3 Ways Researchers Can Boost Their Social Media Savvy

Social networks have become far more than just a way to stay close to family and friends. These digital communities are now a commonplace tool for scientists and publishers alike to collaborate, evaluate, and gain exposure to goings-on in their scientific communities.

How has social media transitioned from a fun distraction to a professional asset? For one, it gives researchers a channel they can use to engage with a range of stakeholders they may not have previously had direct access to, including editors, publishers, colleagues, professors, and lab mates. It is also an excellent way to network, as such platforms provide marketplaces in which even the most niche communities can be built; and in this environment, feedback can happen fast.

While consumption of research findings was once limited to the subscribers of a journal, digital networks now allow articles to achieve a broader reach at a faster pace. There are limitless opportunities for an article to go viral. Since open access is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the scientific publishing landscape, the value and impact of social media is even more important.

So whether you’re a researcher, author, or editor, a bit of social media savvy can pay off. Keep these tips in mind as you’re building—or refining—your online presence.

1. Be present and participate

Whether gathering peer-reviewed articles or looking up a simple piece of information, most of today’s research happens online. That’s why you and your research need to be discoverable. Social media is an effective tool for optimizing this search engine visibility.

Your online presence—or lack thereof—affects how prominently your research appears in search results, which could limit your reach in the scientific community and beyond. Make sure you have an online profile and an updated and accurate bio on any associated academic institutions’ websites. Good places to start are Google Scholar, Google+ (think SEO!), and LinkedIn.

Similarly, publishers often maintain social profiles to generate interest in their publications, share submission deadlines, and highlight emerging research.

Twitter is a great resource for exposing people to your work, and is a great channel to use to keep up with industry developments and your colleagues’ latest research. Take advantage of

Twitter’s “list” functionality; create one that covers all relevant journals and publishers for your work. In turn, share your Twitter list with your own network, thus making yourself a resource for others in your field.

2. Be creative

Think beyond just posting links as you develop and engage with social media content. If you’ve just published a new article, use social media not only to promote the publication, but also to generate further discussion with fellow scientists, authors, and researchers. Engaging posts and interesting visuals will keep your profile fresh and those interested in your research intrigued.

Posts should:

• Provide information

• Include a call to action

• Be grammatically correct

• Keep things positive

• Provide a link

• Include images or visuals

• Be mobile friendly

• Demonstrate that you are present

• Alternate formats

• Be customized

Use Facebook posts to promote appearances at conferences and events, then tweet from the event to share updates and start conversations. By engaging in social media, you can meet new people and grow your network. Many events are now facilitating such interactions, with Meetups, event specific hashtags, and even conference specific apps.

Reddit is also a valuable resource for the scientist, but be careful not to post solely about your own content. This social media channel is a community in the strongest sense, and users expect true thought leadership. A great balance is Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” format, which is an excellent way to respond to questions about your work. The community has an opportunity to get their questions answered, and you have the opportunity to go more in-depth

3. Be methodical

Decide what you want to share, then determine the best way to share it. New social media tools are emerging on a daily basis, and old tools are constantly evolving. What does this mean for you? Always keep one eye on the bigger picture. Ask yourself: Who am I trying to reach? Is this platform the right fit for what I’m trying to communicate?

Twitter is a good forum to communicate opinions, post updates for conferences and meetings, and quickly disseminate information and easily digestible news.

Conversely, a blogging platform, like WordPress, is more suited for longer articles and collections of links to published content.

Another advantage of social media is that it yields data you can use to make better decisions about your content. Consider signing up for free management systems like Tweetdeck or HootSuite, which will give you a bird’s eye view of what is happening online. Do people respond more favorably to certain platforms or formats than others? Stay informed on new ways to engage and explore mediums that make sense for you.

Remember, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. As many researchers have discovered, the LinkedIn for Scientists…. is LinkedIn.