Engage Talks: Top Ten Tips on Social Media

By Joanna Wild

Last term Academic IT Services and the Bodleian libraries ran a series of events under the name Engage: Social Media Michaelmas (here on Facebook). The 9-week programme included workshops, courses and talks by invited speakers from both Oxford and other UK Universities.

The speakers shared their social media strategies and told their own stories of how they had used digital technologies to communicate their subjects to a wider public (Marcus du Sautoy and Peter Gill), increase the outreach and citation of research outputs (Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Leach), attract project funding (Dave White), and help career development (Lucy Hawkins).Engage Podcast Series

The series of talks has been published on our Podcasts website. In this blog post we have pulled together our speakers’ top ten tips for using social media in academic practice.

1. Define what you want to achieve in using social media and decide whom you want to reach. This will help you manage your online presence and think about your writing style. Writing for a specialist academic audience will be different from writing for a non-academic audience (Peter Gill).  When setting up your Twitter account, think of three key messages you want to get across in your profile (Lucy Hawkins).

2. Both blog and tweet. Blog to promote work around your publications. Describe what your article is about and link to an Open Access version of your paper.

Then tweet to publicize your blog posts (Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Leach).

3. To attract readers to a new blog post, tweet between 10 and 5 on Mondays to Fridays: this is when people are most active on Twitter.

4. Consider blogging about your work in progress or rejected papers that you would like to publish.  This will enable you to attract comments from the scholarly community. “You can have a much more interactive process where publication is not an end point but a starting point for generation of new research and information” (Elizabeth Leach).

5. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas even if they are not yet fully formed. “It all comes back to the idea of being part of a flow of discourse rather than making sure you’re right before you show anybody your stuff. That’s a bit of a different approach culturally than what we’re used to perhaps.” (Dave White)

6. Struggling to find the time? Schedule blogging into your working week. It’s enough to blog once or twice per month. Finding time for tweeting is easy, especially if you have a smart phone: you can tweet “when you wait for things to happen, like queuing in Sainsbury’s” (Elizabeth Leach).

7. Check your blog and tweets regularly to see if people have responded. “With social media and institutional Open Access repositories you do have to do, I call it, gardening – looking after the things that you’ve planted” (Melissa Terras).

8. Remember that communication is a two-way process. Social media are a great tool for promoting your work but they work best when you engage with other people: conversation is key. Blog, but read and comment on other blogs too (Lucy Hawkins). Tweet about your work but also follow other people, reply to their tweets and pass on (retweet) interesting tweets to your own followers. “If you only go online to tell people about you, you, you then very soon people are going to turn off: it’s about engaging, chatting with people, helping out” (Melissa Terras).

9. Blogging and tweeting are an easy way to network, but finding your own way in using them takes time. “It’s experiential. You can’t really get sense of what social media is and how it works unless you actually get stuck in and start using it” (Dave White). Before jumping in, do some ‘social listening’: see what others are saying and how they use social media. You can lurk as long as you want to before you decide to write your first tweet.

10. Consider writing for blogs run by others (e.g. the impact of Social Sciences blog run by LSE), it will help you attract new readers to your own blog (Nando Sigona).

The ‘Engage: Social Media’ recordings are now available via iTunes or the podcasting website :

Via  Oxford on iTunes

Via the Podcast web site
        Engage Series:  http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/engage-social-media-talks

or Via a web RSS reader

·         2 video talks: http://rss.oucs.ox.ac.uk/oucs/engage-video/itunesu.xml

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