Say you’ve set up a Twitter account for your [insert institution here: lab, office, international space station]. With personal accounts, you follow whoever you want, find your friends through your connected accounts, and proceed on your merry way. However, I found myself directionless and hesitant to make mistakes as I created and began administrating my lab’s Twitter account.

In my last post, I talked about justifying an institutional account to The Boss and covered the information for which Twitter is a platform. Once the barrier of creation has been crossed, though, and The Boss recognizes Twitter’s value, you suddenly represent the office.

The Boss almost always has a strong idea of how they want to handle public relations. I recommend a short conversation on the topics below to get an idea of their preferences. Be prepared to explain the alternative answers for each topic – like the benefits of following 25 vs 400 accounts.

My boss articulated his hesitation by saying that he didn’t just want to give me carte blanche on the lab account, and I think that’s a reasonable concern. If you and your boss can agree to allow you-as-lab the latitude to do what’s best for the account, you can always correct trajectory as you go.

What personhood should be used? We? I?

Most institutional accounts avoid pronouns or using a royal “we.” However, as the Chronicle pointed out, professors with personal tweets get high credibility marks, and this pattern likely applies to institutions as well – making it clear there’s a (fun, helpful) human behind an account. When @MSULibraries tweeted something like “Thanks *chomp* to whoever left the *chomp* candy corn in the office!” it made me fall for them as a follower. Although it feels awkward, try to phrase things in the third person or express sentiments directly. Examples: Volunteers from the #MSUFAL will train officers from @MSUPolice on search and recovery 9/14; Thanks to @MSUPolice for making the training event such a success!

Who should the lab follow?

Ours is a conservative strategy. The Lab follows other academics in our department, outside agencies with whom we work, and accounts that might be good resources for our followers. As the lab’s graduate student, I follow all accounts that the lab follows – about 100 carefully chosen accounts. On the other hand, following hundreds of accounts may create more visibility and those individuals might follow The Lab back.

Should we curate the Lab’s followers?

Yes, don’t be afraid to do this and to block spammers – unwanted followers actually make The Lab’s profile look messier.

As administrator, can you “intra”-act with your personal account?

Forge past awkward feelings and intra-act between your two accounts just like with anyone else. Thank yourself for RTs (retweets), etc. Just don’t be overenthusiastic as a follower (don’t flood the @mention column!), and you won’t stick out weirdly as the admin.


In summary, learn from the institutional accounts you follow, see if you can get The Boss to look at some of your tweets, and adjust as necessary. Keep in mind that this is a learning experience for them as well as for you – don’t be afraid to stick to your guns, though. You do know what you’re doing (and, as a last resort, tweets are delete-able…).