There are many social media tools you can use but you need to ensure that the resources you use work for you and that you have time to devote to them.
- social networking – Facebook and LinkedIn
- blogging – WordPress
- microblogging – Twitter
- video sharing – YouTube
- photo-sharing – Flickr and Pinterest
- content collecting and curating – Scoop.it, Reddit.
Do not try to have a presence on every social media platform. It’s best to use one or two platforms well, rather than a large number badly.
In this guidance we will cover some of the most effective tools for promoting your research in depth.
Twitter can be a very effective tool for:
- increasing the visibility of your research
- keeping up to date
- communicating with people and subjects that are relevant to you.
Twitter has become increasingly popular with academics as well as students, policymakers, politicians and the general public. It has now become the social media platform of choice for many.
What you should tweet about
The type of information you tweet can depend on whether you are tweeting as an individual or as an organisation, project or group.
If you have a personal Twitter account you may want to mix tweets about your research with other things that are of interest to you, for example, your hobbies, news and general observations.
If you are tweeting on behalf of an organisation, project or group then you may choose to only send research-related tweets.
You might want to tweet about:
- details of new publications or resources you’ve produced
- news items that feature your research
- links to any blog posts or features you’ve written
- thoughts on conferences you attend
- questions where you want to invite feedback
- interesting news items you’ve found
- compelling photographs and videos.
How to use hashtags
Hashtags can be used to filter content on Twitter about a particular subject or topic. You could use a hashtag to promote an event or conference, a competition or publication.
When choosing a hashtag you should:
- avoid using #esrc-prefixed hashtags, which we use for ESRC activities and promotions
- double check that they cannot be misinterpreted or spell something else when the words are put together without spaces
- be aware of any major events that happen on or near a time you intend to use a hashtag
- check hashtags you’ve put on scheduled tweets in case any meanings have changed
- check that any new hashtag you want to use is not already being used by someone else
- stay consistent – it will be confusing to users to have more than one hashtag for the same event or topic.
It’s ok to piggyback on trending hashtags as long as your research is relevant to this content.
When to tweet
You should tweet at times when your followers are most likely to see your tweets.
If your academic followers are mainly UK-based then it’s generally best to tweet during daytime working hours on weekdays. However, many Twitter users also use it outside working hours, particularly on their mobile devices.
If there is a tweet that is particularly important to you, you could tweet it at several different times and on different days. This could also help to reach more of your overseas followers and anyone who missed it first time.
You should aim to tweet frequently – but do not tweet for the sake of it. Always try to ensure that your tweets are interesting. If you are perceived as boring or a spammer then you may lose some of your followers.
Tools such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck allow you to manage your tweets and followers more easily. You can also schedule tweets in advance, which is useful if you want to tweet after normal working hours or so that tweets get picked up in another time zone.
Building and strengthening your Twitter presence
It may not be as difficult as you think to attract followers on Twitter. However, you will have to put some effort into making your Twitter account attractive to other users. They will only follow you if you appear interesting and relevant to them.
- tweet interesting information. Before you start chasing followers it’s a good idea to have already tweeted relevant content. This will give other users a taste of the sort of tweets they can expect to see from you
- ensure that your Twitter profile provides clear information about you and your interests. Blank or poorly written profiles make it difficult for anyone to know if you are worth following. If you have a blog or website include the relevant link in your profile
- include a profile picture – this could be a logo or a photograph of you. Avoid leaving the default egg icon in place for too long
- follow people you know and are likely to follow you back. The big challenge is to attract people who do not know you but who share similar interests.
Once you get started you can strengthen your Twitter presence by:
- following people who share similar interests to you
- retweeting other people’s content – most Twitter users appreciate this
- providing feedback on tweets and answering questions that have asked
- tweeting links to interesting articles or news items and including the author or publisher’s Twitter handle
- including relevant hashtags in your tweets to attract people with an interest in your subject
- ask questions and reply to responses
- mix your research-related tweets with interesting or amusing posts about other aspects of your life
- subscribe to relevant Twitter lists
- promote your Twitter account at every opportunity, including it on your email signature, blog and conference slides
- tweet regularly, but be careful not to spam or annoy your followers.
Hosting a Twitter chat
Twitter chats can be a useful way to connect with your audience and build relationships.
A Twitter chat happens in real-time and is usually centred on a unique hashtag. Ideally the chat should last no longer than an hour.
When planning a Twitter chat you should:
- arrange a suitable time. You may need to consider things like whether the chat will include participants from different time zones
- if the chat is about discussing a particular issue, such as a new call, give participants a few days to digest any information beforehand
- if the chat is after an event, try to hold it as close to the event as you can, while everything is still fresh
- avoid lunchtimes, afternoons that are followed by public holidays or other major national events
- schedule enough time to set up the chat and to respond afterwards
- consider co-hosting if there are other organisations involved in your project – it can open up the chat to a wider audience
- check you have the correct equipment. You’ll need at least one internet-connected device, ideally a PC or laptop. Make sure you know the wifi password at the location you’ll be tweeting from
- check the hashtag you want to use is available and suitable
- make a list of filler tweets that can be used during a lull in the conversation – if you’ve been receiving questions via email prior to the chat, you could use your answers to these
- promote the Twitter chat in advance with what the chat is about, when it is happening, who else will be involved, the hashtag to use and links to relevant resources
- consider other channels for promotion, such as an event page or your email signature.
