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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Communication: 10 things to know before you tweet

So you’ve decided to open a Twitter account. Congratulations! If you haven’t decided to open an account, then I would urge you to keep reading anyway as what I have to say will be relevant to you when you do decide to ‘tweet’, which you will decide to do in due course, I can assure you.

I opened my first account in March 2011,
 which ran for three and a half months before I closed it down and set up a number of new accounts. So what do you need to know about Twitter? What works and what doesn’t? Here is my guide to the 10 things you should know before you tweet.

1. The obvious one.
Everything must be said in 140 characters or less. However, do not forget the use of photos and web links. Learn how to use tinyURL (http://tinyurl.com/), which converts a long web address into a tweetable shorter version. Web links make tweets more interesting, so use them.

2. The less obvious one.
Everything you tweet is considered published in the eyes of the law. Would you be happy if whatever you are about to tweet was quoted in a national newspaper or trade magazine? 
If not, then don’t tweet it, which leads me nicely to…

3. It is possible to delete tweets.
However, due to the instant nature of Twitter, it’s probably best to assume that once you have tweeted then at least one of your followers will have read it. For that reason, the delete function is not really going to help you.

4. If it all goes wrong, you can delete your account.
However, what I learned from this process is that Twitter is a bit like marriage, in that it’s pretty easy to get into but takes a lot longer to undo. Twitter will only let you use an email address once so deleting your Twitter account involves creating a new email address, linking it to your Twitter account and then deleting both the Twitter account and the email address. Confused? Yes, I was too.

5. It’s not all bad.
Twitter is great for receiving news and marketing your products. In fact, someone even tweeted that you should watch TV to find out what was on Twitter six hours earlier, which is true. So, even if you decide not to tweet, it’s the fastest way to get information about all sorts of things. 
I didn’t attend the 2011 Pensions conference but followed the action on Twitter from a 
soft play centre in Bolton in-between 
ball pool supervision and then followed up on any interesting comments later.

6. Follow the journalists not the newspapers.
They are fascinating and you often get information that is not circulated in the wider press.

7. Set up multiple accounts for different topics.
For example, if you have a passion for trainspotting at the weekend and want to tweet about your recent sightings, set up a separate account and don’t clog up your actuarial colleague’s Twitter timelines with details of the 8.35am from Paddington. I fell foul of this and 
I publicly apologise to all my actuarial colleagues who had to read my tweets about meeting up with DJs to promote my fledgling singing career, not to mention the photos of my cottage pies.

8. Use hashtags.
Learn which are trending and quote them as this will 
get you followers. Don’t, however, play 
# games on your professional Twitter account (see point 7), unless they are actuarial, of course.

9. If used properly, you can have quite a laugh on Twitter.
Tweeting really comes into its own at live events, as it enables people to share their comments and observations, many of which are very funny. I didn’t go to Glastonbury but followed the #3atglasto tweets while watching the BBC coverage and had a great few nights in minus the mud.

Also, anyone who watches The X Factor and tweets will know exactly what I mean. I’m proud to say that the BBC even retweeted me a few times (mostly my comments about Beyonce) and thanked me for my tweets at the end of the festival. If you are going to do this, though, set up a new email and anonymous Twitter account.

10. The final obvious one.
Don’t tweet under the influence. Believe me I’ve done it and it’s not good.

So, happy tweeting everyone. If enough of us do it then maybe it will also become viewed as verifiable private study for CPD — as long as it is relevant, of course.

You can follow Margaret de Valois on Twitter at 

And you can follow The Actuary at @TheActuaryMag and editor Marjorie Ngwenya at @EditorActuaryUK

Margaret de ValoisMargaret de Valois leads the Global Pensions and Investment Advisory team at Mazars