Using Social Media to Communicate Your Research
Here's our top tips on how to tame to social media beast and get the most out of it to communicate your research.
Social media is fast becoming one of the most popular ways that people, especially younger people, are finding out about news or interesting stories. Not only that, but simply put; loads of people use some social media. It's therefore a useful tool to use to communicate with wider audiences.
As with any form of engagement you should first think about what it is you'd like to achieve and who your key audiences are. Think about which of the social networks will be best suited to your goals (PDF), as well as what sort of content and tone of voice will appeal to your target demographics.
- Content. Is. King/Queen. Make posts interesting and engaging by asking questions, surveying opinions, including images/video/blog posts (not just text). Surprise your audience or make them laugh. Give them something they will want to share or talk about.
- Watch your language: Don't use acronyms, technical jargon, or Oxford speak (e.g. "Hilary Term"). Instead, write your posts in plain English and always check your spelling.
- Use images and videos - these no longer use up characters in Twitter and increase engagement. Use pictures of yourself doing research, visiting places or make use of research data and figures (assuming they're fairly intuitive or amended to be more accessible).
- Shorten web-links using bitly (or similar). This keeps posts easy to read and will allow you to analyse how many people click your links. Always check your links work before posting.
- Research by following your peers and target groups (e.g. internal and external to your department/division/university, patient groups, journalists, news feeds, policy makers etc.) and check what they are doing. You can manage these by creating lists in Twitter for example. What accounts are influential? Ask them to share content.
- Make sure to fill out your biography/profile and add a great banner image. Use Canva.com to make sure your images are the correct dimensions for different platforms and well designed.
- Remember that social media is social. Interact, don't just broadcast! Be prepared to listen, and keep in mind that continually throwing facts at people might not necessarily be the best way forward. Instead, appealing to emotions and values might be more effective.
- Be prepared to post content frequently. For Facebook it is acceptable to post at least every few days, but for Twitter you should aim to post at least daily. It is better not to start an account, than to have an inactive account. However, avoid over-posting. You can use the 'schedule' feature in social media dashboards, e.g. TweetDeck and HootSuite, to make it easier to manage your posts (and multiple accounts).
- People use various types of social media at different times, so if you do repeat a tweet, do it at a different time of day. E.g. if you posted a tweet for morning commuters, try posting it at lunchtime or evening a day or two later. Optimise your posting times by looking at your analytics to see what times of day get the highest reach or engagement: this could be during the morning commute, lunchtime and towards the end of the working day.
- Consider setting up new 'professional' accounts rather than using existing personal ones.
- On Twitter and Instagram, use hashtags (e.g. #OxfordSparks), to participate in conversations or make your content discoverable. #Avoid #hashtag #soup. If your content is relevant to a particular group, target specific posts to those groups. E.g., a podcast of heart disease could be posted to the British Heart Foundation by mentioning them in a post. Acknowledge funders, sponsors, collaborators etc. (e.g. on Twitter: @NERCscience). You can also 'tag' rather than mention people so they'll get a notification when you post.
- Different groups use different platforms, so investigate different types of social media - blogging, image sharing, etc., to see where those you want to engage with are active. Remember it is only one means of communication. Don't rely on your social media presence alone to get the word out, but use it as part of a suite of communication tools (e.g. website, newsletters, etc.).
- Don't be scared to post your thoughts, feelings and opinions, but just remember that what you post is public so don't say anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
Remember: The media is a channel, not an audience or an end in itself.
A 20 minutes a day strategy
- Listen to what others are saying - skim through your feed/lists or search relevant hashtags
- Be social: liberally share (retweet), comment and get involved in conversations
- Find new followers and influencers
- Schedule in some posts e.g., upcoming events, new papers, next instalment of a series of images, etc
- Once a week – review what’s working
- 29 top tips for using and managing effective social media channels (and why lists with odd numbers attracts more engagement)
- Buffer.com – optimal posting times
- Moz.com/FollowerWonk – get to know your followers
- Storify.com – Save collections of posts
- Canva.com - create well designed graphics
- Science writing top tips
- Uni’s social media strategy
- Public Affairs Directorate workshops
- Museums and Social Media - On 15th April 2013, 30 delegates from across the UK converged on Oxford for a day of discussion around social media and museums. Many of these tips are translatable into many areas.