How to effectively promote your research on social media

Is TikTok changing the game?

As an academic and researcher, you may spend countless hours researching, analysing data, and writing papers. This effort is potentially only worthwhile if your work is promoted and distributed to the audience to whom it is intended to benefit.

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Enter social media! Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have revolutionized how academics publicize their research and engage with people beyond their institutions. Even the social-media-resistant researcher may be in awe of the 4.76 billion people on social media platforms worldwide. It is a lucrative statistic indicating that half the world’s population is currently using social media.

However, not all social media platforms are equal. Twitter and Facebook might have simplistic-text-driven appeal for many academics. But as social media becomes more visual and competitive, there is an increasing preference for video-based content. The result of this has seen platforms like TikTok show immense growth.

Read on for tips on how to share your research and the benefits of doing so, such as engaging with a wider audience on a social media platform like TikTok.

Is TikTok changing the way academics can promote their research?

TikTok is a platform only some academics are ready to embrace. It has quickly gained popularity with a younger audience. Moreover, as a researcher if you’re contemplating using TikTok you should first answer the question: “Who is my intended audience, and where can I find them?”

If you answered “13 to 29-year-olds” comprising over half of all TikTok users, then Tiktok is a social media platform worth considering. TikTok is a platform for sharing short videos that has rapidly gained popularity over the past few years with approximately one billion active users. It provides a unique opportunity for academics.

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For example, @sarah.frank’s 2021 video on “side hustles” led to tens of thousands of new users flooding to Prolific, a tool for scientists conducting survey-based research. The influx of responses from young women around Frank’s age presented a challenge for researchers relying on representative samples in US populations, but also highlighted the potential of online research platforms (such as Prolific and Mechanical Turk) to facilitate participant recruitment.

Several public health organizations and academics have also used TikTok to reach a younger audience and disseminate vital health information. During the COVID-19 pandemic for instance, The World Health Organization and Centres for Disease, Control and Prevention used TikTok to dispel COVID-19 misinformation and disseminate facts on COVID-19 prevention.

It’s important to note that while TikTok has advantages for researchers and science communicators in terms of audience reach and potential engagement, the same benefits it affords also carry risks such as the rapid spread of misinformation. Because all content is user-generated, it can be difficult for people to assess the accuracy and reliability of information shared on the platform. 

Benefits of using TikTok to promote academic research

There are many advantages to using TikTok as an academic to promote your research:

  • TikTok has a younger and more diverse audience than other platforms.

  • Its short-form video format is perfect for sharing educational and informative content.

  • It also allows for academic collaboration and increased visibility and engagement of previously inaccessible content.

  • You will receive rapid feedback – whether you ask for it or not. There is this joke: Why did the academic use TikTok? To finally get some rapid peer review!

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By being mindful of potential risks and ethical standards that generally apply to social media platforms, as an academic, you can use TikTok safely and effectively to promote your research and engage with a broader audience.

5 tips on how you can use TikTok to promote your research

  • Use your imagination
    On TikTok it is easy for users to scroll past your content, so for your work to stand out and capture the attention of your audience, don’t be afraid to experiment and use your creativity with various video formats and styles.

    In the beginning, you will want to explore ways to grab your audience’s attention while they build trust and interest in you as a content creator. 

  • Make it simple and to the point
    TikTok videos are normally no more than 60 seconds, so it’s important to keep your information clear and brief. For your research to have an impact on a wide audience, it has to be easy to understand.

  • Make use of popular trends
    TikTok offers a variety of challenges and trends that can help your video get in front of more people. To enhance engagement, mix trends and popular sounds into your regular content.

  • Collaborate with other academics
    TikTok is a fantastic forum for academic collaboration. Make contact with other academics in your discipline and work together on content, cross-promotion, and being mutually supportive of each other’s work. 

  • Be educational and entertaining
    Since TikTok is mostly used for fun, academics and researchers can fill an important gap in typical TikTok content and that is to offer educational or evidence-informed driven material. For example, researchers may make use of short videos to inform viewers about a study and its significance.

While it can seem overwhelming to get started, note that you can share your findings with a broader audience using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok. These sites can be leveraged to boost exposure and create meaningful impact and social change.

          Further resource

          An academic’s guide to social media: Learn, engage, and belong by Kelly-Ann AllenShane R. JimersonDaniel S. QuintanaLara McKinley

          This book provides more advice on using social media to promote your research.

          It offers helpful pointers and recommendations on how academics might utilize social media to boost the visibility of their work and connect with a broader audience.

          Meet the author

          Kelly-Ann Allen 
          Associate Professor & Educational Psychologist

          School of Educational Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Education, Monash University

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