How can social media be used to communicate research?

Social media has opened up a new platform for academic debate and offers new opportunities and ways for researchers to connect and collaborate with each other, as well as reach wider audiences beyond academia. But where should you begin?  And how can you ensure that the way that you are sharing your research is as effective as it can be? Communicating Your Research With Social Media is a new text that empowers readers to bring their research online and offers top tips on how to present their research in a way that highlights its relevance to a digital audience. To find out more and the process behind this, we have spoken to the authors Amy Mollett, Cheryl Brumley, Chris Gilson and Sierra Williams.

What’s the main thing you hope readers will learn from your book?

We know the demands on a knowledge-worker are multifaceted. It’s easy to think of digital output as just one more thing to do. And through our book we wanted to show how easily social media fits into the research lifecycle and how great the payoffs are. The book aims to be a complete ‘how to’ for communicating research through blogs, podcasts, data visualisations, and video. It teaches you how to use social media to:

  • create and share images, audio, and video in ways that positively impacts your research
  • connect and collaborate with other researchers
  • measure and quantify research communication efforts for funders
  • provide research evidence in innovative digital formats
  • reach wider, more engaged audiences in academia and beyond

Through practical advice and actionable strategies, this book shows how to achieve and sustain your research impact through social media.

Most importantly, we want readers to feel inspired by the wide variety of innovative case studies in the book: everything from academics who podcast when they are out doing research in the field; to an NGO in Brazil creating data visualisations and sharing them on social media to start conversations about dengue fever; to bloggers who write about health, food poverty, and society who have been called to give evidence to Parliament; and to galleries who want to open up the art world by posting live events and talks to YouTube and Facebook. We’ve pulled together a diverse selection of inspiring examples that are applicable to absolutely anyone doing research or looking to communicate it to the world.

Why do you think it’s so important to merge academic practice and social media?

Media of all types have been instrumental to the communication of academic work. This is not a particularly new phenomenon. Non-fiction books, radio documentaries, and television shows have all been used to communicate complex ideas. Even the occasional journal article makes it into the news! But these types of media-namely broadcast media- aren’t designed to be particularly participatory or dialogic. Social media offers a really exciting opportunity for academic work and practice because it is designed with interaction and feedback in mind. We argue through our Research Lifecycle model that academic practice actually starts from an equally social starting point and thus, deserves media that suits these needs. Social media is a great fit.

What top tip would you give researchers looking to use social media to achieve impact with their research?

Social media can be incredibly rewarding and worthwhile activity for researchers, but if you are looking to maximise its potential for your social media interactions to lead to long-term impact, it is important to spend a bit of time figuring out who it is you are trying to reach. Often we hear researchers answer the question of audience by saying that they want to reach ‘The General Public’. This may well be true, but what does that really mean? By spending time narrowing in on specific groups and public audiences that would benefit from your research, and understanding how they are using social media and in what formats, you can target the use of your social media and engage with the platforms in a more effective way.

Find out more about Communicating Your Research With Social Media here.

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