5 essential social media and digital communication skills for researchers

Research communication is an increasingly important part of a researcher’s skillset. Having great digital communication skills and knowing how to use social media to network and promote your research is a vital part of demonstrating the impact of your work.

But how do you start building those skills?

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Our 15-minute podcast for researchers, produced in partnership with Vitae, explores this (and more) and offers up some expert insight. Listen to it below and read on for our top tips.

Read the 4 skills for researchers of the future podcast transcript.

1. Understanding the benefits of social media

“If you do research, you write papers, and you want them to be read, you need to be on social media,” says Inger Mewburn.

Although social media can be daunting to start using for work, there are numerous benefits to it. Among other things, it can help you to:

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  • Connect with other academics in your field

  • Ask questions, “crowdsourcing” ideas

  • Spread the word about the research you’re undertaking

  • Publicize your article, increase downloads, citations (in time), and impact

Ultimately, it’s a powerful tool for sharing your research and connecting with the people who could help it make an impact.

2. Choosing the right platforms

Digital communications, particularly social media, can be overwhelming. There are so many options available and so many potential channels to share your thoughts and work. So where do you even start?

As a first step, check to see which social media platform(s) your peers and intended readership are using and engaging with the most. This will give you the best idea of where to focus your energy, rather than trying to cover off every option.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, pick one platform first to help you test out your ideas and style. For example, you might consider Twitter a good place to start as this already has a thriving research community. If so, look at our guide to using Twitter to help you get started.

3. Connecting, engaging, being human

Social media is, well, social. You won’t have much success promoting your research on social media unless you take the time to actively connect and engage with your target audiences. Like, comment on, and share other people’s posts. Follow or connect with people who are relevant to you.

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This work will pay off when you promote your own research because the people you’ve engaged with are then far more likely to share your posts.

You also need to show people a bit of who you are. Even though you might be there for a purpose – i.e. to promote your work – don’t just share links to your articles. Talk about your day-to-day research life and things that matter to you outside of work.

Read our guide for more tips on using social media to promote your research.

4. Blogging

“Blogging has become a huge and popular way of disseminating research and talking to each other as a community…and sharing knowledge,” explains Inger Mewburn, Associate Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, who runs the Thesis Whisperer blog.

Blogging also allows you to hone your writing and editing skills (vital for your academic articles) by distilling a paper or thought process into a brief, readable blog post.

If you’ve never written a blog before, don’t panic – there’s plenty of advice for researchers available. For example, if you want to turn your research into a blog post, you can start by reading our how-to guide for writing an academic blog post, including how to structure it and examples.

5. Keeping up to date with new communication channels

Blogs and certain social platforms have already been part of the research community for a while, but are you up to date with newer ways of communicating your research?

“YouTube is huge,” says Inger Mewburn. “YouTube your papers. I get more readership through my YouTube videos of my papers. There are many ways you can do it, you can just simply talk over a PowerPoint deck, or you can have yourself recorded at a conference. Universities sometimes offer studios and you can make them look professional at quite low-cost.”

Researchers are even putting to use short-form video content for platforms like TikTok to help explain complex topics to a wider audience.

Where to next?

If you’ve found these tips helpful make sure you look at:

  • Our podcast series for researchers – 15 minutes to develop your research career (which includes the episode mentioned in this post)

  • The Thesis Whisperer – a blog that contains a wealth of useful advice, whichever research skills you’re looking to develop, from general writing tips to presenting and publishing.

  • Our Insights newsletter – the latest news, tips, and resources delivered straight to your inbox.

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