If you work in an HR or L&D role, Twitter can be a great personal development tool. You can use it to connect with peers and expand your network, develop your personal brand and most importantly, get advice on workplace challenges from people who’ve faced similar issues. Here we share some tips to help you get started on Twitter. We’ll be following this up next week with our pick of the best L&D and HR related Twitter chats.

The basics

Set up your account at twitter.com, including a profile picture and some details about yourself. There are some useful tips on how to set things up here. To begin with, you won’t have any followers, so take some time to get comfortable with how Twitter works.

Start by following some people who interest you. You might include industry thought leaders, authors, people in similar roles to you or people you already know. To help you get started, we’ve created a public list of recommendations on who to follow in L&D - you can find and subscribe to our list from the @GoodPractice Twitter page.

Your tweets can include images, videos, GIFs and links to articles. Each Twitter user has a unique ID, beginning with the ‘@’ symbol. If someone wants to reply to a tweet, they can ‘tag’ the original poster with the ‘@’ symbol. That person will receive a notification about the reply, and a conversation is started.

Understanding hashtags

People who share similar interests often use specific hashtags (words beginning with the # symbol) to flag their tweets to each other and to the wider Twitter audience. It’s worth doing a little research to see what hashtags are being used in conversations that interest you, so you can start including them in your own tweets. You can use sites like Hashtag.it or Hashtags.org to find hashtags that interest you. Using hashtags gives your tweets a better chance of being seen by the people you want to connect with.

For example, you might see hashtags such as #leadership, #elearning or #agile in various tweets. All hashtags are clickable hyperlinks, meaning you can select them on your PC and tap them on your phone. Selecting a specific hashtag will show you every tweet that’s been sent using that hashtag, with the most recent tweets at the top. This is a great way of finding content related to particular topics of interest to you. You can also search for tweets containing specific hashtags using the Search function.

Building up your network

Twitter isn’t just about connecting with people you know; it’s about making new connections. If you see an interesting tweet, but you’ve never heard of that person, follow them. Some people you follow may follow you back. There are others who you may never hear from. That’s OK - you can still learn from the ideas they share and the comments they make.

Getting involved

Try not to be a lurker - get involved in conversations that interest you. This, alongside tweeting with hashtags, is how people will find you. If you see something you find particularly interesting, or perhaps just agree with, you can ‘like’ it or ‘retweet’ it, which means sharing it on your own timeline, to your followers. This is another way of connecting with people. Others who find your tweets interesting may also retweet them, which will expose your thoughts to their followers too, and ultimately help grow your network.

Being generous

This is an important point - Twitter is very much a two-way street. Don’t just think about the value you can extract from your followers. Think about the value you can give them. If someone has a problem that you think you can solve, why not help them out? If you see an article that you think would be of interest, why not share it?

Tweeting interesting and engaging content is the best way to grow a network of followers. You may even end up meeting some of your followers in person at events and conferences. Having connected and engaged with someone first on Twitter is great icebreaker!

What if I’m too busy to tweet?

A common reason people avoid Twitter is that ‘they don’t have time’ because they’re too busy. But Twitter can become a valuable tool to help you solve problems and learn from others. If you follow people who do the same job as you, you might pick up a tip on how to improve your performance and tackle a problem in a new way. If you have an issue you need help with, try posting a message on Twitter to see if anyone has a suggestion.

You can also use Twitter to keep up to date with industry news or to provide your own analysis of what’s happening. In this way, you can build your reputation and identify yourself as an industry leader - someone that people should follow.

Look out for our follow up piece on Five great Twitter chats for L&D and HR, coming next week.

Have we missed anything? Tweet us @GoodPractice to share your top Twitter tips!