30 November 2020

So you wanna host a Twitter takeover…

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Shane M Hanlon

A few years ago, when we in Sharing Science first stood up our Twitter account, I had the idea to take over the @IAmSciComm rocur account. Basically, @IAmSciComm (along with all of these accounts) allows users to take control for various periods of time to talk about things related to the account, in this case, scicomm. It was a great experience that allowed us to let the world know about the scicomm tips, tools, and resources that we have, as well as good marketing for our fledgling Twitter account. 

Last month, I had the idea to do it again. Since that first takeover, our account has grown by thousands of followers and a more substantial amount of my time is dedicated to promoting our resources, as well as sharing the scicomm manuscripts, fostering discussion, sharing public resources, and more. And, what we in Sharing Science do has expanded as well. I didn’t just want to talk about general scicomm skills – I wanted to get deeper into specialized forms of, and mediums for, communication such as storytelling, multimedia, and more. And we wanted to tie in our takeover with Earth Science Week, specifically their Geoscience for Everyone focus day to talk about ways to increase representation in the sciences (I Am SciComm actually requires folks to include some sort of discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is fantastic).  

I thought I knew what we were getting ourselves into with regards to work. We were probably…half right. So, for those of you out there who are thinking about doing a Twitter takeover, I have some tips:

  • Have a goal: This might sound silly but it’s important. Figure out ahead of time the “why.” Do you want to inform people about your work? Work in your field? Provide instruction? Raise your personal profile? No matter the reason, or reasons, knowing your goal will help shape what your takeover looks like. 
  • Create a schedule: At the most basic level, have a focus for each day (if multi-day). And be sure to create some sort of graphic that lays out that schedule so you can promote it and folks can decide what day(s) you wanna tune in. 
    • BLOCK OUT HOURS: Beyond the day, it’s good to map out exactly how much time per day you’re going to spend on the takeover…and then double it. I’m only slightly kidding here. Even if you just plan on tweeting without really engaging in your audience* (don’t do this), it likely takes longer than you think to craft and schedule/enter tweets. 
    • Use a tweet scheduler: This saved us. We have a company account with Hootesuite which is great but also costs money. They have a free version but I personally use Tweetdeck which is really great. I was able to link the @IAmSciComm to it and schedule out from there. We averaged >90 tweet/day** (don’t do this) and there’s no way we would’ve been able to even come close to that number without scheduling most in advance. 
  • To thread or not to thread: I have mixed feelings on this. Basically, the idea is that if you thread tweets together, you’re responding to the one before it so that the whole thread tells a cohesive story. I think this is a good idea if your tweets won’t make sense without preceding context; however, you can’t schedule threads so it’s a lot more time intensive. Early on in our takeover, we didn’t do any threads so we could schedule days ahead of time but some of the tweets didn’t make sense showing up on folks’ feeds so we switched mid-week, which threw a wrench into our scheduling. Definitely something I wish I would’ve considered ahead of time. 
  • *Try to engage: No matter your goal, even if it’s just to raise your own profile or shove info out into the world, try to take some time to actually talk to folks. Ask questions. Create polls. Even if there’s low engagement, it’s still and opportunity to expand your networks and talk about things you’re really interested in!
  • **Be realistic: I lead the charge to do the takeover, assuring my colleague, “We did it before and it wasn’t that much work. It’ll be fine.” I was wrong. I don’t regret it, by any means, but I was not realistic when planning how much time and energy it would take. That’s why I’m writing this post to help others out there who might be planning a takeover.

Taking over @IAmSciComm was a lot of work…but also a ton of fun. I highly recommend taking it over. If you’re not ready to commit to a week of scicomm, consider taking over our @AGU_SciComm account for a day for #SharingSciFri. And if you want to see what we talked about for our week, you can find our tweets from day 1 embedded below, as well all the threads here

Shane M Hanlon is Program Manager of AGU’s Sharing Science program. Find him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok