Many of the best professional growth and opportunities in my life I must attribute to my participation on Twitter—the opportunities to author iPad apps, present at the ASHA convention, and write these articles for The ASHA Leader, for example. I also learned how I was using Cycles all wrong and even became co-founder/owner of YappGuru.com. None of it would have happened if I weren't on Twitter. Surprised? I was.
The well-known microblogging platform—which limits posters to messages of no more than140 characters—is unfortunately much maligned, with an undeserved reputation for not being an actual information source.
In early October 2013, I informally surveyed the SLP and AUD community on Twitter. Of the 70 respondents, 53 percent had an initially negative reaction to Twitter. However, 55 percent reported that they had joined Twitter specifically to find other professionals. I admit that I was one of those who scoffed at the idea of Twitter. I'm so glad I changed my initial reaction.
So how can professionals use Twitter to grow their careers and with whom can they expect to interact? Academics, board-certified experts, clinicians, companies, related professionals and grad students are all participating in the SLP and AUD communities on Twitter. You can tailor your professional learning community however you like by "following" only specific people (regularly seeing those people's updates). Then you will see only posts from those people and you never have to know what Justin Beiber had for lunch.
The easiest way to see what people are interested in or talking about and find people to follow is to search tweets by keyword or by hashtag (a keyword preceded by #). The most popular and general hashtags are #SLPeeps for speech-language professionals and #AUDPeeps or #audiology for hearing professionals. However, there are hashtags for more specific interest areas as well, such as #AAC, #autism, #dysphagia, #pragmatics, #slp2b (for speech-language pathology students), #hearingaids, #cochlearimplant and many more.
You also can check out businesses or associations you frequent and get immediate answers to any questions or feedback you might have. Companies including Pearson (@SpeechNLanguage), Lesson Pix (@LessonPix), Starkey Hearing Technologies (@StarkeyHearTech), Cochlear (@CochlearUS), and especially ASHA (@ASHAWeb) are all on Twitter and regularly tweet and interact with others.
In my informal survey, I asked respondents why they use Twitter professionally. The top five reasons were:
- Access to ongoing collegial conversations.
- To share/find new research.
- Access to experts in the field.
- Early access to cutting-edge information.
Access to ongoing collegial conversations ties in very closely with networking, meaning that someone can throw out a question or half of an idea and bounce it off of a global network of professionals. People regularly ask about how to work on goals, test certain areas, or interpret results. Many people like to open links posted by others and read up on the most current research or talk to the researchers themselves—more are joining Twitter daily. People often build close relationships and it's great to go to conferences, like ASHA's, and already have 20 or more friends with whom to meet up and hang out!
I use Twitter and Facebook, and I prefer Twitter. It requires short bits of information at once, making it easier to digest large amounts of information quickly and home in on specific things. Also, I can completely separate my personal and professional lives. Although Facebook groups allow you to interact with others without becoming "friends" with them, you still must use your real name, your personal profile picture is what people see, and you must "friend" people to access them more deeply. With Twitter, I can have a separate account for personal use and could choose never to release my real name. I don't require others to "follow" me back to see all the information they are posting. Additionally, I can interact with anyone on Twitter at any time, which makes people and companies extremely approachable.
As always, if you plan to interact professionally on any social networking site, like Twitter, remember that all of your tweets are publicly accessible as you begin interacting with various other professionals and making friends or begin sharing laughs together. It is possible to protect your tweets, making them locked and unavailable until you grant each specific person access, but using this feature strongly inhibits your growth and interactions.
I hope to see you on Twitter sometime soon. Everyone there is approachable and easy to talk to. Please say hi and introduce yourself, no one will think it's odd, and I'd love to hear from you. You can find me there as @SLPTanya.