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The How to Tweet Cheat Sheet

Bird teaches other birds how to use Twitter

Ready to try Twitter? Here are some tips to get your account set up:

  • Research potential account handles. (Note: The character limit for a handle is 15.)
  • Create your handle, choose a photo or logo/graphic for your profile image and header image, and write a brief bio.
  • Then start looking for and following people you know. They’ll follow you back! Priority folks may include:
    • Your departmental team members, faculty and postdocs
    • Accounts of colleagues and frequent collaborators or research groups
    • Academic and lay publications covering your field
    • Professional organizations related to your field
  • Plan to post multiple times a week. Twitter is such a fast-moving medium that it can accommodate multiple posts a day – but that’s not necessary.
  • Great, sharable content includes publications, faculty and student awards, reports/images from the field, grant or funding opportunities, and more.
  • Consider not only sharing news from your department or unit, but also including a post every week or so that gives credit to others – something you’re reading and that influenced your thinking or really knocked you out.
  • Including graphics, images or Twitter cards greatly increases the engagement with your posts.
    • To ensure you can get picked up by other accounts – and because it’s the right thing to do – make sure to add “alt text” to images so that they’re accessible to people using screen readers.
  • For Trinity social media: Get the Twitter handle and icon added to the footer of your website by emailing They can also help you integrate a scrolling feed in your homepage.
  • Get your account added to Duke’s social media directory via this form.

Before You Tweet…

Screenshot of composing a tweet

It’s only 280 characters and an image or three. How hard can it be? A well-crafted tweet takes time and thoughtfulness, as all social media-savvy communicators know. For those just getting started – or who simply need a refresher or reference list! – here are some best practices to consider before you press “Tweet.”

  • Have you checked your grammar and spelling? Is the copy clear and easy to read?
  • Does the tweet state what you want people to do and give them a way to do that? (Ex: A link to read more, a link to register)
  • How does what you’re sharing connect to your department or unit? If you don’t tell people, they won’t know! (Ex: “our faculty member” or “English student Kathryn Kennedy” or “program alum Quantá Holden” or “our course on…” or “an event/guest speaker we are hosting”)
  • Can any person you’re tweeting about be tagged? And if so, are they active? (Note: I generally consider activity within the last six months, and make sure there’s nothing that could be reputationally damaging in what they regularly share.)
  • Are there other departments, Duke entities or collaborators (universities, colleagues, journals, funding agencies) who should be tagged?
  • Have you included alt text for the image to serve users with screen readers?

We’ve found that a list like this can also be helpful in illustrating to non-communicators (i.e. your academic bosses and partners) all the work that goes into what may appear to be a simple type-and-post process. Happy tweeting!