Twitter certainly brings certain professional opportunities, but a strategic approach is required to manage the platform’s challenges. One is limited in how much one can say in a tweet (140 characters), although links to longer comments can be included. The brevity of communication can make it difficult to get the intonation of posted comments right and tweets are open to misinterpretation as with any form of communication. Some of this is unavoidable, such as when another user appropriates or “re-tweets” your comment out of context, but constantly being reflexive and reflective of what one says online should take precedence over knee jerk reactions.

The openness of social media facilitates a culture of outrage and academicians are easy targets for people and organizations not only interested in disagreeing with us but also seeking to damage our reputations. Some employers can be quite sensitive to social media posts. One of my colleagues suggests a “10 minute rule” when one sees something that is disagreeable. If you have to react, then draft an angry tweet, save it, and then come back in 10 minutes. The issue of time is also salient in that Twitter is just one of many of our other duties. Some of the more successful users limit time on Twitter to certain times of the day or only so many minutes a day.

Finally, gaining followers can be a slow and at times disheartening process that requires frequent tweeting, searching for and following others, tagging highly regarded people and organizations in tweets, using hashtags # that are trending, including Twitter handles on presentations and publications, and generating meaningful content and opinion. According to one consulting colleague, “people who share good information and provide thoughtful perspectives do tend to build a following over time.” It is also easier to create compelling content and build a following when you think strategically about what you want to accomplish through social media. Simply joining the Twitter or any social media bandwagon without a goal will probably leave you unsatisfied and the discipline poorly served. Yet, with meaningful direction and a spirit of engagement, investments of time and energy in social media can be a productive and natural extension of one’s traditional academic and professional work as a geographer rather than a distraction from it.

If you, your program, or your workplace currently “move at Twitter speed,” then let me know about your experiences, positive and negative, through email (dalderma [at] utk [dot] edu) or on Twitter using #PresidentAAG.

— Derek Alderman
Professor Geography, University of Tennessee
President, American Association of Geographers

Special thanks to Sarah Bednarz, Jordan Brasher, Jason Dittmer, Latoya Eaves, Kelsey Ellis, Sara Koopman, Bill Moseley, Becky Pendergast, Kris Olds, James Tyner for contributing information and perspectives to this column.

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0012