Following the launch of the guide on using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities, we look at three different tweeting styles and how you could use each when tweeting about your research project or academic blog.

Substantive tweets are written in complete sentences, and are always intelligible on their own. This style can appear formal or corporate so is often used by large organisations or news outlets, such as @guardiannews. Links in the form of shortened URLs to news stories will tend to appear at the end of the tweet.

This style is suitable for teaching-based use and for Twitter accounts linked to blogs, as well as official department accounts. For individual academics this style may seem uptight, but is more suitable for senior academics already known for their research intensive careers.

The conversational style is much more fragmented and relaxed, the opposite to the substantive style, with users sharing stories from a variety of sources, engaging in conversation with others, and making more use of abbreviations. The content is eclectic and covers professional and personal interests, so is popular with individual tweeters from all backgrounds.

This style will be a comfortable fit with some academics, and the personalized element can help students to empathize with tutors if used for a teaching-based account. The style can work well for blogs which thrive on comments and interaction, although is problematic for department accounts.

A middle ground or compromise style is feasible and is widely used in academia. Many thinktanks, blogs, magazines, and companies also adopt this style of tweeting, as it takes the best of the substantive and conversational styles.

This style conveys personality well without being too informal, and is a good fit for a smaller academic department. However, ‘control anxieties’ or internal rivalries can complicate its use in large departments, and it is not really suitable for whole-university level.

The table below shows the pros and cons of each tweeting style in more detail.

Substantive- Tweet is always in full
- Few abbreviations are used,
except for shortened URLs
- Must be independently
- Normally each tweet is the
headline or ‘taster’ for a blog
post, web article or other
longer piece of text
- Focus is consistent and
solely professional or singletopic
- The team producing tweets
often remains invisible
- Always make sense
to all readers
- Especially
accessible when
viewed in a
combined stream of
many tweets from
different authors
- Attracts followers
with well-defined
- No conversational
element, so can
appear corporate
and impersonal
- Hence may turn
off some potential
- Takes a
professional skill to
always write crisply
and substantively
Conversational- Most or many tweets are
fragments from an ongoing
conversation with followers
- or thoughts from many
different aspects of tweeter’s
- Content is eclectic, drawing
on professional interests
but also on personal life,
commenting on current
events, etc. and so covers
diverse topics
- Includes author photograph
- Conveys personality
well for individuals,
or organisational
culture for collective
- Attracts people who
like this personality
or culture (usually
- Good at building
‘community’ and
identification with site
- Some tweets only
make sense to those
who are involved in
their conversation
- Very hard to follow
in a Twitter feed
from many different
- With eclectic
contents many
followers may not
value many of the
- Hence incentives
for some folk to
unfollow over time
Middle ground- Most tweets are substantive
as above but some are short
and conversational
- Goes beyond a ‘corporate’
focus without being too
- Uses retweets to diversify/
liven up the tweet stream
- Uses team photos, and the
blog site or website identifies
team members well
- Injects more
personality or
culture into a
basically professional
- Most tweets are
- Some
tweets will not make
sense when read
in combined tweet

For more tips on academic tweeting, download our short guide to using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities.

Also see our lists of academic tweeters.

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