This Side of Theory

Student Affairs Reflections and Musings

Advice v. Feedback: The Pitfall of the Twitter Consult

I watch the #SAchat feed with some regularity and have noted what seems like an increase in people asking for professional advice. Last night I tweeted the following question:


I received some great responses from people in the community, including Brian Root:

My supervisor and I discussed this at length earlier in the week after I noted in conversation how many solicitations I was seeing for paper or presentation topics, requests for advice on handling specific situations on campus, and calls for help with preparing for campus interviews. I laud Twitter for the ability to gather information quickly, particularly sending out a request for best practices, but I’m admittedly uncomfortable when it feels like I’m being asked to do someone’s job.

After thinking it about it more overnight — and letting the responses marinate a bit — I tweeted this earlier today:

This is what it boiled down to me:  I’m happy to provide feedback. I’ll proofread a cover letter, review a presentation, offer suggestions for beefing up a program proposal, share resources. I want to hear the initiator’s ideas and plan before I share my own experience. And Deb Schmidt-Rogers nailed it on the head:

In my discussion with my supervisor, we talked about how ultimately the responsibility still falls on the employee. Even if 17 people on Twitter agreed about the best way to handle a situation, those 17 people don’t receive performance appraisals from your institution and aren’t accountable to your supervisor or your students. Additionally, the kindness of those trying to help is limited to 140 characters; they don’t have the full scenario or situation and are filling in gaps in information with their own assumptions about what the situation is and what’s already been done.

What now? My unsolicited tips for more effectively using Twitter as a resource:

  • Ask for someone with whom to talk — e.g. I’m looking for someone who has developed a residential curriculum in #reslife. Anyone willing to chat? #SAchat
  • Show you’ve done your work — e.g. I’m submitting an article on living-learning communities. Is there anyone willing to read a draft? #SAchat
  • Be a partner in the project — e.g. I’m brainstorming outdoor concert ideas for spring. Can we schedule a G+ Hangout for people to share ideas? #SAchat


How do you use Twitter to seek advice or feedback for professional purposes?



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  • Kevin

    Here’s my pet peeve. Someone on Twitter who clearly hasn’t done the work and uses it as a crutch. For example: “Anyone have ideas for a large group icebreaker? I am doing one for a group of 100 students in an hour. #sachat”

    I think you give some great, solid advice here.

  • Sarah

    I agree – the responsibility ultimately belongs to the person that’s actually employed (or trying to be employed, or what have you).

    But, on the other hand, I don’t want to reinvent the wheel when I’m sure someone’s done something already. We’re all working to do more with less, and I can see the benefits in asking what other people have done for specific situations rather than starting from square one every time.

    What Brian said really resonated with me – I have come to view Twitter as an amazing way to expand my network of colleagues and I respect their viewpoints and experiences. I want to learn from people I follow, and they often bring up issues I hadn’t thought about.

    That being said, I don’t take twitter responses as gospel. It does give me a starting point to research more into the topic, though.

  • Kristen

    I’m not sure that I can truly respond without knowing what set you off on this, but I don’t entirely agree with the whole idea that giving advice is doing someone’s job. I actually think that in the creation of the #sachat community, we have empowered each other to have more than one place to seek advice and/or feedback, so that we have more options to choose from. There are times when I’m facing a problem at work and have sought advice from those around me to no avail. I appreciate having the Twitter network there to get additional ideas.
    Do I think they should come up with my paper topic or presentation idea? No – frankly, it seems odd to me that anyone who has a good enough idea to share isn’t already doing something with it on their own. But getting additional ideas on an issue or situation doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. Nor does it seem like they are doing my job. I agree that it ultimately comes back to my supervisor and me to decide the best course of action, but having some additional insight doesn’t seem like a bad thing.
    And I agree with Sarah – we’re all trying to do more with less these days – why not avail ourselves of a resource that is easy to use and free? If our colleagues don’t want to respond, that’s fine, too. I think they shouldn’t respond if it makes them feel uncomfortable.
    And finally, I think that sometimes we ARE put in positions where we’re unempowered – I have yet to meet the student affairs person who hasn’t had a supervisor or colleague who has put us in that position at one time or another. So it is nice to be able to reach out to our other colleagues for support in those times. Again, they don’t have to respond, but I don’t feel that we need to judge someone based on that.
    I think that your suggestions for more effective tweeting are great, too. These are very useful for those who are new to #SAChat and Twitter in order to guide them.

  • StephanieMZ

    I agree, Stacy. I almost sent out a request this morning but realized that Twitter wasn’t the appropriate forum to do so after reading this :)

    That being said, it can also be rather sad when you put out a request for best practices or other information and no one responds. You have to wonder…”did I do this correctly?”

    • Joe Sabado

      I’ve thought the same:) or this thought – if another person, more prominent in sachat perhaps, asked the same question, would it have received a response? But that’s how if works in any medium anyways, I think.

      As far as providing feedback/advice via DM/email after initial convo on sachat, I include a disclaimer of some sort that my pov may be limited or not accurate so consult with other folks. I leave it to the person asking the feedback/advice to ultimately decide on what to do with it.

  • Eric Stoller

    For me, sometimes the most challenging aspect of a Twitter question is that they often lack focus. It’s so easy to ask a question using 140 characters. However, the answers often require multiple paragraphs and a decent amount of time. I’m thrilled whenever anyone engages with those who follow the #sachat hashtag, but I wish that their questions were more focused, less vague, and didn’t seem to be so “last minute.”