you will have to click on.
- After getting your account sorted, click on the “settings wheel” in the top right corner and click on “Settings”. In the left menu click on “Email notifications” (or just click here when logged in).
- If you don’t want to receive a lot of emails from Twitter, then turn most of these notifications off.
- Make sure that “Email me with Top Tweets and Stories” is turned on and that you have picked “Sent as a daily digest” in the dropdown menu.
- Since we are doing research it makes sense to tick the box to receive “Suggestions based on my recent follows”.
- Press the “Save changes” button at the bottom if you have changed anything in these notification settings.
Finding the right Twitter accounts to follow
- Start by typing your topic in the Twitter search field.
- Find a tweet that interests you.
- Click on the user name of the account that tweeted this tweet.
- See if the biography of the user and their other tweets also are interesting to you. Also check if they have at least some followership (although very interesting sources could still have very few followers). If they are interesting click on their username once more.
- Click on “Follow” to follow the user.
- Twitter will suggest some users that might be interesting too, you can follow up on these later.
- In the left menu click on “Lists”, then select “Member of” (find the link in the center of the page). See if there is a title of a list that speaks to your topic. Now you can start at step 2 again or you can select “List members” in the menu on the left and restart at step 3.
- Continue with this loop (and occasionally backtrack) until you have at least 50 sources.
- Keep adding sources as you find them, make sure to revisit this process once in while.
Final step: getting the most out of it
Here is some advices on getting the most out of your dedicated Twitter account:
- Don’t be too picky at the outset. Include any Twitter account that is remotely interesting. You don’t have to be precise. The time deliberating on whether you should include an account is probably better spent finding other interesting account: just follow them.
- Pay attention. The daily digest is full of the links that the network of people you are following found most interesting (things that have been retweeted a lot for example). Follow the links, see if they lead to new websites you’ve never heard of (sign up if they are interesting) or new people you don’t know. You should spend quality time on reading and processing the digest.
- Cull accounts with high influence and low relevance. Some Twitter accounts have a lot of influence: links that they share show up on most days in your digest. Ask yourself if you like those links. If you don’t, then unfollow that Twitter account. This might enrich and diversify your digest.
- Ask the Twitter accounts that have helped you the most for more help. Something like: “@usefultwitteraccount I have really appreciated your tweets over the last couple of weeks. Any suggestions of who else I should follow?” will usually get a helpful response.
Let me know how you get on!