Social media for expats: Microblogging

Social media for expats: Microblogging

For many expats, blogging seems like too much effort or responsibility. You might not know what to write about, or even enjoy writing, but you still want to find a way to stay connected to your home while getting involved in your new country. An option for you may be microblogging, defined as very brief updates often limited to a single photo or video, or a particular word count.

Microblogs are designed for quick updates, so don’t over-think your content. If something funny happens to you while shopping, mention it. However, try to avoid repetitive and mundane posts. For example, don’t tweet "Good morning" every morning!

A 2011 Harvard Business Review study found that the types of posts Twitter users hated most was the "Good morning." This type of post doesn’t provide anything insightful, funny, or interesting to your followers.

If you are also blogging or using other social media, you can post about that. Link to your new blog posts or upload a single image from your holiday photos with a link to the rest of the album.

One of the best uses of microblogs is crowdsourcing. Can’t find a particular brand? Ask your followers. You may get great tips about expat life and find a community to commiserate with.

Best practices
Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, you are encouraged to follow (and be followed by) people you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to follow strangers and respond to what they say. Still, if you’re concerned about privacy, most sites have privacy features will can allow you to limit your posts to certain people.

Even though microblogging is an informal environment, the rules of spelling and grammar still apply. Avoid "internet speak" and don’t remove punctuation or shorten words to fit into the space parameters. If your posts aren’t clear and easy to read, no one will read them.

Avoid merely linking to others’ content. While it’s certainly fine to suggest to your followers that they check out an interesting article you read, if people can find what you're talking about elsewhere, why would they follow you?

Take some time to find a nice profile picture, customise your background, and fill in your profile information. You don’t have to have a degree in graphic design to customise your profile pages. If you personalise your account, you won’t look like a spammer and people will be more receptive to you.

Popular microblogging sites

Twitter, is the most popular microblogging service, limiting users to 140 character posts. These days, most people and organisations have a Twitter feed. Follow expat-focused groups and companies to see what’s going on in the expat community and get great advice about expat life.

Check to see who those people and groups are themselves following and follow anyone you find interesting or informative.

If you’re looking for local people to follow, try the advanced search options which allow you to search by location and language. Also, some Twitter mobile apps have a local or view nearby features, which shows you tweets that have been posted near your GPS location.

By placing a hashtag (#) in front of a word, you can easily make it searchable. By searching for hashtags, you can easily find posts about topics you’re interested in. Try searching for #Holland.

If your friends and family use Twitter, it’s an easy way to keep in touch. If they don’t, you can always update your Facebook or LinkedIn status via Twitter to share with a broader audience.

Tumblr is a Twitter and blog hybrid. If you want to share short quips and the occasional photo, Tumblr is a better choice than a conventional blog. The layout is simple, but the appearance is customisable. Posts are short and might contain one or two photos at most. Unlike a regular blog, there’s no comment system on Tumblr. You can like and reblog posts to your own Tumblr with comments, however.

Tumblr also offers a great tagging feature, which allows you to tag your posts with any number of words or phrases. Anyone can then go to the Tumblr site and search for keywords and see things published by all Tumblr members. You can find great content under "Holland," "Netherlands," and "Expat" or search by other topics you’re interested in.

 Facebook & Google Plus
Both Facebook and Google Plus have similar features, though neither site actually limits the number of characters you can use. If you don’t want another social media account, you can update these profiles with short posts.

However, if your goal is to make new connections, it is much easier to follow a Twitter feed or Tumblr if you don’t know someone than their Facebook updates.

Do you use microblogging sites? Do you find them useful?

Molly  Quell


Molly Quell

I'm an American expat living in the Netherlands, working as a social media consultant and writer. When I’m not working, I cook, bake, play softball, and hang out with my...

Read more



Leave a comment