Designing Twitter training for the terrified – the basics of Twitter for professional development

Get Tweeting - Twitter training for professional development
Get Tweeting – Twitter training for professional development

I’ve been running Twitter workshops for a year now, and it’s become a standard part of our library training offer. Over the past year, I’ve had time to refine and experiment with the training, and I’ve learned a lot.

I wouldn’t call myself a social media expert, but I’ve been on Twitter a long time (since 2008), and most importantly I was the only one of the library staff on it!

It’s not a traditional library training course, but since using Twitter for professional development and networking involves finding and sharing information, it seemed like a logical extension for us. We’d just set up our own profile too, so we had to preach what we practiced! We hoped these workshops would reach people who may not normally use the library, and we were excited to see the bookings for the first dates come in thick and fast.

The 1.5 hour training is aimed at novice level and covers the basic features of Twitter, setting up a profile, and how to ‘tweet well’. The workshops are an opportunity to find out about Twitter and how it works in a ‘safe’ space. Many people come with the express purpose to keep up with new technologies and their younger patients (or their kids).

I usually have about 10 minutes wiggle-room – either for continued exploration on Twitter, or for discussion around privacy, more advanced features, recommended accounts, etc. A month after the training I send a feedback form via surveymonkey. The reason I wait so long, is to ask an important indicator of the training’s success – have you used Twitter since?

The workshops have been a great way to raise awareness of the library service and get into people’s ‘peripheral vision’.  I’ve helped the school nursing team get their service onto social media, I’ve presented at team meetings, and I’ve brought non-library-users into the library for training.

Some challenges

Initially the training was monthly, but I found we got short notice cancellations and occasional no-shows (which is fine but obviously not ideal). So I’ve recently switched to trialing every other month, but I’ve now got waiting lists. This is something I’ll be evaluating to attempt the best balance.

A huge worry is the public nature of Twitter, and the difficulties of professional boundaries with service-users. Unless your profile is set to private, anyone can follow you on Twitter, which is a difficulty for those healthcare professionals using it. It has come up a lot in discussions in my workshops, so if you’re thinking of running some it’s worth brushing up on these issues and having some discussion points prepared.

Overall, the training has been a great success!

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