How to Use Social Media for Research: A Step by Step Guide


Social media can be a great tool to get your research work noticed. But there are some challenges academicians face in adopting social media as part of their research process.

The Initial Challenges

  1. Educators often view social media as an additional burden affecting academic responsibilities. That is why they do not recognise the social and digital media efforts as part of the research process.
  2. In many educational set-ups, the teaching fraternity is either inadequately informed or insufficiently sensitized towards adoption of digital technologies to aid teaching and research.
  3. Then, there are institutions lacking adequate infrastructure to support adoption of new digital technologies such as social media.
  4. Above all, any change is difficult to bring if institutions fail to create a culture that encourages adoption of new advancements in the field of teaching and research.

How To Get the Most Out of Social Media as a Researcher

To bridge the gap between social media and research study, the scholarly community need to identify the right social media tools that might incentivise their research work. It can help them to explore different ways of employing social media throughout the research lifecycle.

Here are some of the social media tools/ channels that allow research scholars to create additional impact factor for their scholarly work beyond the traditional citation impact. These social tools also provide a framework for widening communication network for better research outreach in web space.

The scholarly community can even take advantage of social media and other online platforms to explore interesting dimensions of their scholarly work.

  1. Start Blogging

Self-archive your work by writing blogs. You can create a blog page to showcase your academic work and invite comments and suggestions to build talking points around it. Blogging can eventually become a strong forum to promote your research work.

Through blogs, you can further get in touch with other authors working in your thematic area and let them know you are interested in joint collaborations.

Use institutional resources to produce rich media content on your blog such as podcasts and video to share and promote your research.

Pre-recorded video sessions about your research work has the potential to reach a larger audience. Provide links to access full research paper or the executive summary of the research study. Start an online discussion on the findings of the research assignment. Also, share your data where possible.

With blogging, you can discuss various aspects of your research work, post literature reviews, share feeds that others may also be interested in etc.

Research blogs are widely regarded as a genuine source of knowledge. You can also find out who is blogging and writing in the same space; follow them and add them to your social contacts. Being aware of what’s going in your area of research helps to widen its scope.

Create a wider audience for your research by sharing the blogs on other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Make your research project more interesting and interactive by creating videos.

  1. Monitor your Reach & Audience

Monitoring your reach helps in identifying and knowing your audience. You should see who’s following your work, the places it is being shared, discussed and cited so that you can identify more takers for your scholarly work and engage them meaningfully.

Share interesting findings of your research output to enable more mentions of your work on social space. This will give you a clearer sense of how your research work is being understood by intelligentsia and the general public.

  1. Engage with your Audience

Be active on social media to bring audience for your research work. Follow relevant Twitter handles, join research groups and similar communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. Open a ResearchGate account to discover scientific knowledge and share your work. Follow relevant discussion threads on Twitter, LinkedIn etc.

Grow and nurture your online presence by regularly commenting on questions in your area of work. Make sure to include links of social profiles in your email signature.

Expose your work to far away audiences using webinars. You can use tools such as Google Hangout, Cisco WebEx etc. to engage your audience. If required, you may ask your institute to purchase product licence for it. You can start a conversation around your work through interactive web sessions.

Once you begin using social media actively, your audience will grow organically.

  1. Use Business Intelligence through Social Listening Tools

Social media isn’t just about getting likes, comments or shares on your content. It can be a valuable tool to help boost business intelligence by monitoring citations and mentions of your research work on social web. You can get valuable insights as well to analyse the volume and tone of discussion around your work.

In this regard, social listening tools such as Hootsuite, TweetReach, Klout etc. come handy. You can get precise information on what your audience is saying about your work and where.

Things you should remember

Social media offers many benefits to researchers, but there are some things to remember.

It’s tempting to follow the crowd. But simply getting up and running without an action plan is poor practice. Young researchers should refrain from casual approach. Academic expression in public space should be well directed.

The adoption of social media in research settings is already spreading widely. New formats to communicate research are giving significant results. The research community is increasingly recognising the potential of social media in research. But researchers also need to recognise that all engagement tools are not for everyone. Adoption of social media for research purpose thus involves considerable thinking to choose the right platform.

Social media provides a rich source of data for researchers. It allows researchers to supplement field research by collecting data for research analysis.

The application of social media technologies, is dynamically affecting researchers. It is shaping the research culture in many ways. Institutions need to recognise its value and support such practices. Research has always played a pivotal role in socio-economic development of a nation. It is high time we started asking how social media can help research community to achieve this aim.