How to use Twitter – a guide for HR professionals

Want to start networking with HR and L&D practitioners on Twitter but don’t know where to start? We teach you to basics – from setting up your profile to following hashtags, and essential Twitter etiquette

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Want to start networking with HR and L&D practitioners on Twitter but don’t know where to start? We teach you to basics – from setting up your profile to following hashtags, and essential Twitter etiquette

You might know Twitter as a place to stay abreast of breaking news, share memes, or even argue with strangers who don’t share your political views. But did you know it has an active and thriving global community of HR professionals, who use the platform to exchange ideas, challenge their thinking, and keep up-to-speed with the latest industry news and trends?

Dipping your digital toes into the HR Twittersphere can seem daunting if you haven’t used the platform much, or if you only use it for personal interests, but once you dive in, you’ll find a warm and welcoming community that could help you solve that pressing conundrum, alert you to a brilliant new concept, or even help you find your next career move. Read our essential guide to Twitter – especially for HR professionals – to learn how to set up a personal account, discover great new accounts to follow and communities to engage with, and the basics of Twitter etiquette.

 

Starting out on Twitter

First, you’ll need to set up your account by choosing a username. You might need to use a combination of underscores, numbers and initials rather than just your first name and surname – there are 145 million daily active users, after all. Although you can change this username – known in Twitter parlance as a ‘handle’ – at a later date, it’s wise to choose something timeless and professionally appropriate. You might want to add ‘HR’ – eg ‘@Jane_SmithHR’ – as a professional signifier.

You’ll want to fill in some personal details, such as a link to your website or LinkedIn profile, and a short biography. This personal bio – limited to 160 characters only – should tell people a little about yourself, so they know what sorts of topics you’re interested. Remember, this bio is searchable, so if you want to be found by other HR professionals, try adding hashtags such as #HR, #CIPD, #SHRM, or #humanresources as appropriate. You can edit this biography as often and as many times as you like to reflect your changing interests or career achievements.

It’s also a good idea to add a profile photo and cover photo; accounts that lack these photos can be viewed by other users as suspicious and potentially run by Twitter bots.

 

Getting to grips with Twitter’s basics

As with so many bits of tech, Twitter comes with its own jargon – some of which you might be familiar with from using other social media networks. Here are some of the basics.

  • Tweeting – posting an update on Twitter. This is done by typing in the field marked ‘What’s happening?’ at the top of the screen
  • Retweeting – this is when you share another user’s tweet. Click on the ‘Retweet’ icon (two arrows in a circle shape) to re-share that tweet. You can choose to add a comment if you wish
  • Messaging – just as with Facebook or LinkedIn, you can send a direct message privately to another user. The message is not visible to anyone but you and the account you are contacting
  • ‘Mentioning’ – by typing ‘@’ and then the username of the person that you want to mention, that user will be able to see that you have included them in a tweet – a great way to share ideas and articles with connections, and to build relationships. Using ‘@’ as the first character of the tweet will limit the audience to only those accounts that follow both you and the account you are mentioning. To circumvent this, add a ‘.’ before the ‘@’
  • Hashtags – using ‘#’ in front of certain words marks them as the keywords in your tweet. When users search for these terms, your tweets will be visible in the search results. Hashtagged words are also hyperlinked – so if you see one in a tweet, click on it to find other tweets that contain the same hashtag. Following hashtags is therefore a great way to monitor and join in conversations about topics that you’re interested in, such as HR. Some favourites include:

Many online and offline events also encourage delegates to use hashtags when posting on Twitter about the events – enabling you to keep up with conversations whether you’ve attended or not

  • Lists – you can organise accounts that you follow, and find new ones to follow, via Twitter’s ‘lists’ function. When viewing an account’s page, click the three dots icon, then ‘add/remove from lists’. You can add that account to a list you’ve already created, or to a new list. You can also see what lists that account is featured in, by click the three dots icon, then ‘view lists’. Click on a list name, then ‘follow’ to add that list to your inventory of following lists. When viewing Twitter on a laptop or tablet, click ‘lists’ to see an index of lists you’ve created or been added to; clicking on one of those names will show you recent tweets from all the accounts that are part of that list. Although this all sounds very complicated, once you start using lists you’ll find them to be a useful way of organising accounts by theme. Here are some lists the Ciphr team has put together:

 

Who to follow?

Before searching for accounts to follow, ask yourself what it is that you’re looking to achieve with your Twitter account. If you’re simply looking to stay up to date with the latest HR news then you’ll probably want to search for the HR blogs and media outlets that you already know about, as well as any professional connections that you know who use Twitter. You might also want to follow some celebrities, journalists or academics whose work you admire and regularly read, along with any national news outlets that you want to keep up with. You might also want to connect with brands whose products and services you use (like @CiphrHRsoftware, of course).

As you establish your account and follow more users, Twitter’s algorithms will suggest more, similar accounts that you might like to follow.

 

Twitter etiquette

As with all forms of networking, there are some unspoken Twitter etiquette rules that you’d be wise to follow:

  • Know why you’re using Twitter – is your account for personal or professional use, or both? How will you balance the two – both in terms of which accounts you follow, and what you choose to tweet about? There are some topics you might want to steer clear of, like politics, for example. You might also want (or need) to check your organisation’s social media policy before beginning, particularly if you are going to talk about your employer in a professional capacity
  • Don’t say anything you might regret – tweets can be searched and screenshotted for future posterity. Always think twice before hitting ‘send’
  • Be consistent if you want to build an audience – as with anything, you’ll need to invest time in Twitter if you want to grow your number of followers. Try to allocate time every day to share ideas and links, and engage with others
  • But don’t worry if you don’t have a goal – Twitter can just be a fun place to hang out from time to time if that’s what you want it to be; use it in the way that best suits your needs, right now
  • If someone engages with you, don’t ignore them – if someone has taken the time to message you, make sure you get back to them. Sending a quick emoji or hitting the ‘like’ button is a great way to acknowledge their interaction if you’re short on time. Similarly, if someone reshares one of your posts, send them a quick message to say ‘thanks’
  • Keep messages to the point – you have just 280 characters per message, so be as concise as possible. Use the thread button to group together a series of tweets if you have a longer thought that needs more characters. Remember to add relevant hashtags if you want to broaden your reach
  • Understand the algorithm – by default, your Twitter timeline will comprise tweets that have been posted, retweeted or liked by people you follow. This means that your posts, retweets and likes will appear in other people’s timelines, too. You can adjust the algorithm by switching the view to ‘latest tweet first’, and by click the drop-down menu on a tweet, and clicking ‘Not interested in this’. You can choose to tell Twitter to show future messages from these users
  • Protect your privacy (and sanity) – Twitter enables you to mute accounts and keywords, and to block accounts that you don’t want to interact with. You can also choose to make your account private, which means that you will have to manually approve any future follower requests you receive (by default, any Twitter user can follow your profile and interact with your posts). Use the block and mute buttons to hide words or people that, for whatever reason, are causing you to have a negative experience with the platform

This article was first published in March 2017. It was updated in June 2020 for freshness, clarity and accuracy.