How to use social media to enhance your research visibility

Dr Bex Hewett and Professor Brian Harney shared insights into maximising the benefits of social media in this CIMR Workshop in Public Policy.

Dissemination is an essential element of research. Not only does it ensure that findings have impact in the real world, it informs researchers of future directions to explore, as observed through the application of previous work.

Social media is a valuable tool for researchers to reach their intended audience, but the number of platforms available and methods of interacting can be overwhelming. How can we use social media effectively and efficiently to engage a wider public with our research?

On Friday 25 February, CIMR welcomed Dr Bex Hewett, Associate Editor (Communications) of the Human Resource Management Journal, and Professor Brian Harney, Professor in Strategy and HRM at DCU Business School, to share insights into their use of social media, in particular Twitter and LinkedIn. The session was chaired by Doyin Olorunfemi, Graduate Teaching Assistant at Birkbeck.

Maximising the impact of research outputs through social media

Dr Bex Hewett began the discussion by sharing her approach to social media as Communications Editor at Human Resource Management Journal (HRMJ).

Since January 2019, HRMJ’s social media goals have been to increase the impact of individual papers, increase the impact of the journal, raise the journal’s profile and create a research dialogue. Content for social media comes from papers and their authors, editors, Wiley and key partners such as the CIPD.

Bex discussed the different approaches used on Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter’s short and snappy nature lends itself more to quick updates which can be repeated. For example, HRMJ posts a daily tweet and each new paper in the journal will be tweeted 2-3 times.

Examples of content that performs well on Twitter include:

  • General interest posts, for example the announcement of a new issue
  • Posts that tag people or scholarly societies who can share with their network, for example calls for papers
  • Posts with a more personal angle

Bex advised posting content with a clear main message and using hashtags to highlight what your post is about. You can also follow relevant hashtags on Twitter to keep up to date with discussions in your area of interest.

In contrast, LinkedIn allows for more detailed content and Bex is more selective when posting on this platform. For example, a paper with broad practitioner appeal could be used as the starting point to tell a story or kickstart a discussion.

Bex highlighted the importance of creating appealing visuals for social media and advised speaking to your university’s marketing department in the first instance. If budget is available, Wiley also create video abstracts around papers. Websites such as Pixabay and Unsplash are a great source of free images.

When posting, consider when your target audience is most likely to be online, for example first thing in the morning, in the afternoon slump, or on the commute home. Online scheduling tools such as Hootsuite can make posting regularly on social media more manageable.

Both Twitter and LinkedIn feature analytics to check which posts are performing well.

How can researchers help journals to promote their work?

In order to maximise exposure of new research, Bex advised carefully thinking through the ‘implications for practice’ section of a paper, as this is the first thing that communications professionals will look at for promotion. Including some easy-to-understand tips or key quotations makes content more shareable.

Bex also advised sharing social media accounts with the journal if asked and tagging the journal when sharing content on personal platforms. This maximises the impact of each post by ensuring the author and journal can see and share each other’s posts.

How to raise your research profile on LinkedIn

Professor Brian Harney extended the discussion on LinkedIn by outlining the ‘C’s of good practice for getting the most out of the channel:

  • Choice: Don’t spread yourself too thinly. Choose the platforms that you are most comfortable on and invest more time in building an impactful profile in one or two places.
  • Customise: Broaden the scope of your post by mentioning your school, your network and your community. Keep your LinkedIn updated – consider it as a live CV where you can record your achievements.
  • Connect: Social media is designed to be social – don’t just broadcast information. Think about the groups that you could join to share information and learnings.
  • Capture and Collate: Put project outputs on LinkedIn and keep your followers updated with any new developments.
  • Communicate: Share projects that colleagues are working on and other content relevant for the field, such as news articles.
  • Celebrate: Use LinkedIn to congratulate colleagues or students on their achievements. Personal stories perform particularly well on social media.
  • Consistency: Post regularly on your chosen channels to build your community.

Brian emphasised that for researchers, the publication of a paper is “the beginning not the end” and that social media is a vital part of dissemination.

We would like to thank Bex and Brian for an insightful and practical session and we look forward to continuing the discussion on LinkedIn!

The recording of this event is available to watch on YouTube.


This post has been contributed by Isobel Edwards