This is the second in a series of Social Media ‘Getting started’ guides. We will make the series available as a downloadable guide via our website once we have sufficient posts. Over the coming weeks we will look at Kudos, blogging, academic network sites such as ResearchGate & Academia.edu, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook, before moving on to intermediate level guides.
Often seen as a place to socialise, connect with friends, and share pictures, an increasing number of academics and departments are turning to this popular social network — in particular the groups and Facebook ‘pages’ — for academic networking and research dissemination purposes.
Note: Groups and pages require you to have an associated Facebook account
If you already have Facebook you can do this from your main account and specify in your settings whether you wish for the group or page to be an open or closed, whether join requests need to be approved, and whether it should appear on friends’ homepages.
If you don’t currently have Facebook, head over to https://en-gb.facebook.com/ to sign up before following the steps above – please read Facebook’s terms for guidance on accounts and names.
Even if setting up your own group or page is not right for you, many journals and funders have their own pages through which you can ‘like’ to follow their feeds if you wish – these will often post about new papers and about relevant developments/news articles/any website downtime etc.: e.g.: Funders: Wellcome and EPSRC; Publishers/Journals: Nature group and Medical Law Review.
Benefits of a Facebook group/page
Facebook is an effective tool for University departments and divisions. For individual researchers I suggest it is most effective as a Research tool through its group and page functions. Whilst you could set up a new profile for work most of your peers are unlikely to use the site in the same way, so it’s likely your news feed would be a mix of work and personal. If you would like guidance on using Facebook please contact us for help.
Creating a Facebook ‘group’ or ‘page’ for your research centre or group has a few key benefits, in its position as attached (but separate) from your personal account.
1) it doesn’t require people to be your ‘friend’ on Facebook in order to be members – particularly useful when this includes students or members of the public whom you may not wish to give access to your personal info/family photos.
2) Groups allows you to have an area dedicated to your research topic rather than needing to sift through your news feed. Most groups will alert all members when a new post is added (particularly if they are also ‘friends’ with that person) similar to a mailing list, unless they have specifically opted out.
3) Additional functionality including polling and events (see sections below)
Once you’ve set up a group or page, you control whether you are posting as yourself or as the group/page by clicking on your profile picture in the top bar and selecting from the drop-down list.
When used for research, functionality can be similar to Twitter – you can ‘share’ a post or event which works in much the same way as retweeting (be mindful of the privacy level of the original post), and if you add the URL of a news item or article DOI/Kudos link the post will show a preview.
What’s the difference between a group and a page?
Anyone with an account can create a Facebook Page or Group. Bear in mind that ‘Pages’ were intended for companies, organisations, brands and public figures and are typically used by celebrities, sports teams, companies and even the Royal Family – they are a great choice if you wish to send updates to your ‘followers’ but don’t need a forum for collaboration or discussion. Updates will appear on the newsfeed of followers, and (unless they have disabled this in their settings) they will receive notifications each time you post an upgrade. Groups are perfect for communicating with your research group (select closed group)/those with the same interest (open group) and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion.
Example group: https://www.facebook.com/AutismResearchKent/
Example page: https://www.facebook.com/CeCILUniKent/
Other useful features
For simple research, just click the “Questions” tab and then write the question you want to ask your friends. You can leave the answer open or add options they can select from. For more options you can use the Facebook Poll app which can be found on Facebook, using the Search bar.
One really useful feature in Facebook is the Events feature. People are increasingly using this tool to organise and publicise informal events and even conferences on Facebook. When you create the event on Facebook, you have three choices:
- Open – Events can be seen by anyone, and anyone can send invitations to the event.
- Closed – The event listing is visible to anyone but only those invited can see the details.
- Secret – These events can be seen only by those who are invited.
There are other options as well. If you want to make the event more interactive, you can enable the ‘Group wall’ and allow other people to post pictures, videos and links.
Top tip: Consider your privacy settings
If you plan to use Facebook for professional or academic uses, you have to decide who sees your profile. Having a public profile which is accessible to anyone is not always a good idea. On Facebook, your friends can tag photos with your name and create content which appears on your profile.
This page contains more useful information on Facebook pages and groups, including instructions on setting them up from an Apple or Android phone or tablet.