In early February I was asked to participate in a discussion on the use of social media by researchers for our 2013 Research Week. I was joined by @jennaprice and we mostly agreed with each other. Mostly ...
I based my talking points on the content of some presentations that I have uploaded to SlideShare. They are among the most popular of my 30 or so uploads and here is the most recent version: Make me famous with social media
For those who prefer the most recent discussion, here are a few words based on the rough notes that I used. I started by saying that I recognise the ephemeral nature of almost all social media posts. I am not really sure that any institutions needs to try to record all of it. A lot of it is complete rubbish and quite meaningless without the context of time, place and others participating in the same conversation or open discussion. As Clay Shirky has said though, it does represent a connective tissue that fuses both public and personal media and that is what makes it so significant, at least in our time. For researchers it can assist in connections, communication, the provision of sometimes instant feedback or responses, increased reach and in finding your own "voice". One of social media's key and perhaps most valuable characteristics is that it allows and encourages us to share; it helps facilitate altruism and that is a real benefit (as long as it lasts).
So, if we take a quick look at three key platforms as an example for researchers and what they can do with them:
- TWITTER - helps with connections, asking for help, news, "voice", sharing and searching.
- ACADEMIA.EDU - basically Facebook for academics (without the ads). It is not as well used here as it seems to be in the US, but has huge potential to facilitate better academic social networks. (Jenna didn't agree with me on this one.)
- BLOGS - allow you to test ideas and to share, practice, ideate and form or contribute tio various communities of research practice.
My tips and advice for researchers who want to use social media:
- Start with your own community
- Keep it in perspective (see the note above re the ephemeral nature of social media and social networks)
- Listen (it is a two way street, not simply a public broadcast media)
- Engage - I doubt you'll fully realise the potential benefits by just lurking
- Play, fail, learn - most social networks are very forgiving
- Respect others and their acknowledge their generosity
- Be real - I'm not at all a fan of anonymity on the social web
- Be careful how much you reveal about yourself and your long term research (Jenna reminded us that most researchers, like journalists like to be the first to publish)
- Don't feed the trolls!
- Be patient - it isn't always instantaneous and not everyone is always connected and always paying attention
Finally I said that for some researchers in a highly competitive market for research funding that social media can lead to the creation of a higher public profile (which then needs some management). This might be combined with sharing (via Open Acces publication), clever use of social networks and altmetrics to deliver crowd-funding for your research.