Guide 3: how to use social media to promote your research

Around half of the global population is on social media. As a researcher, you can boost the impact of your research by engaging with people where they are and joining the conversation.

Social media is not about just sending out one-way promotional messages about your research to ‘get more eyeballs’. It is about two-way communication, which includes:

  • listening to what people are saying
  • responding to, or commenting on, what people are saying
  • asking for people’s opinions and feedback
  • responding to people when they comment on your posts
  • showing a bit of your personality when you interact, so people feel a connection to you and your work

You are always an ambassador of the university

Before you post on social media, ask yourself how you want to be seen, and know that what you say online reflects on both yourself and the university. Always be respectful when you interact with people. Even if you are being critical of someone’s words or actions, or they are being critical of yours, it is important to not engage in personal attacks. Particularly on sites such as Facebook where people do tend to get more personal, always remember that what you say will be seen by your colleagues who you are friends with and will be considered in the context of your professional role at the university.

Social media platforms

There are many social media platforms that you can use, but look first at where your primary target groups are and how you want to interact with them. If you are new to social media, we recommend starting with Twitter and LinkedIn, as these two platforms have a professional focus for most users and they have shown to boost the impact of researchers at the Faculty of Law. This guide is focused on these two platforms but also contains tips that are relevant for getting started on other social media platforms.

 Twitter
 LinkedIn
 Facebook
 YouTube
 Instagram

Some social media platforms are specifically geared towards connecting with other researchers and students, including:

 ResearchGate
 Google Scholar
 Mendeley
 Academia.edu
 Loop

How to get started on social media

No matter what social media platform you choose (we recommend starting with Twitter and LinkedIn), you can take the following steps to get started.

1. Prepare your profile and plan your approach

  • It is almost always best to use your own name. People can trust you more if they know who you are and they can easily find your research if they know your name.
  • Use an identifiable and engaging photo of yourself for your profile so people can immediately recognise your posts on their feed.
  • Use your profile to tell people about your research, your work experience, what you teach, and what your interests are. You can usually add links to your own webpage or publications. 

  • Make sure that you keep your profile up to date with regards to your employment history, qualifications and awards.

Consider carefully what you would like to achieve through social media and what is realistic for you time-wise.

2. Build your network and curate your newsfeed

  • Start by following (or ‘connecting with’ or ‘friending’, depending on the lingo used on the platform) people who you already have a relationship with, such as family, friends and colleagues in your academic circles.
  • Next, think about who your target audience is. If you followed the steps in the quick start guide and created a list of people and organisations in your ideal network, start going down that list and connecting with their social media accounts. 
  • If you have not gone through the steps in the quick start guide, consider what kinds of audiences do you want to reach with your communication. Then, identify the specific people and organisations in those groups that you want to reach. Go down the list and start following them.
  • Next, follow people and organisations that you are interested in and want to see in your news feed. One way to do this is to look at who your colleagues are following, reposting or interacting with, and follow those you find appealing.
  • You can also follow professional societies and conference organisers to find out about events you might otherwise miss.
  • Following people or organisations also makes it more likely that they will follow you and help you grow your own audience.
  • Engage with others by commenting on and sharing their posts. This will help to solidify and expand your network, making it more likely for others to notice you and follow you, as well as to comment on and share your posts. 
  • If you are looking for someone to collaborate with in a certain area, it can be helpful to post about it and ask for suggestions. You never know who your audience is connected with.

3. Create your posts

  • Focus on content and providing value in your posts. 

     


    You can post about subjects such as:
  1. your research results or preliminary conclusions
  2. how your research relates to current issues
  3. a reaction to someone else’s research (be sure to tag them)
  4. a book or article recommendation
  5. an upcoming event or conference, or a summary of a recent event
  6. a response to someone else’s research or post
  7. a plea to policymakers to make a certain change
  8. funding opportunities
  9. resources for a class you are teaching
  10. a video of a presentation you have given
  • Keep your posts short and put the most important information first. People often have short attention spans when they’re scrolling through their news feeds, so try to grab that attention immediately.
  • If you have a new publication, you don’t have to describe all of your research at once. You can break it into a few of the most interesting and impactful aspects and post about one or two aspects at a time over several days or weeks. Dividing it into multiple posts will help to make it visible to the largest number of people and to those who are not on social media frequently.
  • Add images, such as photos or infographics, or videos to your posts to dramatically increase impact and engagement.
  • Be yourself and show your human side, including your enthusiasm, joy, fear, disappointment—feelings that people can relate to.
  • Think about ways to use social media throughout your research process, not just to promote your results. 
law_social_media_guide_-_create_a_post

To use social media during your research process you can:

 ask about who might have expertise in a specific area so you can start a collaboration,
 poll your followers to see what type of follow-up research people are most interested in,
 ask others for ideas about how to solve problems you run into,
 request links to the best article about a topic that is not in your field of expertise,
 get feedback on new ideas.

4. Cross-link to drive traffic to your other platforms

  • Put links to your social media profiles on your blog, website or personal profile page at UM so people can connect with you.
  • When you have a new blog post or publication, post about it on social media along with links to make them discoverable for a wider audience.
  • Some publishers will also work with you to increase your impact, so be sure to ask them what options are available.
  • Add links to your blog and website on your social media profiles.
  • Add links to your social media platforms in your email signature and business card.

