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Research Impact and Visibility: Day 4: Twitter & Facebook for Academics

A guide on tools to promote your research and increase citations

Twitter

The first steps are to create a Twitter profile, personalizing your account with a photo and following others.

Now that you’re tweeting, let’s explore some of the benefits (and drawbacks) to tweeting at conferences.

Some academics swear by tweeting at conferences, because it provides an easy way to learn new things and meet new people by following and participating in conversations. As Bik & Goldstein explain,

"Tweeting from conferences (discussing cutting-edge research developments, linking to journal articles or lab websites, e.g., …) can introduce other scientists to valuable content, and consequently provide networking opportunities for users who actively post during meetings…Journalists and scientists following a conference tweet stream may be additionally introduced to new groups of researchers (particularly early-career scientists or those scientists who are new to Twitter) with relevant and related interests; conference tweeting can thus serve to enhance in-person networking opportunities by expanding these activities to online spheres."

Further, Jonathan Lawson points out that it allows students and early career researchers, in particular, to participate in a “backchannel” that’s not dominated by the most established researchers, like the conferences themselves sometimes are.

The next time you’re attending a conference, find out what the meeting’s hashtag is, and then search for and follow it to “listen in” on the conversation.

And when you’re ready to participate, you can add your voice by writing tweets that include the conference hashtag. When you’re listening to a talk, summarize the main points for your followersadd your own commentary to the speaker’s, and share related papers and websites. Just make sure you have the presenters’ permission to tweet about their talk; some would prefer to keep their findings off the Internet until they have published on them.

You can also tweet using the conference hashtag to organize informal “tweetups,” which can help build relationships and ward off boredom in unfamiliar cities (“Invigorated after Stodden’s great keynote! Anyone up for grabbing a coffee before the reception to talk about it? #meeting2016”).

For more “how to’s” on conference tweeting, check out SouthernFriedScience’s primer on tweeting at conferences.

Step 7: Measuring your success

Twitter’s Analytics dashboard can help you measure the success of your outreach efforts.

Logon to Twitter Analytics (using your Twitter username and password) and review your latest tweets that share links to your blog or your papers. On the dashboard view (pictured above), you’ll see all of your tweets and a summary of your impressions and engagements.

The number of impressions equals the number of times your tweets appeared on people's timelines. The number of engagements are the number of times your tweets have been retweeted, clicked through, or clicked on to learn more information about what you shared. They help you measure the amount of exposure you’re receiving and others’ interest in what you’re tweeting, respectively.

The dashboard view is good at summarizing your impressions and engagements over various time periods. The default view is for the past 28 days, but you can click the calendar button in the upper right hand corner to select a date range of your choosing–useful if you want to see what effect tweeting at a conference had upon the amount of exposure you’re getting, for example.

To see the drill-down engagement metrics for a specific tweet, click on the tweet. You’ll see something like this:

In addition to simple engagement and impression metrics, LSE Impact Blog also recommends recording the following:

At the end of each month, Twitter can be used as a painless metric to assess how your tweeting is working for you and your project. Showing the growth in your followers and the number of people who read your research blog can also be helpful for funding applications. You could make short notes on the following:

  • The number of followers you have.
  • The names of those who could be useful for future collaboration.
  • Invitations to write blog posts or speak at events, which have come via Twitter.
  • Number of hits to your own blog posts via Twitter.

Over time, you can build upon what you’ve learned from your Twitter metrics, tweeting more content that your followers will love, in a manner that will engage them the most.

Limitations

Twitter is, like many of the other platforms we’ve covered so far, a for-profit company. Though it’s technically free to use, you pay for your account by allowing Twitter show ads in your timeline and access and sell your personal data to other companies.

Twitter has also recently announced plans to experiment with users’ timelines, meaning that the uncensored, time-based updates you see on your home screencould soon be replaced with updates selected by an algorithm. That’s something that Facebook currently does, and it led to a near blackout on updates for its users about one of the biggest news items of the year in the US: The Ferguson protests.

What could it mean for you? Well, if Twitter’s future algorithms inadvertently decide that your tweets about H1N1 studies or field research or science funding aren’t compelling to your users, it could remove them from others’ homepages, killing potential conversations and connections.

Facebook

Using Facebook to promote your publications, news, and awards

Consider sharing a link to one of your articles, a bit of news, or an award announcement the next time you log on to Facebook. One advantage to sharing articles in particular is that Facebook-based sharing and discussion has been linked to increased readership.

In a recent Nature survey, 15% of scientists that are regular Facebook users promote their recent publications on the site, and over 20% use it to post work-related content. Additionally, in a separate study, one researcher opined, “‘I find that blogging/Facebook can be a very good way to make one’s research more widely known to other scientists, the public and, very importantly, students (both to inform them and to recruit!).”

Who’s most likely to share their work on the site? Well, the most often shared papers on Facebook tend to be those in the biomedical and health sciences, but there’s not yet research on the extent to which these papers were shared by the authors themselves.

 

Here are some tips for sharing your research on Facebook:

  • Ideal times to post are reportedly after the workday is over (5 pm – 1 am), when your friends have more time to click on the links you post.
  • Include a photo, figure, or video – visual content gets more “likes” and shares on Facebook than plaintext and links alone do. And more shares means more potential readers for your article.
  •  If you didn’t publish in an Open Access journal, link to a shareable version of your article if possible so others without access to the journal in which you’ve published can read it. Remember to check SHERPA RoMEO to determine what permissions the journal publisher's copyright transfer agreement dictates.
  • Keep your post’s introductory text to 40 characters or less – more people will “like” and comment upon your post, and that means your post will appear more often in others’ timelines, increasing your potential readers.
  • If you’re sharing research that might be of public interest, set your post to “Public” (more information on how to do so below).