#SciFund Challenge Self-Guided Class

Using Twitter to advance your science and your career

Part 3: Understanding your people

You have looked through our exciting and elegant Audience First module right? Great, you now have at least an initial sense of your audience is and why you want to talk to them. You also know that you need to frame your message within the context of your audience's current interests and concerns. But how do you know what those are? Fear not because Twitter is a great way to figure it out. All you need to do is to find your people on Twitter and then pay attention to their tweets. Simple, right? Well, maybe not quite so simple. Let's break it down.

Finding your audience on Twitter

Running into your audience on Twitter can seem like finding a needle in an ocean of haystacks. We have some suggestions though that will give those haystacks a run for their money. The goal here is to come up with ten or more relevant Twitter accounts. This is likely going to take you some time - you'll probably need to break this audience-finding business into multiple sessions to preserve your sanity.

1. Is there a prominent person or organization you can think of who is connected in some way to your target audience? If so, search to see if that person/org is on Twitter (the Search box is in the upper right if you are on twitter.com on your desktop, while on the Twitter app the equivalent Explore icon is located bottom center).

2. If you read through the tweets of that person/organization, do you notice any Twitter accounts being referenced? Those accounts may well be in your target audience.

3. On a similar line, when reading the tweets of a person in your audience, do any hashtags pop up? Searching for these hashtags could lead you to yet more people in your target audience.

4. Of course, you can always just search directly for hashtags that you guess might be in use with your target audience. It may take some trial and error to circle in on the right hashtags. Please note that Twitter gives you the option of “top” or “latest” when you are searching for terms - you generally want to use “latest” (see image below).

Searching for the latest tweets for the 2017 meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

5. After all this, are you still having trouble finding people in your audience? Well, you can turn your frown upside down, because your Result Zero is actually a valuable piece of information. You might be having trouble finding your audience, because your audience (as you have defined it) doesn't exist. Perhaps you defined your audience too narrowly. Perhaps, what seemed at first glance to be a cohesive audience actually describes a set of people who have very little in common (and are consequently hard to search for).

6. With this audience tracking stuff, one thing to do is to filter out accounts that are promotional in nature. The trouble with these kinds of accounts, even if they are in line with your audience, is that they often don’t give you an accurate sense of what your audience is thinking (they're more about selling you something at 10% off).

Listening to your audience

Once you have an initial set of Twitter accounts with which to pay attention - well, start paying attention! With this infinite length focus group of yours, you have the opportunity of keeping a continual finger on the pulse of your audience. As you keep an eye of your people's tweets, do you notice any interests or concerns that seem to bubble to the surface? Do note that these interests/concerns don't need to be directly connected to your science. Do certain hashtags come up frequently?

The point of this process is to give you insight - insight into your audience that you'll need to get them to pay attention to what you have to say. Do keep in mind that this audience-insight/tweet-monitoring business is unlikely to be instantaneous. The more time you keep an eye on things, the greater the insight that you'll likely have (it's hard to get to enlightenment on the express bus).