Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Twitter for researchers: hints and tips

Social media, and particularly twitter, can be a powerful tool for researchers, in terms of networking, promotion and current awareness. Twitter particularly can be easily accessed via a variety of devices, meaning that you can follow a conference on the other side of the world via your mobile phone. It also allows you to follow fellow researchers, publishers and projects in your area of interest.

Tweets are up to 140 characters long and can feature links to websites and images. If an event is taking place, such as a conference, often a hashtag will be created that allows people to follow the conversation, such as #HYMS. If you know about a hashtag, you can search for it on twitter and see all the tweets that use that hashtag. You can also use the hashtags yourself to heighten your visibility.

If you would like to start using twitter, go to http://twitter.com and sign up for an account. You will be asked to fill out a profile and to start following people.

When you follow someone, you will see their tweets appear in the feed of tweets when you sign in. If you want to reply to a tweet you have an option to click reply under the tweet. You can also re-tweet a tweet if you think it is particularly useful and this will be visible to people following your Twitter account.

If you're unsure who to follow, try looking for the primary investigator on your research project, or for key journals in your research area.

Information is normally tweeted in real-time, so information is up-to-date. Information that is tweeted about includes:

  • Publication of articles
  • Publication of new research
  • Discoveries that have been made in a particular field
  • What is being talked about at a conference or public event
  • Announcements about funding
  • Changes in policy and legislation around research from various bodies

Some suggestions for accounts you might want to follow:

The BMJ @bmj_latest
BMJ_Open @BMJ_Open
The Cochrane Collaboration @cochranecollab
Research Councils UK @research_uk
University of Hull @UniOfHull
University of York @uniofyork
Wellcome Trust @wellcometrust

Don't feel that you have to tweet. It is okay to lurk and follow what is going on. However, the great thing about Twitter is how easy it makes it to connect with people around the world.

You can gather followers through connecting in Twitter, but also through other networks, so don't be afraid to include your twitter account on presentations, in communication via email and on business cards.