‘But I haven’t got anything to say!’
This is one of the most common laments I hear when I’m running social media workshops, particularly from emerging scholars.
Researchers – many of whom we know are rather fond of holding forth (it’s tough to make them stop) – suddenly clam up when they’re staring at their newly created Twitter account or Facebook page. They’re sometimes wary of the exposure, often anxious of doing something ‘wrong’, and rarely at ease with platforms from the start.
To address this stumbling point in my ‘Researchers and social media’ workshops, I indicate what might be good content for a researchers’ social media stream. It’s a starting point to think about what types of information to include, how they’d source that information and what they might ‘sound’ like.
This post is a more detailed version of my earlier post about what I tweet (when I was running three different types of accounts…which was before I was running four different types of accounts!).
Small caveat: What I include in that workshop is not definitive; it’s not based on scads of data. It’s what I find in others’ social media streams that I think is valuable, and the people and organisations who share this kind of stuff will probably be followed or liked by me.
There are five elements listed below but they’re not really a ‘Top 5’ ranking. I think that a well-run account has a touch of all of them.
So, what kind of posts do I like seeing from researchers? Posts that…
Share information about their field.
This pool of material includes relevant news, links, events information, new publications (theirs and others’) and projects from their area/sector.
I like seeing this kind of information because it is usually a core reason why I am following the particular social stream: they post content that I find relevant and interesting to my own research interests. It’s particularly attractive to follow someone who is in the know about the field and its activities more broadly. They don’t only know about (and attend) the big international gigs, they also tap into regional and local info and support their area of interest across several levels. I like that a lot.
What might this look like? Here’s a cluster of example updates focused on conferences/events that I would find useful:
- Flagging that registrations are now open for that fabulous major conference that folks in your field usually attend – are you going, too? Link to the formal website.
- Sharing the program of a smaller, regional event near you and giving a shout-out to your colleagues who may be speaking or convening (by tagging their social media name or ‘handle’). Provide link to the program and a teaser pic of part of the program (maybe your panel?).
- Talking about the abstract you may have submitted and sharing a photo of part of it (it doesn’t matter whether the abstract gets up or not; what’s important is that you’re giving us an idea of your work and perspective). Share the event’s website.
You can probably think of tweaked versions of these for publications, funded projects, and all those other things that researchers get up to.
Share good news.
I find it’s good human behaviour to note and share colleagues’ achievements. It doesn’t matter what stage of career someone is at, it’s always nice to be recognised when we reach milestones, get awards, do something for the first time, have good feedback on work, or whatever. To me, there’s nothing worse than only recognising the achievements of those who are senior and established – I see a few people who do this and it’s painful to watch. Say no to toadying!
In my role as a researcher developer, I have the pleasure and privilege of regularly seeing research higher degree students submit their theses and graduating. Congratulating them never gets old.
In cultivating a community around your work and self, you want to be known as someone who’s generous and alert to what others are up to. That’s all good. There’s nothing wrong with sharing good news online – it’s not bragging as far as I’m concerned. If you would appreciate your colleagues’ well-wishes, you need to be a source of well-wishes, too.
Show what their work / research looks like.
One of the best things about researchers on social media is getting a window into how they do their work. As someone within academia, this fascinates and educates me. For those outside the academy, it helps de-mystify and make transparent the job of researchers. The images could include shots of yourself at work, pics of colleagues (with their permission, of course!), events and conferences you attend, fieldwork, research processes and results… the list is only limited by your thoughts about what your research entails.
Engage with colleagues and followers.
Good researcher accounts talk to people; they don’t just broadcast their own news or retweet (RT) others’ stuff.
Channel people to their created content.
Chances are that if I’m following a researcher’s social media account, I’m interested in the work they do and how they do it. So I’m happy to see when they’ve published a blogpost, article, book, or whatever. Depending on how directly relevant they are to my work, I may also be keen to see their work by way of infographics, FAQs about certain topics, or listings of who they think are fab.
If I don’t like and trust their work, though, I’d be unlikely to follow links to their material; this is why just lobbing onto a platform and expecting a citation boost is bollocks. Unless you cultivate a good community around your work or topic, and gain their trust/ advocacy for your work, being on social media will do nothing for your citations.