Over the last few years The Guardian newspaper’s Higher Education Network has become increasingly successful and popular. In the April session of the Social Scholar content coordinator, Claire Shaw shared her thoughts and experiences with us.

Social Media is all about engagement. Using a tool such as Twitter requires not only that you share information about your institution and read other people’s tweets, but also it is about discussing content and engaging in debate. The same is true of blogs. Claire Shaw mentioned that the most successful posts that she has overseen are those that draw out debate and discussion by either discussing a controversial issue or bringing to people’s attention something about Higher Education that is not often discussed.

More academics are using Twitter now than ever before and there is an increasing belief that it is a useful carrier for news, information, ideas, and dialogue. This can include the ordinary – sharing content, promoting events, and linking to interesting sites – but it can also be a more interactive experience. Claire Shaw suggested that holding a ‘live’ conversation and debate via Twitter can be a productive and fun experience for all concerned.


Using and navigating Twitter

Some basic terms that are often used but rarely with explanation are ‘handles’ and ‘hashtags’. Claire answered a question about this, clearly identifying what each are for, and how they can be used.

A Handle – a handle is your Twitter username. It always starts with a ‘@’ and its inclusion in a tweet will notify that person that you have mentioned them and allows others to find that person on Twitter. Examples include our handle @SASNews and the Guardian HE handle @GdnHigherEd. Claire Shaw’s Twitter handle is @clurshaw.

A Hashtag – hashtags such as #socialscholar are used to link together all tweets that include that tag. Basically anything with a hashtag of #socialscholar can be read as a list in its own right. Using the search on Twitter just put in a hashtag to see what’s been said on that subject. You can create your own hashtags easily and these are designed to come up on Twitter as a link so that you can just click on a pre-existing hashtag and read all items that fall under it.


Scheduling Tweets

Claire Shaw mentioned that the Guardian often schedules tweets alongside those that they produce ‘live’. Scheduling tweets can be done via various web-based or software based products (such as Buffer, Tweetdeck, Sproutsocial). It allows you to re-tweet about stuff that you have talked about ‘live’ or reach an audience that you wouldn’t otherwise have easily been able to get to.

For instance, Claire mentioned that 6.30am-8am is a good time to have tweets scheduled as it catches people in the UK as they are just getting up or travelling to work. Scheduling tweets around 9pm onwards will also help you to reach audiences in the USA or Australia.


What makes a good blog post for a newspaper blogging site?

When asked about offering blog content to a newspaper website such as The Guardian Higher Education Network, what sort of thing do they want?

Firstly any post offered should be no more than 200 words. Secondly, the piece should start with a hook which draws the reader in and lets them know instantly what the post is about. Thirdly, there should be an argument and evidence. Fourthly, personal accounts can go down well.

Claire Shaw is Content Coordinator for The Guardian Higher Education Network. She is available on Twitter @clurshaw. The Social Scholar is a monthly lunchtime seminar held by the School of Advanced Study. The seminar is FREE and open to all to attend. For the full list of events check out the SAS Events listing or keep an eye on our blog where we regularly post details of the seminar.