Using social media to disseminate your research
It might be easy to dismiss social media as a trivial pursuit BUT… in between the endless viral dance videos and cat memes, there is a corner for you to share and discuss your work and new research – you just need to know where to look.
In this guide, you can discover the benefits of using social media as a researcher, as well as a rundown of popular platforms, handy tips and best practices to help elevate your online presence.
Why it’s good to use social media as a researcher
One of the main benefits of being on social media is the opportunity to connect with researchers, academics, policymakers and relevant organisations working within the research areas you’re interested in. Making these kinds of connections can help open up channels for collaboration, knowledge sharing and advice.
As well as just following individuals or organisations, you can also follow specific topics of interest through the use of hashtags. For instance, on X/Twitter #EpiTwitter and #PopTwitter are popular academic hashtags often used by those interested in epidemiology research and population studies respectively.
Social media is a great vehicle for disseminating your own research findings and projects as part of a package approach to promoting your work. The CLOSER Learning Hub offers more insight into using a package approach to communicate your research.
It allows you to promote your work (including new academic papers, policy briefings, infographics, videos, events and presentations) to a wide range of audiences including fellow researchers, policymakers, voluntary community and social enterprise organisations and practitioners.
Many organisations, training providers and academics use social media to broadcast their latest announcements. By following accounts that are relevant to your work and research interests, you can be one of the first to know about their recent updates, new events you may like to attend, and resources you could use in your work.
With events in particular, many organisations will live-tweet talks and discussions using specific hashtags for their audience to follow online if they are unable to attend in person.
Overview of popular social media platforms
Whilst X/Twitter has undergone significant changes in the last few years, it remains a popular channel for the academic and policy communities to network and engage with each other
Like most social media platforms, X/Twitter allows users to post content including links, photos, videos and emojis to their timelines. Users can also comment, like and re-post content to their own timelines and send private messages to other users.
It is particularly good for following specific topics of interest via the use of hashtags and creating bespoke lists of other accounts to filter your timeline to specific topics.
It’s worth noting that the recent introduction of X Premium/Twitter Blue allows user to opt-in to a paid subscription that adds a ‘blue tick’ to verified user accounts. Other features included in the premium version allow verified users to edit posts after publishing, publish longer posts (unverified users are limited to 280 characters per post), and ranking higher in the platform’s algorithm meaning content from verified users is prioritised in newsfeeds
LinkedIn has recently become a popular alternative to X/Twitter for academics. Like with X/Twitter, users can post content including links, photos, videos and emojis to their timelines. However, LinkedIn doesn’t impose a character limit at all. Users can also like, re-post and comment on content from other users.
Users can also create their own online CVs detailing their education and employment history. You can add sections to highlight specific projects you’ve worked on, a list of your skills and knowledge (which can be endorsed by other users) and follow specific companies and interest groups. This focus on skills and employment makes LinkedIn a great platform for job seekers and many companies post their job adverts on the site.
While Facebook offers much of the same functionality as LinkedIn – for instance, the ability to post content with images, videos, links, message other users privately, and without any character limits – it is not commonly used by the academic community. However, you may be able to find some academic groups with active discussions relevant to your area of work and research interests. Generally though, users are much more likely to be on Facebook for personal use, such as connecting with friends and family.
We’ve grouped these three platforms together – Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat – because they are all very much focused on creating and sharing visual content (e.g videos and images) over written posts.
They are also not as popular for researchers looking to engage with other researchers or policymakers. However, if your goal is to reach the general public, posting on one (or more) of these three may be just right. Instagram and TikTok, in particular, are incredibly popular platforms, particularly with younger demographics.
In recent years, a handful of new social media platforms have burst on to the scene. Mastodon, Bluesky and Threads are the three that seem to have made the biggest waves though none have yet surpassed X/Twitter, especially in terms of where academic and policy communities are spending their time online.
Best practice and tips
- Do consider ethical and legal implications when using social media for sharing your research such as ensuring that you have complied with data protection legislation and anonymised or pseudonymised your data accordingly. Find out more in our Anonymisation and pseudonymisation section.
- Do try to post and engage regularly to help build your followers and improve your posts’ performance in the platforms’ algorithm
- Don’t be afraid to post about the same work, project or event more than once. Most posts on social media only have a lifespan of 15-20 days so to increase the chances of followers seeing your content, consider posting about the same topic more than once. You can re-frame the content or focus on a different angle to keep it fresh. For instance, if you’re trying to promote an upcoming event you’re organising, you could send a general announcement with the event details, another post with more detail about the event’s focus, another post focused on the speaker, etc.
- Do include images in your posts. Posts with images perform better in the algorithms and often improve engagement.
- Do use popular hashtags in your posts. When using them, try to incorporate the hashtag phrase in the main text instead of tagging it on to the end of the post.
- Do make your content as accessible as possible. This includes:
- Adding alternative text to images and gifs
- Avoiding the use of more than 1-2 emoji’s per post
- Using capitalisation in hashtags e.g #LongitudinalResearch and not #longitudinalresearch
- Avoiding the use of ALL CAPS in your posts
- Writing in plain English
- Do be wary of trolls! Depending on the content and context, sometimes it can be best to either ignore, mute, block or report accounts posting inappropriate or offensive content. Don’t feel obliged to engage with them.
- Do use national/international awareness days to flag your relevant research and work. For instance, consider posting about your latest mental health research during Mental Health Awareness Week – and always include the official hashtag.
- Do remember to tag other users/accounts in your posts where relevant. For instance, when posting about a piece of research, include any collaborators, your organisation, funder, and the journal where the research has been published. You may also want to consider tagging relevant third-sector organisations.
- Do follow relevant hashtags to network with other researchers working in a similar field.
- Do make use the thread feature to get around the character limit on individual posts. The thread feature allows you to string multiple posts together so that they appear all together on newsfeeds. This is a great way to go into more detail about certain topics. Many academics use threads to promote their newly promoted papers and will begin with a general announcement before going into a more detailed summary of the methods, results and conclusions.
- Do consider live-tweeting from academic events. Many events will have an official hashtag you can use when posting about the event. This is a great way to engage and network with other delegates at the event. High-value posts often focus on key takeaway messages from sessions and summarise key points from presentations and discussions. Event hashtags are also a useful way to follow along with events you’re unable to attend in person.