Sunday, September 28, 2014

Build your PLN with more followers on Twitter

Since October is approaching and that means Connected Educator Month, I thought it would be a good time to share a few of my thoughts on building a PLN, or personal learning network. First of all, you may think it's self-absorbed or narcissistic to be concerned about how many followers you have on Twitter. And I guess that's possible if the reason you are building your network is simply for the sake of more followers or to compare yourself to others, or to get a sense of self-importance from your follower stats.

But I believe there are honorable reasons to build your following. Through my connections on Twitter, I have learned more and grown more as an educator than from just about any other learning experience. Earning my doctorate was also an incredible experience, but it was very different from the highly customized and globally connected opportunities Twitter offers.

Why grow a following on Twitter? 

1. More followers means more connections. As my PLN grows I have learned where I can go to get help with topics that matter to me.
2. More followers means greater voice. We want our students to speak out and make a positive difference, and we should look to speak out and create positive impact for our profession as well.
3. The best leaders are not just concerned about the issues facing their individual classrooms and schools but are working to influence the broader field of education.
4. Since I believe in Twitter, I want to model successful use of the platform and have a wide audience to promote how it can transform professional learning and connectedness.

10 tips for more followers


1. Post frequently. When people see your posts regularly they begin to trust your presence and content. Scheduling tweets is really the only practical way to ensure you are consistently offering content. I tweet about once every hour. By the way, it is okay to periodically recycle previous tweets. Great ideas deserve to be revisited.
2. Retweet other people's content. You generate value in the community by furthering the reach of quality posts by retweeting them.
3. Be relevant. If you are using Twitter as the vehicle of your PLN, then most of your posts should be education related. It's okay to post personal interests occasionally, but if you rarely post an education comment, then don't expect educators to follow.
4. Follow other educators. This may be the most powerful tip on the list. Look for the top educators on Twitter and follow the people who follow them. Or, follow the people who retweet them. This tip will help more people know about you.
5. Share articles, quotes, and pictures. Tweets that include helpful resources, inspiring quotes, or motivating pictures often get retweeted thus growing your value in the community.
6. Make your bio compelling. Use your bio to build your relevance and passion as an educator. Potential followers may decide to follow you or not simply from your bio.
7. Include a picture or avatar and background photo. Quality images can help others identify with you and connect with your content.
8. Participate in Twitter chats. There are many, many Twitter chats where you can connect with other educators and likely gain new followers, even more so if you reach out and follow others first. I would love to see new faces in #MOedchat. We chat Thursday nights at 9PM CST.
9. Use hashtags. Hashtags allow content to be sorted on Twitter. As users search these hashtags, your content that includes the hashtag is more likely to be noticed than if you don't use any hashtags. But be careful, more than two or three hashtags in a single Tweet may be distracting or make people think you are spamming.
10. Start blogging. Sometimes Twitter's 140 characters just aren't enough. Your blog allows you to expand on your ideas and reflect and grow even more. You can even promote your blog posts with your Tweets. Blogging is another great way to build value for your ideas in the PLN community.

If you commit to follow these tips, I promise you will begin to increase your following and get more out of your experience on Twitter. You will connect with people and ideas that will help you grow. Educators are an increasingly powerful force on Twitter, and I'm proud to see how many teachers are engaging professionally 24/7/365!

Thoughts on follow backs

Generally, I follow back anyone who is an educator and follows me. However, there are a couple of exceptions. I rarely follow anyone who has not replaced the Twitter "egg" with some type of image. I also don't typically follow users who lock their accounts and require approval before accepting a follower. I totally respect a person's right to set up their account this way, but it doesn't seem like they are that interested in connecting.

The reason I feel it's important to follow back is because I believe that is in line with my reasons for building a PLN in the first place. I am not trying to get more followers than the next person or self-promote. My goals are to learn more, share more, and ultimately make a greater impact as an educator. These goals lead me to believe that it's my responsibility to not just increase my network but also help others increase their value in the PLN community as well. I want everyone to have more followers, more connections, and more value to self, others, and the profession.






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