The first in a series of blogs on using social media in research by Professor Anna C. Whittaker
I use social media in a work setting for three main reasons:
1. Dissemination of our research findings more widely
2. Building a network of useful contacts within and beyond academia
3. Engaging in discussion on issues relevant to my research and teaching
The platforms I use most commonly are LinkedIn, which I only update occasionally and mainly collect contacts I may need in the future, and Twitter. With twitter I only tweet work-related comments, but it copies automatically to my Facebook network using IFTTT (if this then that), and with the right hashtag also copies into my third year undergraduate Health Psychology module if I think it will be relevant to my teaching too.
Dissemination is a particularly important part of academic work, and public engagement can reach a broader audience via social media. Particularly for my large Horizon 2020 European Commission network, dissemination beyond the UK is crucial, so we have our own twitter feed that I post to which also feeds onto the PANINI project website, as well as a PANINI project Instagram and YouTube channel, which are mainly for the research fellows to populate.
Successful outcomes from my use of twitter have been:
1. Making links by tweeting meetings/conferences which are then spotted by others using the same meeting hashtag who then look me up online and make contact in the breaks. This is particularly useful if you are in a setting where you need to make new contacts from particular sectors, but don’t know who they are, they don’t know you yet, and you are not giving a specific presentation where you can promote that you want to make links.
2. Public engagement beyond specific events and keeping my growing network up to date with the outputs from our current research.
Writing for the public is so different to academic writing, but this form of public engagement through online blogs and short reports can be very effective at spreading your message, for example, an article I wrote for the Conversation online disseminated a research project beyond what we achieved through conferences and peer-reviewed articles (which we also did), as it shows you the shares on various social media sites.
For all of your publications with a DOI, you can see more about spread beyond citations through the use of metrics such as Altmetrics which gives you a score and breakdown of coverage in the news media, online and social media citations, as well as where in the world it reached and the type of person who tweeted/blogged/wrote about it.