Tips for tweeting from @RealScientists and @Biotweeps

Last fall I tweeted from @RealScientists and @BioTweeps as part of the outreach for my fall field work (#MORails). I choose to do this during my field work since live tweeting rail captures is WAY more exciting then live tweeting running R code or writing which is what I do the other 9 months of the year.

I did both accounts in the same month and since than have received several queries on any tips or strategies for how to tackle what can seem like a really big task. Here are my tips, feel free to disregard as you see fit.

First, I think using some kind of twitter client (I use tweetdeck) helps make this MUCH easier. I also did a lot of tweeting from the twitter app on my smartphone (android, Samsung S5). I think tweetdeck is helpful in this case for two reasons, it lets you schedule tweets, so you can send things out while you are sleep for folks in other time zones, and it lets you keep things organized so you can be tweeting, replying to things and keeping tabs on what is going on in other feeds at the same time. I never use anymore, always tweetdeck, its great. You can also edit the notifications tab so that you don’t see favorites or retweets, which is helpful when trying to have conversations with multiple people on the account, since thing CAN move very fast and I didn’t want to miss anyone if I could help it.

Don’t send them the same profile picture as your regular twitter account, otherwise when you are trying to tweet from your phone it gets confusing to figure out which account you are tweeting from. That or just sign out of your personal account for the week on said phone, otherwise tweets go all over. This could be especially problematic if you have a pseud account, but if you have a pseud account you are already probably much better at this then I am.

I spent quite a bit of time the weekend before drafting out tweets in a spread sheet. I am very bad about typos in my tweets, and I wanted to try and cut down on that when I was doing real Scientists so that helped me slow down and spell check. I set up my spreadsheet with each column being a different day and I tried to set a theme for the day. I think I did migration one day, field work another, unpaid technicians another, wetland ecology, etc. This can help you spread things out over the week so you don’t talk about EVERYTHING YOU LOVE the first two days and then run out of steam. I tried to draft 20 tweets for each day, and have pictures ready to go with as many of them as possible.

My nocturnal work makes mornings my down time, so I liked have tweets drafted because I could get up in the morning and send out a bunch of tweets that I knew were mostly spelling error free, and then come back a bit later after I’d eaten breakfast and gotten last nights data backed up and get caught up on email and answer peoples questions as they came in. Then throughout the day while I was out working I would ‘live tweet’ my field work, which was quite fun. A few times throughout the week I tried to do more intense periods of live tweeting (like one night we did rail captures, one day I did a bunch of vegetation measurement related tweets). Folks really seemed to like that.

I found it fun to ask people questions to start conversations instead of just throwing information out there all the time. We discussed perceptions of wetlands, and birds they see around their homes. I didn’t use twitter polls, I’m not sure if they were a thing back then, but that could be a fun way of getting responses as well.

One of the biggest challenges I faced at first was remembering that many of the followers of these accounts don’t know me, and so I had to spend time giving them the foundation to understand my project, and my occasionally very weird sense of humor from.

The key is to remember that it is suppose to be fun for you, don’t feel bad if you have a day when you can’t tweet much because you are busy or whatever. At the end of my week with BioTweeps I got sick and had a big meeting dumped in my lap so I tweeted less, and that is ok.

Using hashtags to keep common themes together is also really useful. I have one for my field work #MORails, but the use of others could also help people figure out what you are talking about.

Remember that if you reply to someones tweet and you want it to go to everyone you need to put a period in front of the username

”.@RallidaeRule Great point! Rails are awesome”

instead of

“@RallidaeRule Great Point! Rails are awesome”

which will only go to that person and people who also follow them.

I am a fan of replying to your own tweets to string together tweets on the same topic. Some people don’t like this though. Choose what seems to work best for you. One thing to know is that you can reply to your own tweet and it will string together even if you delete your handle from the replying tweet, which is nice, freeing up characters, etc.

Something I think many on twitter do not realize is that you can volunteer to host these curated accounts, and there are many others then RealScientists and BioTweeps, those are just the two I’ve participated in. Check the account’s websites and there is often instructions on how to apply. This isn’t just for the ‘rich and famous’ among us, I’m just a phd student, and they let me do it.

They even let me talk about issues of diversity and unpaid internships, so you can talk about controversial topics, as long as you are respectful about it.

If you have any other tips you’d like to see added here let me know (@RallidaeRule or

Written on February 4, 2016