Promoting Twitter for Professional Development – approaches and resources

Jane Hart runs an annual online survey of learning professionals to identify the Top 100 Tools for Learning.  Twitter has been voted as the No. 1 tool in this survey for the past seven years.  In the past two years it has transformed my professional development, and I take every opportunity to encourage others in my organisation and profession to use Twitter.

Twitter Top 100.jpg

In this post I share some approaches and resources that I have used to help others to get started with Twitter.  I have run informal group sessions inside my organisation, and a pre-Conference ‘learning lounge’ at the 2016 Australian Institute of Training and Development Conference.   Recently I’ve included resources on why and how to use Twitter in a self-directed micro-learning program created to build digital and network skills and habits in my organisation.  Additionally, on-the-spot opportunities frequently arise to discuss Twitter and show people how to get started.

Explain the Why

To the uninitiated, Twitter, along with other social media platforms, can appear to be a place where people go for gossip, celebrities and cat videos – in short, a waste of time.  This is why it’s important to focus on the WHY and bust some myths before moving to the HOW to use Twitter. This is as true for group presentations as it is for spontaneous discussions.  Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions discusses this more fully in her blog post How Do You Start Out in Twitter? Find the Why First.

One Hour Customised Workshop

I ran my first one hour Twitter workshop as part of a ‘lunch and learn’ professional development series in early 2015.  I searched for existing resources and found Helen Blunden’s post on How to Promote Twitter for Professional Development to Your Colleagues.  I downloaded her slide pack, updated it to reflect changes to the Twitter interface since her post, and customised it.  Customisation included stories of my own experience and the opportunities that had  been created actively engaging with others on Twitter and building my network.  I included Twitter profile pictures of the people involved in my stories, explaining how I had built my relationship with them and the way we had collaborated.  This was the most powerful part of my presentation as it illustrated the spirit of generosity and reciprocity that can be generated in online networks over time.  I could see the light bulbs going on for people.  I also identified Twitter accounts relevant to my audience so I could suggest useful people and organisations for them to follow.

See Helen’s post for tips on how to promote and attract people to your event.

During the session I moved between the PowerPoint material, demonstrating things on my laptop, and supporting people to try things out on their laptop or devices. I had another experienced Twitter user present to help support people – it’s important to have enough support to get people hands-on during the session.

You can view my presentation below and download it to update and customise it if you would like to use it.  If you compare it to Helen’s presentation you’ll see where I have re-used versus customised content.

[slideshare id=61921686&doc=twitterforprofdevt-160511201751]

Half Hour Pre-Event Demonstration

The AITD invited me to run an informal 30 minute ‘learning lounge’ on the morning of Day One of their 2016 conference.  The intent was to encourage and equip attendees to join in the conversation on the backchannel.  What a great initiative!  Instead of just telling conference-goers that they should use Twitter, it equips them to get started and gives them an active conversation to join in so they can see benefits immediately.

I was unsure how many people would attend a session at 8.30am prior to Conference kick off.  The session had been included on the conference agenda, and one of the AITD team told me that whenever they responded to a query about the conference they had encouraged people to come along.  They must have done a good job at this – there was around 80-100 people at the session!  I checked existing Twitter experience with the group and what they hoped to get from the session.  It was great to see some active users who had come to support those new to Twitter.  Others had signed up several years prior, but not known how to use the platform effectively.  Several people did not yet have accounts.  So, a mixed group.

Instead of using a slide pack I demonstrated directly from my iPad which I projected using a lightning to VGA adapter (a little pricey at AUD$75, but a useful tool).  I chose to project from a mobile device rather than a laptop as attendees would be using mobile devices during the Conference.  My goal was to quickly get people comfortable enough with ways of engaging with others on Twitter (e.g posting, replying, retweeting, quoting tweets, using hashtags) that they would follow and start participating in the #AITD2016 backchannel.

You can download the session run script.  I followed it fairly closely and found that it flowed well.  I had been concerned that there wouldn’t be enough content in the backchannel before the conference had started to demonstrate some of the functionality so had asked some of my Twitter buddies to post.  It turned out there was plenty of content to use, so it was easy to demonstrate everything in the script.  I only just got through everything on the script in 30 minutes, and didn’t have time to check that novices were hands-on trying things as I demonstrated.  I did offer to provide individual help to anyone who needed it after the session, and provided a job aid for iOS mobile devices.  Note that the Twitter interface does change over time, so suggest you check this job aid (created May 2015) before reusing it.

