Why should scientists use social media? Is Twitter good for my career in research? Holly Rogers, our Communications and Engagement Manager, shares ten things social media can do for you.
You can reach new audiences
Social media is a great way to talk to new people about your research. It opens the door to your lab or office in a way that is often very difficult to do in person – whether that’s to a potential employer, a journalist, a member of the public, or an aspiring scientist-to-be. Many researchers who are very active on social media will now add it to their CV as a public engagement impact.
It will build your address book
Social media is a great way to meet like-minded individuals from around the world. No matter how niche your field is, there will almost certainly be someone else out there talking about it. Social media can facilitate collaborations from the most unlikely sources, and it’s a great way to build interdisciplinary and international links.
It will raise your profile
For many scientists, Twitter is a constantly updating version of their CV. You can share interesting facts and images of your work, but also celebrate paper publications, awards, conference attendance, media appearances and public engagement activities. In this way, you can very quickly become a recognisable and trustworthy figure in your field.
You can add your voice to the conversation
If science is in the news, conversations will be happening on social media, whether you're there or not! Social media is a great way to add scientific opinion to public debates, whether they stem from a headline in the news or a TV programme hashtag. Twitter allows you to introduce your research to the discussion, and can alert journalists to your expertise.
Careers and job opportunities will come to you
Social media can help you spot job opportunities, funding rounds and publications. Most major institutions and funding bodies have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that they use to post news and reminders.
It takes you where you can’t be
Twitter lets you take part in lectures and conferences, even when you can’t attend in person. Most events have a hashtag, which aggregates all tweets from the conference in real-time. There has also been an explosion in the number of online journal clubs and other groups, for example #ECRchat and #medscilife.
Your publications will be safe
Talking about your research on social media doesn’t have to put your publications at risk. Keep the information broad, and stick to published research or non-specific information. Look for some good examples of scientists who tweet about your field without compromising their data, and follow their lead
You can fit it around your workload
Many people avoid social media because they “don’t have time”, but it doesn’t have to eat into your day – you can put in as little or as much as you want. If you’re serious about engaging online, consciously build it into your routine until it becomes a habit. The beauty of social media is that it’s portable and personal, so you can use it in the way that suits you best.
It’s not just about Twitter
Images and videos work well on social media, and a good picture can “go viral” very quickly. Instagram, Youtube and blogs can show a snapshot of your daily routine, which can really bring to life what your work is about, or let you talk in more detail about what’s important to you. Facebook groups and pages are also well designed to build communities, which can be helpful if you work with patient groups, or want to bring together a group of researchers in your field.
And finally ...it might increase citations
We often hear anecdotally that research papers on Twitter are cited and downloaded more often than those that aren’t. While we can’t promise it’s the golden ticket, there are emerging new ways to measure impact at article level – for example, Altmetrics, which measures the footprint an article leaves online – which include numbers of social media mentions, blog posts and downloads.