During the chat you should:
- welcome the participants and remind them of the topics you are there to discuss
- think carefully before answering any questions while keeping the conversation flowing. If you are unsure of an answer or need to source some more information, let the participants know you will come back to them and move on
- if an answer is longer than the character count, you can spread it over tweets using numbering to indicate a Twitter thread. Try to do this sparingly so answers do not get confused
- if a participant is taking over with questions only relevant to them, suggest they direct message after the chat. This will allow you to give tailored responses to that individual and free up time to respond to other participants
- keep the chat on topic and do not start any off-topic conversations. If a participant asks an off-topic question that you are happy to respond to, you can, but do not use the hashtag.
At the end, thank the participants and officially end the chat. If you plan to summarise the discussion, let participants know when and where this will be available.
Creating a blog
Blogging offers an effective and inexpensive way to disseminate and publicise research, as well as involve research participants and end users. It allows an online community to share thoughts and opinions, and debate a subject.
There are several ways of creating your own blog, including using blogging platforms such as WordPress or setting one up on your website.
How to write a good blog post
- focus each blog post on a single topic
- develop a writing style and tone appropriate to your subject material
- post often, even if your posts are short
- allow readers to comment on your posts
- develop a distinctive voice.
Attracting interest in your blog
If you go to the effort of creating a blog then you probably want to ensure that you attract as many relevant visitors to it as you can. You can do this by:
- making your blog posts interesting – they are more likely to be shared and will also encourage return visits
- writing well and often
- promoting your blog through your own channels, on your website, in email signatures and conference presentations
- using other social media, such as Twitter, to share details of latest blog posts to your followers
- adding links to other relevant blogs within yours – the authors of these blogs will appreciate this and may provide a reciprocal link
- encouraging readers to make comments, and reply in a timely manner
- setting up an RSS feed, which will let RSS users know when you’ve published a new post
- tagging your posts with categories. This will improve the chances of your posts being found by search engines and readers
- using high quality, relevant images.
Social media for video
Videos can be a useful and innovative way of getting your message across, but they must be appropriate for the target audience.
They can be relatively expensive. However, there are free apps that make videos easier than ever to produce.
If you do decide to produce a video you should find a unique angle and avoid the typical corporate video.
Sharing videos on YouTube and Vimeo
Among the most popular video-sharing sites are YouTube and Vimeo. You can also embed YouTube and Vimeo videos on your own website.
Many users will find videos through searching using specific keywords. You need to make sure that your videos have clear and meaningful titles and descriptions. These will affect how a video performs on social media sites as well as in search engines like Google.
- get the title right. Use descriptive titles that summarise what the video is about and include keyword phrases that will perform well in search. You can also edit titles of older videos if they are not getting many views
- use clear and meaningful descriptions that describe what the video is about. Again, these can be refined for older videos
- before uploading the video, ensure that the filename includes keywords and phrases. Also include relevant tags, using spaces and commas, for example – social science, ESRC, impact, research, research impact. You could look at what tags similar videos use.
Promoting your videos
To help increase traffic to your videos, you should:
- after uploading a video, use the social share buttons to promote through other social media channels
- post videos in response to other people’s videos
- look for related videos – particularly ones that are popular – and create a response that references them
- include a relevant URL at the end of your video back to your website, and vice versa.
Podcasts provide a cheap and effective way to deliver audio content to your audiences. They are particularly useful for broadcasting interviews, debates and lectures.
You can also record podcasts remotely, via Skype or telephone, with people that you cannot meet face to face.
The benefits of podcasting
Podcasting is a way to:
- present your research and share ideas in an interesting format
- raise your profile
- add a different type of content to your website or blog.
Planning a podcast
Before you create a podcast you should:
- define what the podcast is about and what topics you want to cover
- identify who you would like to take part in the recording and invite them to participate
- prepare a script that covers any questions you want to ask or points to get across
- ensure that you find a quiet room where you can record the podcast
- test all equipment and ensure that any battery-operated devices are working and fully charged
- turn off your mobile phone
- practise recording in advance.
When recording you should:
- make sure your podcast is enjoyable and interesting for your listeners – be enthusiastic and engaging
- ensure that the language you use is appropriate for your target audience
- consider what length you want it to be and whether something needs to be split into several episodes
- ensure everyone speaks clearly and not too fast
- try not to sound like you or other participants are reading a script
- be yourself.
Before publishing your podcast you should ensure that anyone who participated in the podcast is happy with it.
You should also produce podcasts regularly – your audience will expect them.
The technical side of producing a podcast can seem daunting but it is usually a relatively straightforward process.
You will need:
- a voice or call recorder that provides good sound quality – you could use a voice recording app on a smartphone
- editing software – there are free services including Audacity and GarageBand for Mac
- a platform to host the podcasts, such as iTunes, PodBean, your website or blog.
Promoting your podcast
To increase the number of listeners, you should:
- use clear titles and descriptions to help tell people what the podcast is about and increase the likelihood of people finding it through search engines
- share your podcasts through other social media accounts
- add your podcasts to your website or blogset up
- an RSS feed so that people can easily subscribe to your podcasts.