5. Start adding visuals to boost the impact of your posts

Using visuals, such as infographics, photos and videos, on social media is one of the most effective ways to help users to understand your message better, to interact with you more and to be more likely to share your content. Here are some statistics from Social Media Today:

  • People remember visual information 6x better than the information they read or hear.
  • Adding images to your content increases understanding from 70% to 95%.
  • Visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media.
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without images.
  • Posts with infographics generate 12% more traffic and 200% more shares. 
  • Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks and 150% more retweets than tweets without images.
  • Facebook posts with images get over 3.2 x more engagement than those without images.
  • LinkedIn posts with images generate a 98% higher comment rate.
  • Video posts generate 270% more clicks and 80% more conversion.

You can start by adding photos of yourself or images of the subjects in your research. If you would like more information about how to create infographics or design teams that you can work with to create them, please contact the research communications officer at f.hoekstra@maastrichtuniversity.nl

law_social_media_guide_video_meeting

 See the video guide for more information on how to create videos.

Make sure your published articles are shareable

Social media boosts the impact of your research by helping it to be seen by a wider audience. If your published articles are open access, they can be shared directly on social media. However, if they are behind a paywall, you can work with the University Library at Maastricht University to see if it is possible to publish a freely accessible author’s final version (AAM) or a summary. They will also take care of the correct license for access and reuse, in some cases after an embargo period.

If you have a blog, you may also be able to summarise your article or different aspects of it in a blog post, depending on the conditions set by your publisher. That way, if your full article is not shareable on social media, you can link to more information on your blog. Writing blog posts about your research is also a good way to explain your research in everyday language to a wider audience.

This means that sometimes you are more likely to reach a non-academic audience if you share your blog posts on social media than if you share your articles directly. You can then link to your published article in the blog posts if people want to read further.

law_social_media_guide_sharable_content

 See our guide on how to use blogs for more information.

 Also, try to make sure to have conference presentations or speeches available online, so you can share these on social media as well.

When promoting your research, first look to see what hashtags are being used by your desired audience and use the most appropriate one. This will make your research part of a larger conversation and help you to reach a wider audience.

To become more familiar with hashtags, you can take part in a Twitter discussion with the hashtags #PhDChat or #ScholarSunday.

You can reach a wider audience with Twitter
A 2018 study of 100 academics on Twitter showed that those with 1000 or more followers reach a diverse audience, including educational organisations, media, members of the general public and a small number of decision-makers. This shows that social media has the potential to expand the impact of your research to a broad, non-academic audience that is not likely to get their information straight from journal articles.

Shorter URLs
Since Twitter has a limited character count, you can shorten hyperlinks using sites such as bitly.com or tinyurl.com so you have more characters to use for your message.

 Scientists on Twitter: Preaching to the choir or singing from the rooftops?

law_social_media_guide_twitter

Follow your colleagues’ examples
Follow some researchers at the Faculty of Law on Twitter for inspiration:

 Donna Yates
 Catalina Goanta
 Lilian Tsourdi
 Bram Akkermans

Skill endorsements
Once you add a skill to your profile, your connections can publicly endorse those skills. You can ask your colleagues to endorse you or you can start endorsing your colleagues, which might prompt them to return the favour.

Articles
On LinkedIn, you can publish articles about your expertise or areas of interest. Your articles are shared on your profile as well as in the news feeds of your connections and followers. Articles are a good way to expand your professional network.

They can also be shared on other platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. If your profile is set for ‘everyone’ to be able to see it, then your articles will be searchable both on and off LinkedIn.

 

law_social_media_guide_networking

Remember to include not only your position, but also your area of expertise in your headline so people can find you.

Run some experiments and see what boosts your impact the most

To get a general idea of how your social media posts increase your research impact, you can run some experiments to see how they affect your article views and downloads, which most publishers will give you access to.

Pick a platform and post about your research to see how many article views and downloads you get after a few days. You can try out different social media platforms as well as different types of posts. Add photos, infographics or videos and see what makes a difference. Talk about the social impact of your research, the personal impact it has had on you or ask questions to try and prompt a discussion. See which approach increases your views the most.

This is not a scientific approach, as your number of article views is only a small measure of your impact and some posts can continue to increase your views after more than a few days, depending on who shares them and when.

But it should give you an idea about which platforms and approaches are immediately effective at increasing your article views.

Sources for this guide

    • Academic Positions. Why Academics Should Use Twitter. 2019. academicpositions.com

       

    • Lewis, Neil A. Jr.; Van Bavel, Jay J.; Somerville, Leah H.;Gruber, June. A social media survival guide for scientists. 5 November 2018. sciencemag.org

       

    • Illingworth, Sam and Allen, Grant. Effective Science Communication: A practical guide to surviving as a scientist. E-book: https://iopscience

       

    • De Lange, C. LinkedIn tips for scientists. 20 december 2012. blogs.nature.com

       

    • Konkel, Stacy. The 30-day impact challenge: The ultimate guide to raising the profile of your research. E-book: blog.impactstory.org

       

    • Taylor & Francis. A guide to Twitter for researchers. authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com

       

    • Tamble, Melanie. 7 Tips for Using Visual Content Marketing. Social Media Today. 20 February 2019. socialmediatoday.com

       

    • Hightail Inc. Why visuals are so important in content marketing and five ways to do them well. Social Media Today. 24 October 2016. socialmediatoday.com

       

     Please contact f.hoekstra@maastrichtuniversity.nl for questions
    regarding support at the UM Faculty of Law