Navigating Social Media as a Researcher

Here is the 2015 Social Media Map (thanks to Lucy Lyons for sending it to me):


It is vast, varied and has something for everyone! But it can be overwhelming. It reminded me of a question I was asked in a recent class discussion about social media for researchers: What are the top 5 social media platforms for researchers? This is actually a tough question to answer, because everyone’s needs are different and social media should be used to showcase a person’s work in the most germane way. While the social media map shows a wealth of platforms, we found ourselves focusing on the most well-known ones: Twitter, LinkedIn,, Storify, and one that reflects on your individual needs as a researcher (i.e. if your work involves visuals, visualisations, etc, then try something like Instagram).

So, why these?


When I started blogging, all of a sudden I had another outlet to talk about issues and ideas that matter to me. It was my own forum that I could shape as I wished. I could develop a tone and style that suited my needs. It was an instant means of getting my thoughts on a page and then sharing them publicly. It was also a great way to keep up the practice of writing, particularly during those times that my research was focused more on reading and note-taking rather than writing up chapters. A blog is your very own corner of the research world. I like to show my students this diagram of a blog as a House:


Twitter is fast, short and simple. It forces you to crunch your thoughts down and use hashtags, links and images cleverly to relay a point. Twitter is a conduit for showcasing events as they happen (live tweeting conferences etc). Hashtags can be invented and used to generate rich and interesting conversations (see #saturdayschool for example). Twitter doesn’t require heaps of time and input. You don’t need to spend an age updating your profile, filling in one section after the next. Moreover, Twitter is the place to be for scholars during November when Academic Writing Month takes place (#AcWriMo)!


I’ll start by saying that LinkedIn’s “Job-seeker Premium” option that allows people to, among other things, skip the queue and be placed ahead of people who may be more qualified for them when applying for jobs horrifies me! But, despite this major flaw, LinkedIn is great for managing your CV. The fact that it is public places more pressure on users to keep their information up-to-date. This pays dividends when you need to update your offline CV after a few months of neglect. Moreover, there are some really good groups that you can join and discuss common interests with other professionals in your field.

Again, this is another way of managing your CV with the added public pressure of making sure you are always looking your professional best. Academia allows users to upload entire papers which can boost the likelihood of citation and amount of times your papers get cited. Of course, there are debates ongoing about the wisdom behind such open sharing of research. It’s really up to the individual. What I tell students is to upload abstracts, and wait until the paper has been published elsewhere before uploading it with full citation details (check copyright issues with your publisher first!). Basically, this platform is useful for scholarly networking: connecting with other academics in your field and letting them know what you are doing. Furthermore, tracks Google searches and gives you the stats, so you know how many people are looking and where they are based.


This is one of my favourites! Whether you want to record an online conversation/debate/event or create a “story” based on a particular theme, Storify allows you to harvest resources from various corners of the internet and arrange them to tell some kind of story. This one is good for disseminating research, livening up your blog with an embedded Storify here and there, and also as a teaching and learning resource. I already wrote a post about this one.

So, these four plus one other that suits your individual needs forms a basic social media toolkit for researchers. Before concluding, I want briefly highlight another area of social media that may be useful for researchers. Medium is listed under “Content Discovery and Curation.” Medium is a place to share stories and ideas online. In short it is a writing tool, and a variation of the blog. Medium is just one of a few options available to those who want to write and share. Hi is another interesting option that unites concepts from blogging, Instagram and Twitter. More recently Altonito has released its beta version on an invite-only basis. Not only does this signal a new offshoot from the traditional blog, but also new methods of so-called “non-traditional” dissemination.

The Social Media Map this year is massive. It will, no doubt, continue to expand. Because I am generally intrigued by all that social media has to offer (and because I teach social media skills) I tend to dabble in various platforms to see what’s what. It’s hard to upkeep more than a handful and the ones listed above really are a good place to start.


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This entry was posted by americasstudies on Sunday, February 15th, 2015 at 12:13 pm and is filed under research, Social Media . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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