Creating a Twitter account is simple:
Now it’s time to do the important stuff.
First, add a short bio. This is your chance to explain who you are in 160 characters or less. LSE Impact Blog recommends stating your experience and research interests, university or organizational affiliation, and a link to your blog, website, or faculty webpage.
To add your bio, click on your username beside your avatar and on your profile page, click the “Edit Profile” button on the right-hand side of your profile. There, you can add your bio and a link to your blog or website.
Got your basic account set up? Now it’s time to start engaging with other scholars and the public.
Twitter users share research articles, news, and tidbits about their lives on a daily basis. Your next step is to find users who share your interests and to “follow” them to start receiving their updates.
Twitter tries to make it as easy as possible for you to find other people to follow via the “Who to Follow” panel on the right-hand side of your profile. The more people you follow, the better Twitter gets at finding you new suggestions. Click on the “View all” link in the “Who to follow” panel to get a long list of suggested users.
Another great way to find people to follow is to search Twitter for particular interests. From any page on Twitter, type a keyword into the Search box at the upper right-hand corner of the page. On the results page, click “Accounts” tab at the top of the page to narrow the results to Twitter users who match your interest.
You can see here that we've searched for the term “libraries” and narrowed the results to include Twitter users who match that term:
Read through the search results, keeping an eye out for familiar names and interesting bios. When you find a user you want updates from, click the “Follow” button to the right of their bio. Now, when you’re on your homepage, you’ll see their recent updates:
There are several other good ways to find people to follow:
Try to follow at least twenty colleagues and organizations in your field to begin with, and take some time to read through each user’s timeline (updates on their profile page) to learn more about them and their interests. You’re going to start chatting with your colleagues in our next step.
Now we get into the meat of the challenge: making connections with others in your field.
One of the things that makes Twitter so great is that it is a no-pressure forum to spark conversations with your colleagues about a variety of topics, including but not limited to your shared area of study. Twitter also helps you find members of the public who are interested in your area of study.
Researchers who participated in a recent study of academics’ use of social media report that they appreciate Twitter for several reasons:
"Love the ability to chat to colleagues on Twitter, better than seeing each other just once a year at conferences and actually I have “met” people on Twitter before meeting them IRL at conference."
"My focus is science outreach to general audiences. These formats [Facebook, Twitter, Storify] are easy to use and my audiences are there. It helps me disseminate information about science, science news and the process of science to broader audiences."
"Twitter allows me to make connections to folks that I would not otherwise have – journalists, policy professionals."
You’re going to engage with others by tweeting at them–writing short messages that either respond to one of their updates, ask questions, or share information with them. Let’s talk now about what makes for good “tweeting.”
Tweets are the 280 character messages that users compose to update others on a variety of things: their opinions on a study, recent news, a thought-provoking blog post, and so on. You can write anything in your updates, as well as attach photos and location information, too.
Some things you might want to share with others include:
No matter what you tweet about, there are some basic things you can do to make your tweets more interesting to others (and thus more likely to be shared via a retweet):
When in doubt, just remember to keep it professional and you can’t really go wrong.
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.
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 followers, add your own commentary to the speaker’s, and share related papers and websites. Some sources recommend inquiring about conferences' or presenters' policies regarding permission to tweet about presentations.
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 that 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.
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. These numbers can help you measure the amount of exposure you’re receiving and others’ interest in what you’re tweeting, respectively.
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:
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.
Many of us are on Facebook, and plenty of us do “friend” our colleagues on the site, even if we’re not on Facebook primarily for professional reasons. Scientists who do use Facebook for professional reasons tend to use it to promote their work, and as an informal way to network with other scientists.
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 2014 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.
Facebook can also be a good platform to promote public-facing centers and resources. As an example, check out the Gumberg Library Facebook page. If you work with a center, institute, or consortium, Facebook may be a good method for reaching more people.
Here are some tips for sharing your research on Facebook:
Facebook is a human-designed system, with algorithms that replicate the blind spots of its creators. Sometimes, the algorithm's "neutrality" is used for financial gain. As we saw from Facebook’s suppression of Ferguson-related news in the US, Facebook’s algorithms might decide that your updates aren’t worth sharing with your network. So, why share your research or your views on a platform that might hit the mute button on you?
Facebook is a for-profit corporation. It makes money by selling your personal data to advertisers (in addition to putting advertisements onto your Facebook profile and allowing brands to use your “likes” in their advertisements). They also have run afoul of privacy advocates by constantly changing the default privacy settings for profiles, opening up new and established users alike to unwanted public exposure.
If you do choose to use Facebook in a professional manner, be aware of the privacy issues and the steps you can take to mitigate them.
You might use Facebook only for personal updates, sharing photos of your children or what you made for dinner last night. Sure, you can change your Facebook privacy settings to hide unprofessional content from colleagues. But doing that for each new friend you add can be a bothersome process. Some prefer to not friend colleagues at all, for that very reason. And speaking of...
Not everyone likes the idea of mixing their personal and professional networks. Even if you choose to use Facebook professionally, friend with care to avoid putting colleagues on the spot. If you are a more well-established researcher, take particular care to be respectful of junior and contingent faculty when friending.
Is Facebook right for you, professionally speaking? Take some time to think about the arguments presented above and decide for yourself whether you want to use Facebook to network with other scientists/researchers/scholars, share your publications, or to facilitate your research.
If you decide you want to use Facebook in a professional context, here’s how to make sure it’s up to snuff:
Create a “list” for everyone you’d consider a professional contact, and remember to add future professional contacts to that list as you become Facebook friends.
Now that you have a list of professional contacts, you can share content selectively. Whenever you share something that’s of professional interest, be sure to share it with both your work colleagues and your other “friends” on the site. Consider even making it visible to the public. Here's how to decide with whom to share your individual Facebook posts:
Edit your privacy settings so you’re discoverable:
Further edit your privacy settings so new updates are not shared with your professional contacts by default–this can keep you from accidentally sharing something inappropriate with the wrong audience.