This post is part of a series that provides practical information and resources for authors and editors.
Once you’ve done your research, written a manuscript, and revised and proofread it, the last thing you want is for your published work to go unnoticed. So, how can you make it stand out in a world of information overload?
One of the most effective ways to get the public interested in your research is to use social media!
If you want to take the leap, the first step should always be to create an informative profile and then build your network. Search for colleagues, institutions, organizations, and thought leaders in your field, follow them and start interacting with their content by liking, re-posting, and commenting (only if appropriate, of course, don’t force it.) Ideally, you will already have a few posts of your own to show, which should increase your chance of others following you back.
Different social media channels differ in terms of their audiences, tone, and formats. Depending on these factors as well as your time constraints, you might want to focus on one channel, or maybe you want to use them all.
To help you make that decision and find the right platform, here’s an overview of the most popular social platforms:
Twitter is a microblogging service and social network founded in 2016 with around 330 million monthly active users. It’s not just used by many influential figures like politicians, journalists and celebrities – many academics also use Twitter to discuss their research and share it with a larger audience. The tone on Twitter is generally conversational in nature.
How Does Twitter Work?
The platform primarily allows you to publish posts (“tweets”) limited to 280 characters, and to re-tweet, like and reply to other users’ content. Your posts will appear in the news feeds of your followers but also in the search results of users who are looking for a specific hashtag and thus a specific topic. You can include as many hashtags (marked by the hash sign #) in a tweet as the character limit allows. You can also add polls, images, as well as audio and videos limited to 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
Another recently introduced feature are “Twitter Spaces”. These are audio-only chatrooms, which can be created by users with 600 or more followers. Any user can join these Spaces and request to speak. Furthermore, Twitter allows you to “go live” via the app and broadcast what’s happening around you. Finally, if you’re using Twitter to research subjects and trends, you can group them into lists to keep up to date on specific topics.
What Do I Need to Keep in Mind When Posting on Twitter?
Set up your profile by choosing a searchable profile name and writing a short bio (max 260 characters, including your profession or research field and tagging any affiliated institutions). Underneath your bio, you can link to your publication or institution’s website. Choose a recent profile photo, and if you have any visuals of your publications, use these as your header image.
Now you can start tweeting. Twitter’s character limit means you will have to be very concise and to the point. Inserting a link (e.g. to your research paper), irrespective of its length, will take up 23 characters alone. Use clear language, focus on the key results of your paper, and limit yourself to 1-3 relevant hashtags. If you want to tell a longer story, you can create a thread by posting replies to your initial tweet. These can be numbered for more clarity.
Similar to the keywords in a research article, try putting yourself in the shoes of other users and what hashtags they might be searching for. Hashtags shouldn’t be too broad or too specific. For example, if your research focuses on the feeding habits of Danaus plexippus, using the hashtag #MonarchButterfly would be a good choice as it targets biologists as well as a lay audience. To get a better idea of a hashtag’s reach, enter your potential hashtags in the search bar and see what results come up.
Also, don’t forget to tag your co-authors, your institution as well as related institutions, and the publisher or journal in your tweets. Ideally, they will share your posts. If you’re running out of space, you can additionally tag up to 10 users in an attached image without affecting the character count. However, note that not every account enables photo tagging.
Speaking of images: including an eye-catching visual that complements your text, like a photo or video of your research object, an infographic, or a figure from your article, will immensely increase your chances of getting noticed in a flooded news feed. In fact, this applies for most social media channels. Twitter will let you upload 4 pictures per tweet. To make images more accessible to vision-impaired users who might be using a screen reading tool, you can add “alt text” (short for alternative text) by uploading the image, clicking on “edit” and entering a description of the attached visual.
Facebook – the social network, if you will – was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. You might have heard that the platform is on the brink of extinction, and admittedly many younger people have moved on to other services, but current numbers show that Facebook is actually very much alive. Facebook has about 2.93 billion monthly active users, most of them from India and the US. This staggering number demonstrates that it could be well worthwhile sharing your research results on the most widely used online social network.
How Does Facebook Work?
Contrary to Twitter, you are not limited in the length of your Facebook posts. In fact, you could publish a text with up to 63,206 characters at once, which would correspond to about 35 standard text pages. Posts can be complemented with images and videos up to 240 minutes long. Using hashtags is also possible. You can comment on and react to other people’s posts with a variety of emojis.