Although not in the script some people were interested in how to use Twitter lists, so I demonstrated this in an extra five minutes at the end of the session.  Lists are a very useful filtering mechanism, although a little advanced for an introductory demonstration.

Self-Directed Learning

In my organisation we have been developing a self-directed micro-learning version of our Work Connect and Learn program.  This program aims to build digital, networking and knowledge management skills and habits.  Program ‘modules’ are shown below.

WCL Topics

Twitter is included as a topic under ‘Online Networking Tools’ in the Connect and Network module.  Justine Jardine has done a great job curating and presenting content in the program.  We’ve applied a ‘less is more’ philosophy, providing just enough commentary to introduce a topic and links to resources for people to explore independently, plus suggested activities.  (As an aside, a discussion forum is provided for people to respond to some activities and interact as they wish as they complete the program and try out new approaches and tools.)

The list of topics and links to curated resources is below, followed by the suggested activity.

WCL Twitter Activity

How About You?

Have you used any of these approaches to encourage and support people to get started using Twitter for professional development?  Perhaps you’ve used other approaches?  What are your observations and tips?  Please leave a comment in reply.



  1. #1 by divergentlearning on May 17, 2016 - 9:44 am

    It was Michelle who got me onto Twitter just over a year ago and I remain in her debt! Quite simply it has been the best CPD tool that I have added to my collection in 30 years. My observation is that many people try Twitter but follow only a few people and find little value in the medium. For me it is essential to follow the right people and companies – choose those that post content that you find valuable. If you don’t like what they post, just mute them (although I think it’s important to have outliers and contrarians in your feed). If you start with the right people, it makes the subsequent steps that Michelle’s outlined above much easier. I also found that I quickly became overwhelmed with all the good content and needed a curation/bookmarking tool, I use Diigo. I blogged on my first year of Twitter at Thanks Michelle, great post!

    • #2 by Michelle Ockers on May 29, 2016 - 9:40 am

      Thanks for your comments Neil. An alternative to muting is simply to unfollow – people do not get a notification if you unfollow them so unlikely to cause hard feelings. For anyone who is reading this, especially if you are just about to jump onto Twitter or are relatively new, Neil’s blog post at the link in his comment is well worth a read.

  2. #3 by Onur Ekinci on June 9, 2016 - 4:09 pm

    Hi Michelle,

    There’s not many active practitioners in the Australian L&D space who are passionate about pushing the boundaries on scaling organisational capability, so I’m glad to have come across your work and passion.

    I feel that a lot of L&D models are failing to keep up with the pace of change required in organisations and there’s a real opportunity to update our approach.

    20 months ago, I co-founded Peer Academy ( in Melbourne. Our inquiry rests deeply with the question of “how might we best scale capability?”

    Based on our research and experiments at Peer Academy, I strongly believe that peer-to-peer learning is the next evolution in organisational learning.

    We have a long journey ahead of us and it would mean the world for us to connect with peers like yourself who’d have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to contribute to support a local startup.

    Look forward to hearing from you!



    • #4 by Michelle Ockers on July 6, 2016 - 8:08 am

      Appreciate your comments Onur. I enjoyed the follow on phone conversation that we had on peer-to-peer learning and look forward to further conversations to explore this and other modern approaches to workplace learning.

      Your comment about peer-to-peer learning being ‘the next evolution organisational learning’ is interesting – given that this method of learning has been used for many centuries. I think what we are starting to see is a loosening of control of organisational learning – away from dictating learning paths and methods to enabling people to learn when, where and how it suits them. Leveraging and scaling individual and peer-to-peer learning through approaches such as communities of practice and working out loud is another opportunity to maximise the opportunity presented as people learn in their moment of need.

      I wonder if there is a way that you and I could ‘learn out loud’ and make our ongoing conversation accessible to others. Look forward to discussing this.

      • #5 by Onur Ekinci on July 8, 2016 - 3:17 pm

        Hi Michelle, rightly said. Nothing new about p2p learning. If we think of our caveman ancestors, how did they learn to light fires? Gathered around, observing and learning by doing no doubt!

        I guess it feels ‘evolutionary’ as it’s difficult to think of a working life that hasn’t been driven by maximising efficiency, at least in our generation. And it’s this tide that’s turning towards enabling creativity that driving wide ranging behavioural changes.

        I like the idea of LOL and it’s double meaning 🙂 Let’s look into it on our next call!

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