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From PhD to Life

Twitter chats as public outreach and engagement


Every couple of weeks I host a Twitter chat using the hashtag #withaPhD. I pick a topic in advance (or have a guest co-host choose one) and come the appointed hour we see who’s online and take it from there.

These Twitter chats are fun, engaging, and meaningful for me. I connect with graduate students, professors, and other working professionals with PhDs from around the world. We ask questions, provide answers, suggest and advise; we share insights and resources; we crowd-source information; we commiserate and celebrate. Anyone can join in or read our tweets, and I archive each chat using Storify.

There must be thousands of graduate students, professors, and higher ed professionals who participate in Twitter chats of various kinds. In addition to my own #withaPhD chat (Mondays, noon-1 p.m. EST), I’ve participated in Jeffrey Keefer’s #AdjunctChat (Tuesdays, 4-5 p.m. EST) and #Femlead (on hiatus). The team behind hosts #Acwri (“academic writing”) twice every fortnight (to capture tweeters at opposite sides of the globe). On Tuesdays at 8-9 p.m. EST, Alice Keeler hosts #profchat. This week’s edition brought together higher ed teachers to discuss rubrics. Postdocs and newer professors will want to check out #ECRchat (“early career researcher”) every two weeks. #PhDchat began as a structured chat at a specific time; now the hashtag is widely used to share information and discuss issues relevant to PhD students. Let me stop here; just know that there are many other potentially relevant-to-you chats.

Tweeting with other users is enjoyable for me: the hour goes by fast! These chats are also good marketing and market research tools. They put me in contact with potential clients who might otherwise not come across my website or get a sense of what I do. These chats also put me in touch with colleagues and others with whom I might later connect with one-on-one. Twitter is a key component of my public outreach, helping me build my brand, showcase my expertise, and begin to make meaningful connections. Twitter chats are invitations to engagement with me and my business.

What about you? Have you participated in or hosted Twitter chats? What’s been your experience? Add your favourite chats to the comments!

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
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  1. Ashley / June 23, 2014 at 20:12

    Hi Jennifer,

    Networking and outreach are two of my favourite aspects of Twitter chats and Twitter hashtags in general. I love that I can narrow things down geographically in search, too. It’s surprising how many amazing contacts are right under our noses who, as you say, we wouldn’t discover otherwise.

    #withaphd sounds like an awesome community! I hope even more relevant people discover it via this post and connect with you folks.



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