Using Social Media: Top 10 tips for researchers

1) Pick your platform(s) – don’t do too much

There are wealth of options… blogs, twitter, facebook, Instagram, researchgate,, snapchat… the list goes on, and on, and on. Unless this is going to be all you’re planning on doing for the next few months, then pick one or two platforms and commit to them, rather than spreading the message thinly in a lot of places.

2) Decide what you want to achieve

Why are you using social media for research? To recruit research participants? To share your research findings? To connect with your network or engage with your research users? Any of these reasons & more are areas that social media can help, but the time you spend and the way you engage (and the platform you shoes!) will vary depending on what you would like to achieve.

To read more about achieving specific objectives, see our blog posts on Using Social Media to promote your research: Twitter and Recruiting Research Participants via Twitter

3) Link with key partners

The key part of social media is the links you make – whether engaging with research users, networks or recruiting participants, your message will reach a far wider group of people where others are sharing your content – whether tagging, mentioning or resharing. While these interactions can all be online, it is worth asking when you meet with people for their social media links.

4) Be human – people love stories

Where your key aim may always be to disseminate your research to a wider audience, some people will click on a link because they are interested, where some need a hook – 3 reasons why I love my research topic, 7 things I wish I’d known before starting writing a book – social media users are as often interested in the person behind the research as they are in the research itself.

5) Keep your audience in mind

Who are you writing for? If you are aiming at other academic colleagues in the same niche area as you, then technical, specialist language is expected – if you’re writing for the general public, then avoid jargon. Also, bear in mind what your audience will be interested in.

Academic papers generally start with the background and rationale, then move onto the research methodology, and finally what you found. When writing for the public you need to draw people in with the ‘highlight’ findings, explain the implications (‘So what?’) and then give any necessary details of how the research was conducted.

6) Don’t sink more time in it than you’re benefiting from

It is very easy for social media to take a lot of time, to detract from the key things that you are aiming to achieve or the key audiences that you would like to reach – there are many social media management tools that you can use (contact us) that can help by scheduling your social media posts, and limiting the time you commit to them.

7) A picture says 1000 words

It isn’t just on image based social networking (Instagram, snapchat, pinterest) where images can be useful – they can introduce a human element, keep your tweet in your character limit, or help your entry stand out from the crowd. Relevant images, infographics or photographs can quickly convey a key message that will attract people as they are scrolling through their social media feeds.

8) Measure! Use the tools that there are to see if you’re getting what you need

There are plenty of tools out there to measure whether you are getting the results you expected from the time you spend on social media – most social media sites have in built monitoring, as do most of the scheduling apps.

If you’re disseminating your work, then always make sure you include the DOI (if it has one!), rather than a picture of the output as this then tracks back to your research. There are also tools such as KUDOS that can monitor across social media platforms and show where your highest levels of engagement are coming from.

9) Expand your network

One massive advantage of social media is the ability to expand networks – but research done on twitter use is that researchers broadly recreate their existing networks. When you first start to use social media, invest some time in looking at who the people you know are following, then who they are following – expanding your social media network can be a key way of reaching a new audience, with minimal effort on their part.

10) Anything can go viral… and it isn’t logical

Just be aware. Once the tweet, post or picture has left your computer, it is out of your control – it may never get seen, it may become the most popular post of the year. It isn’t logical, it isn’t predictable, it isn’t likely. But it is good to remember.