Social media for researchers

Involvement in online debate and academic networking can help to raise a researcher's profile.  These six suggestions will help you to make the most of the research assets you have created already, and suggest other channels that can help you create more.  You don’t need to use all of them to be effective.  If you are not sure where to start, you could also consider using Altmetrics to inform your social media strategy.

Blogs

Blogs offer ways to document your current progress and set the scene for debates that are going on in your field.  Blogs can act as a ‘journal’, recording discoveries and narratives that you might decide to use later.  Users can follow your blog and will receive an email alert when you update it.  By judicious use of keywords, search engines will pick up your blog.  

  • There a number of free blogging websites, such as WordPress.  The university offers a supported Blog Service.
  • If you don’t have time to create and maintain your own blog, consider contributing in a ‘guest blogger’ capacity.  Some research groups have their own blogs.  UoB has its own ‘Think Research’ blog which covers a broad range of themes touched on in research at Birmingham.
  • If you are part of a Research Group or a body which needs to manage a number of digital networks, contact the Digital Channel Management team in External Relations for advice.

Tip: Consider how much time you can invest.

Microblogging

Twitter is the ‘microblog’ which restricts posts to 280 characters.  Use Twitter to not only participate in academic debate, but to follow conferences and find tweets from prospective journal editors.

  • As a taster, begin by ‘following’ others on Twitter or by searching for previous posts to gauge the level of debate on a given topic.  Search for and follow colleagues and key researchers in your discipline.
  • Create a profile and decide what your persona is going to be; will you tweet in a professional capacity about your research, or will you mix your personal and professional lives?
  • ‘Liking’ and ‘retweeting’ posts, also allows you to digitally ‘bookmark’ information and links that you might want to revisit.

Tip: Consider how you might respond to negative discussion or comments.

Discipline specific networking

JISCMail helps groups of individuals to communicate and discuss education and research interests using email discussion lists.  Groups advertise upcoming conferences, job opportunities and put out calls for papers.  Like-minded researchers share information on methodologies and tools that they use on a regular basis.  

  • Search the JISCMail pages for your subject interests, or browse the lists using their hierarchy.
  • When you find a potentially interesting list, check the most recent message dates to see how active the list is.  Also check the archive to gauge the type of messages that characterise the list.
  • You may like to check out discipline specific networking sites such as Humanities Commons  or SocArxiv.

Tip: Consider how much additional email you wish to receive.

General academic networking

ResearchGate and Academia.edu are social networking sites for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators.  LinkedIn is similar but also includes profiles of those in the wider industrial and business environment.  

  • Create a profile at ResearchGate, Academia.edu or LinkedIn.
  • You may be presented with a number of publications that match or partially match your name.  Add these to your profile if appropriate.
  • Although registering and creating a profile is free, you may be encouraged to ‘upgrade’ your account by paying a fee. This is often after you receive an email telling you how many users have clicked on your profile or cited you in their own work, don’t forget that you can check your citations using databases such as Scopus and Web of Science.

Tip: Authors occasionally share papers which copyright does not permit. Publishers have taken action and demanded removal of a many papers, and sites have reviewed their policies placing responsibility for compliance with authors.  Always link to your work in Pure, as you can be assured that the appropriate ‘open access’ checks have been carried out.

Academic journalism

Participate in academic journalism by:

  • writing for online publications like The Conversation. Create a profile at The Conversation and explain what your specialisms are.  You may be contacted to write a short article aimed at academics outside your discipline.
  • writing an article on Wikipedia. Create a user account on Wikipedia and write or edit articles on your area of knowledge. Ask someone to write an article about you based on those of other academics in your field.
  • registering for a service like Zoom Talks to offer to speak at events. Create a profile at Zoom Talks listing your expertise and including video of yourself speaking at other events. You may be contacted to speak at a forthcoming event.
  • Writing a short piece about your research for other academics beyond your immediate community, is a good chance to step back from the ‘day to day’ and breathe new life into the presentation of your work.  This also enables others to understand why your research is important, and can create opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Further help

Library Services offers online training via our Influential Researcher Canvas Course

For one-to-one appointments and bespoke workshops, contact the Research Skills Team in Library Services.

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