Rethinking Impact: Social Media


Listen to Nando Sigona’s recent talk for “Engage: Social Media Michaelmas” on the University of Oxford podcasts website.

Researcher Nando Sigona is based at the Oxford University Refugee Studies Centre. He started his blog “Postcards from…” in 2008. Since then his use of social media has expanded into Twitter and Podcasting to engage wider communities in his research on migration, asylum and minority issues. He uses social media and multimedia to disseminate his work and maximise the effects of his research on social policy and public debate.


Academics like Nando are working in a rapidly shifting, highly-connected environment. He outlines the key domains for his work as:

  1. the academic world;
  2. the world of policy, both statutory/governmental and NGOs/activists;
  3. the public, which for Nando means his relationship with the Media.

Nando’s social media strategy needs to maximise outreach to the various audiences that he targets.


Nando’s tools for digital engagement, in order of relevance, are: Twitter, his personal and academic blog,, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as the more traditional use of email. He describes his approach to these multimedia as “like an ecosystem”, using many or all of these tools to spread a message, and understanding the connections between them. Nando also carefully matches his expression to his audience, translating his research findings appropriately for traditional academic outlets; podcasts and film shorts; talks, for example, for TEDx; as well as tweets and blogposts.

Nando’s online engagement is two-way. Through Twitter and Facebook he engages with and questions key figures in his field and gathers social information for his research. He uses the research interests on to keep abreast of new research. But he also uses social media to disseminate his own blogposts through links. He is often retweeted by his followers, extending his reach further. Nando’s “outreach potential”, or the maximum number of users he can reach through being retweeted is 1,240,000 in the policy domain, 170,000 in media and 160,000 in academia. He often targets his messages in order to secure retweets. Nando particularly highlights the importance of online relationships with institutions and organisations as well as individuals, like research centres and publishers, to maximise dissemination.


 Nando’s blog has on average 15000 unique visits per month, which is particularly high for an academic blog. His audience is global, and mainly from the UK, US, Italy, Canada, Belgium and Australia.

His Twitter following, at 1100, is also very good for an academic individual. Most of those followers have themselves between 100 and 500, and are active users.Of these, approximately 374 are in the political domain, 103 in media, 234 academics and 243 other.

Top Tips for Success

  1. For Twitter a key thing to get right is the profile description. This used as a primary tool by others for measuring reliability and a Twitter-user’s field.
  2. You will become a slave to your public profile: all your tweets must be on message. If you start to divert you will lose credibility. If necessary, create a separate account to talk about things other than your work.
  3. Use the Twitter hashtags relevant to your field both to disseminate your ideas effectively and to see what’s going on in your area. Use this information to be topically timely and retweet your work  appropriately for better exposure.
  4. Remember that the point of twitter is that it’s a flow of information. It is an ongoing conversation from which you can tap in and out, but you should also make sure to maintain ongoing contribution to the general discussion.
  5. Remember that Google is first port of call for journalists looking for an expert. They will also assess your online presence for signals of a “media-friendly”, such as the use of vodcasts or podcasts.

Further Information

Listen to Nando Sigona’s recent talk for “Engage: Social Media Michaelmas”

Listen to other “Engage” talks

Visit the “Postcards from…” blog

Follow Nando on Twitter

Sign Up for IT Services courses:

Security and Privacy Online: Social Media
Twitter for Academia

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