Why should academics use social media?
At the University Press Redux in March, Ann Lawson of Kudos explained how their latest study revealed that 88% of researchers thought that more could be done to increase the visibility and impact of their work. Of these researchers 91% were supportive of sharing their own work. So what are the options? Why should academics be doing this?
“impact on a broader community…”
There are approximately 313 million monthly active users on Twitter, which seems to be the favourable social networking site for scholarly communication. With a 140-character limit, your messages need to be short and to the point. Tweets can include links, pictures, videos, and you can tag (‘mention’) other Tweeters too… if you have the space! Communicating your work in a condensed way such as this is a quick and easy way to reach wider audiences and have an impact on a broader community. With pressures on academics to demonstrate the impact of their work, this seems like a step toward that goal. This is then exemplified by the fact that your Tweet can be retweeted so it is not just people who follow you who can see it, but followers of those who retweet you. Your publishers (who likely have thousands of followers) could retweet your work too, so the potential new audience you could reach with just one small Tweet - and only minutes of your time - is astounding.
Back in July we posted a photo of a new journal issue on Instagram, which was then picked up and reposted by the school of one of the authors. This meant that a whole new audience became aware of our news and who we are, while simultaneously increasing the chances of that particular issue being viewed online. It also places more value on the post. It is expected for publishers to use social media within marketing but as Policy Press’ Kim Eggleton points out on their blog, doing it yourself brings a new level of credibility to the practice and people are more likely to value your opinion as a researcher.
Socialising on social media…
Social media doesn’t have to be used solely as a means of marketing your work; it is an excellent way to network with others in your field, keep up to date with the latest news, and sometimes even ‘attend’ a conference. Big conferences will often have a designated #hashtag which delegates will use to commentate and describe the event. Following the hashtag allows you to keep on top of what’s going on even when you can’t attend yourself. Keeping up with other researchers in your field is also easy on Twitter; you can see what events they are attending and what work they are publishing. It is a great way of building relationships and networks outside of your usual circles which opens up new platforms for discussion and debate.
With the huge amount of published work coming out every year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. Having your work out there on social media increases the likelihood of it reaching different outlets - such as newspapers, blogs, and magazines - as well as people. This is the kind of data that Altmetric look at. Altmetric collect article level metrics and the online conversations around research papers by tracking a selection of online indicators (both scholarly and non-scholarly) to give a measurement of digital impact and reach. ‘Mentions’ that contain links to any version of the same paper are picked up, and collated. The result is the Altmetric score, recently renamed the ‘Altmetric Attention Score’ to reflect the idea that their aim is to measure the attention around a given article, not just citations. Having an Altmetric Attention Score is another way to measure the broader impact of your work, and using social media is one way in which you can increase your score.
Back in 2013, PLOS ONE published a study that aimed to ‘quantify the impact of social media release on views and downloads of articles’. Although the study was based on a specific research field, their results are still very interesting…
Who can help?
Liverpool University Press is partnered with Kudos whose main aim is helping authors increase the visibility and impact of their work. Kudos provides a new way for authors to use social media to engage the digital community with their research. By creating 'profiles' for their published articles and adding short titles, lay summaries, impact statements and supplementary content, authors can make their articles more engaging for a digital readership accustomed to strategically browsing the millions of potential papers at their fingertips. The steps to using Kudos are simple, all you have to do is claim your published articles, enrich them with content, and share them out to various social channels. You will also be able to measure the impact of your activity through comprehensive personalised metrics. The most recent study revealed that researchers’ use of Kudos correlates to 23% higher downloads on publisher websites!
Furthermore, Kudos has a partnership with Altmetric, so all the work that researchers do on Kudos can contribute to their Altmetric Attention Score. For proof of why using Kudos to explain and share your work is worth your time, check out case studies from our very own authors here.
One of the struggles I face is convincing academics that social media is worthy of their time. Kudos’ Charlie Rapple summarises the ‘three primary issues’ brilliantly on Scholarly Kitchen, where she concludes that academics will ‘benefit from exercising their communications muscles’. The gist of it is: it is difficult for academics to see clear results of social media; academics would like for their work to stand alone on merit; and, it is something new that they are perhaps not used to, and therefore tempted to avoid.
While fair points, I think it is important that we, as a publisher, work hard to ensure that the content we are publishing is circulated widely. This includes making the effort to encourage our authors to get it out there and as Emily Willingham stated perfectly on Forbes, ‘advocates don’t need to argue that social media is a form of dissemination. They may as well argue that liquid water is wet’.
When asked about the role of social media in scholarly publishing in a recent Scholarly Kitchen post, Jill O’Neill said ‘social media is currently well-integrated in the modern mindset’ which is a really important point to consider when discussing whether academics should use it. Social media seems to be everywhere, present in everyday life. Using it to get your work out there implies that it is current and worthy of attention from the public. In the same Kitchen post, Karin Wulf referred to social media as a ‘vital part of scholarly communications’. Using social media should no longer be seen as self-promotion or vanity; it should be fully integrated into your workflow as an academic.
Social media is not about showing off, or trying to tick certain boxes for an employer, it is about communicating with other scholars, keeping up-to-date with your field, and most importantly, ensuring that your work reaches as wide an audience as possible. After all, isn’t the dissemination of knowledge at the core of what we’re all doing?