CoSN 2010 Conference Roundtable
Twitter Guide For Schools and Districts
Adults over the age of 25 are the fastest growing demographic of Twitter users, and Twitter has
grown to more than 75 million users in 2009. Given this rapid expansion and popularity, Twitter
offers school and district leaders the opportunity to reach key audiences through the new preferred
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables the writer to publish brief
text updates (140 characters or less) to be viewed by anyone, or by a select group chosen by the
author. Whether you set up an account for your school or district, as a leader and representative of the
educational institution, using Twitter can help engage key audiences, foster collaboration, and
improve relationships, providing outreach that is critical for a successful education system. Schools
and districts can use Twitter as a communications tool for a wide range of reasons, including:
• Emergency notifications
• Alerting parents, community members, and media to school events
• Sharing staff and student successes
• Developing an online community of supporters
• Building support for critical initiatives
• Recruiting teachers and staff
1. Go to http://www.twitter.com to create an account.
2. Create a username that is authentic and easy to remember. Avoid names that are “cute” or too
clever, which may deter people from following you. Choose either the company’s name or
your own name. Keep it short so you’ll have more space for content, links and retweeting.
3. Set up your profile by providing a short bio of yourself, or a profile of your school or district.
Include a link to your blog or Web site, or to your school or district’s Web site. Be sure it
includes the key words (such as “education,” or “teaching”) that are associated with your
organization for easy searching.
4. Upload a profile image, either your picture, or the school or district’s logo. This is important,
as other Twitter users will identify your account primarily by its picture.
5. Adjust the background design. There are a few standard backgrounds provided through
Twitter, or you can create a custom design that better depicts your organization by creating it
in-house, or commissioning a third party. Twitter Image creates custom backgrounds for a
small fee: http://www.twitterimage.com.
• Tweet – Individual message, or post, of 140 characters or less, usually includes a link.
• @Username – Twitter users are identified by their username. When you retweet, reply to a
post, or mention others, the messages must contain a person’s username preceeded by the @
• Followers/Following – To receive messages, you “follow” other people or organizations you
are interested in. When they post updates, their messages appear in your incoming feed of
tweets. When someone follows you, they will receive your messages.
• Retweet – If you believe someone else’s post will have value to your followers, you can
forward or “retweet” the post by either using the “retweet” button on Twitter, or by placing an
“RT” at the front of your message, followed by the author’s @username and original
• Reply – You can respond to any tweet via a reply, which will appear on your feed for all your
followers to see. To reply to a tweet, start your message with the @username of the person
you are trying to reach, or use the “reply” button on Twitter.
• Direct Message – A direct message is sent only to one of your followers. It is a one-way
communication and will not appear on your feed. You can direct message someone by placing
a “DM” in front of the recipient’s username at the beginning of your message.
• Shortened URL – You have only 140 characters to craft your message, so it’s critical you use
a shortened URL when providing a link. There are many online tools that allow you to
transform a long URL into a shortened one, such as bit.ly, ow.ly, or su.pr.
• Favorite – When you see a tweet that you really like, or that captures your interest, you can
mark it as a “favorite.” A favorite tweet will have a star next to it.
• Trending Topics – Terms that have the most mentions on Twitter at the moment are
highlighted on your Twitter home page.
• Lists – Twitter Lists allows you to organize the people you’re following on Twitter, or find
new people. Twitter Lists provide a curated stream of the latest tweets from a set of users
you’ve specified. You can follow lists created by others without having to follow each person.
• Tweetup – An in-person social gathering of Twitter users, usually organized via Twitter
• Set goals for your school district (or yourself). What is the purpose of tweeting? How many
followers would you like to have after a month?
• You have 140 characters to write your message, but stay closer to 120. This allows people to
retweet your message, which helps your school build visibility and reach a broader audience.
• Place important keywords at the front of your message, and the least important words toward
the end. Readers have short attention spans, so catching them early on is key.
• Share important school news announcements, event information, and reports, but avoid jargon
and technical terms – keep it informal and light whenever possible.
• Share videos and pictures that showcase students and staff in your district.
• Stay positive and friendly.
• Be careful what your write – once you’ve hit the update button, the text is always available
online for anyone to find and read.
• Some people on Twitter will follow you simply because they are trying to build a gigantic
following. Don’t feel bad about not following them back.
• Use links to validate your messages. Send readers back to the school or district Web site, to
newsworthy stories online, or to great pictures.
• Tracking conversations within Twitter is important to understand what topics engage your
community in conversation. Using link-shortening services such as bit.ly and ow.ly enable
you to see how many people clicked on a link and retweeted it.
• Listen regularly for comments about you, staff or your district to join the discussion, address
concerns, correct errors or misperceptions, or say thank you.
Online Resources About Twitter
For more tips and information on using Twitter to achieve organizational goals and growth, visit:
Kristen Plemon (email@example.com, @kplemon) & Emily Embury (firstname.lastname@example.org, @emilyembury)
C. Blohm & Associates, Inc., http://www.cblohm.com, @CBlohmAssoc
CoSN 2010 Conference, March 1, Washington, D.C.