Facebook further offers you the chance to join groups dedicated to specific subjects and to interact with people who have the same interests as you. From Alzheimer’s research to entomology (over 200,000 members!) or minerals and fossils – there is literally a group for everything.
You can also organize virtual and in-person events with Facebook, start a livestream, and publish “stories” – short content pieces that are visible for only 24 hours and are especially highlighted at the top of other users’ news feeds
What Do I Need to Keep in Mind When Posting on Facebook?
In view of the short attention spans on social media, aim to keep your message short and simple. Typically, longer Facebook posts earn less engagement. So, depending on the complexity of your topic, try to break down your research article in just a few sentences which cover the most important results and conclusions of your work. As on Twitter, keep the tone of voice conversational and informal.
In your posts, link to the journal article, tag colleagues and institutions, and include a visual, if possible. As mentioned before, Facebook has also adopted the use of hashtags. However, they’re not as popular and relevant on here. If you want to use hashtags, do so very moderately and put some thought into your selection (see how to select hashtags on Twitter.)
If you want to join a Facebook group to build your community, make sure to not just use these groups as one-way outlets for your research articles but add value by taking part in discussions and stimulating engagement.
Founded in 2003, LinkedIn is a professional network with about 830 million members that is focused on networking, career development and the world of work. The site offers free (“basic”) memberships as well as paid (“premium”) subscriptions with added benefits. To promote your research article, however, the free version is more than enough.
How Does LinkedIn Work?
Profile pages are pivotal elements of LinkedIn. The platform allows you to outline your current position, previous work experience, education, and key skills. Moreover, you can share publications, conference presentations, patents, and awards. You can also give and receive recommendations from current and former co-workers, which will be displayed on your profile.
When posting about your work, job ads, achievements etc., LinkedIn allows you to include 3,000 characters per update. Posts can be complemented with up to 9 images and videos of up to 10 minutes as well as with documents and polls. Hashtags are frequently used as well.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to join and actively contribute to professional groups, which exist for basically any research field. Also, it is possible to create events to organize on- and offline meetups.
What Do I Need to Keep in Mind When Posting on LinkedIn?
Creating an accurate and informative profile is essential to convey your credibility as a researcher. Before getting started with posting content, it’s worth spending time on your “digital business card” to give people a full picture of your professional self.
Start by choosing a polished, up-to-date photo and write a very short headline about yourself. This will appear next to your photo and name. When navigating the site, commenting and interacting with others, this is your visiting card that others will see.
Next, fill out your work experience and education, making sure to tag your employers, universities and research institutions. Offer to give others recommendations and ask former supervisors and colleagues for endorsements (whether that means writing a recommendation or endorsing your skills). Follow pages and institutions of interest, so that you receive relevant news in your feed.
When it comes to posting yourself, since you’re targeting peers and other professionals, use a more formal tone of voice than on Twitter or Facebook. However, less casual certainly doesn’t mean that your writing has to be boring. Imagine chatting to a fellow researcher at a conference and telling them in less than a minute about your newest discovery and its significance for the community. Now transfer that to a LinkedIn post in the form of just a few short paragraphs (with a link to your article, of course), tag colleagues and institutions, and invite opinions and discussion.
As with Twitter and Facebook, complementing your post with an eye-catching visual (including alt text) is always a good idea. Choose only a few relevant hashtags.
When joining subject-specific groups, think about whether you want to reach peers, policymakers and/or maybe even businesses and corporate bodies that might be interested in a product or method you have developed. Ask questions, answer queries and increase your visibility as a trailblazer in your field.
4. Some General Advice
- Make sure to post on a regular basis, at least 2-3 times per week, to stay in the conversation.
- Especially Twitter and Facebook have become infamous for attracting rude and disruptive user comments on public posts. Be prepared for that, especially if your research can be seen as controversial. Always remain polite, factual and even-handed if someone tries to engage you in a heated exchange. If in doubt, take the high road.
- Link to your social media profiles in your e-mail signature and promote your handles (public usernames) on the last slides of conference presentations.
- Have an eye on your direct messages (DMs) in case researchers want to connect with you via chat.
- Create eye-catching visuals with PowerPoint or free-to-use design tools such as Canva or PicMonkey. Keep in mind that recommended image sizes and aspect ratios differ between different social media platforms.
- Monitor your success, e.g. with Twitter analytics, or consider using Altmetric (fee-based), which allows you to track online engagements with your research.
Now, good luck with getting the word out!
Find more tips for publishing and promoting your work here
[Title image by Urupong/iStock/Getty Images Plus]