Paul Krugman has enough Twitter followers to equal the population of a megacity. And quite quite a few economists have, on their own, have a medium-sized city worth of Twitter followers. A long way down the list, my own followers constitute a delightful small town. Economists on Twitter is a thing.
In the University of Michigan's March 5, 2018 University Record, Justin Wolfers, number 6 on REPEC's list above, shares some of his own experience on Twitter and for others trying to establish themselves on Twitter. Safiya Merchant interviewed Justin along with other University of Michigan faculty on Twitter for her article "#SocialScholars: Professors show power of public engagement." Here is Justin's story:
Wolfers, professor of economics in LSA, and public policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, tends to center his tweets on these respective topics, often retweeting news articles or providing commentary.
Despite his social media success, Wolfers originally thought the idea of Twitter sounded like "nonsense" and wouldn't work.
Back in 2011, Wolfers flipped a coin every day to test how Twitter affected his productivity, influence and learning. If it landed on heads, he would open Twitter to consume the Twitter stream and tweet if he felt the need.
He soon realized that every day he hoped it would come up heads.
"Twitter is a particularly important medium for journalists, and so what was important to me was, even among my first couple hundred followers, a large number of them were journalists," Wolfers said. "I could talk to 100 journalists at once through Twitter. So it would be not unusual that a week later, I'd learn what I'd written had been featured in The New York Times or The Washington Post."
Wolfers said his social media presence also allows him to directly reach and provide insight and analysis to policymakers.
"Sometimes the most productive thing I will do in a single day might be a tweet," he said. "That tweet might cause every journalist to write a deep dive on a particular topic or it might cause a policymaker to rethink an issue. And that's a tremendous privilege."
Safiya also quotes Justin as follows:
Although social media usage might not yet be as pervasive as academic journal publications among faculty, Wolfers said it's a "very natural idea" for public intellectuals to speak in the public square to the general populace.
"What we're doing is interesting; don't lose sight of that excitement."
Finally, in a sidebar, "Tips for clicks," Justin gives this advice for someone trying to establish themselves on Twitter:
I say be yourself but be 120 percent of yourself. You have to be a little bit bigger than life because otherwise it'll get lost in 140 characters."