Using social media tools to disseminate academic research

There are many reasons for taking the measurement of academic impact seriously, particularly in the current economic climate. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK and speaking at The Future of Academic Impact conference, reminded the audience that the public perception of academia tends to focus on the most visible aspect – namely undergraduate teaching and fees.  How can we increase the public perception of the value of academic research and its contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the nation and beyond?

One aspect of improving the visibility of academic research was covered in a breakout session exploring the value of the ‘top five’ social media tools in supporting academic communication.

Know your audience

Each tool can bring your tool to different audiences.  It is therefore important to understand both the demographic of your chosen tools and the potential audiences of your work.


With a global audience of over 100 million, Twitter is a realtime information network which encourages sharing of links and posts and facilitates conversation and feedback.  By using metric tools or the statistics of URL shortening services (e.g. Bitly), it is easy to measure the increased traffic to your blog generated by tweeting.

By mentioning your collaborators and using retweets and hashtags appropriately you can significantly increase your own visibility.  You can also use the ‘favourite’ button as a simple bookmarking tool.


By far the most popular social network, Facebook offers an alternative tool to help drive traffic to your blog and other outputs.  It also has the potential to ‘go viral’.  50% of all Europeans use Facebook regularly.  The drive to monetisation by Facebook does mean that to appear in the newsfeeds of all of your ‘likers’ you may have to pay a small fee.


An image driven tool, Pinterest enables content creation and social sharing.  Although not particularly well-used by academics at the moment, use is increasing e.g. as a ‘visual ideas board’ for research interests.  It’s also a great way to disseminate visual outputs of your research.


Although not particularly well-used, a particularly valuable feature of Google+ for academics is the Google Hangouts option, which enables group collaboration and chats and the ability to record these sessions.


LinkedIn is evolving into a business focused social media site that enables sharing and discussion as well as another platform to showcase achievements.

Social media tools can help open us research and reach new, interested audiences.  “It’s not about where you publish, but who you reach.”

The breakout session was led by Amy Mollett  (@amymollett) and Joel Suss (@joelsuss).

About Val Skelton

I am the editor of Information Today, Europe. On the main site, we cover news and publish feature articles by information, research and knoweldge practitioners and thought leaders. On this blog, we aim to cover other topics of interest to our readers.


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2 Responses to Using social media tools to disseminate academic research

  1. Chris Upton December 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    You missed
    I think this is Pinterest for academics…

  2. Ville Kilkku December 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    The implicit assumption in this discussion is that the researcher writes a blog. However, how many researchers actually do that?

    I admit that I have been outside the academia for quite a while now, but not many of my old contacts blog about their research at all. Without a central hub for your content, there is not much you can do with Twitter or Facebook, especially given the level of detail scientific content has.

    This leads to another thing that I have been interested in for a while now: whether the academia will embrace social collaboration as a way of working.

    So, if you have a research blog, how are you going to use it? To disseminate information, or to also create information? It doesn’t all have to be perfected, one of the core ideas of social collaboration is to refine the raw or partially refined ideas through collaboration.

    There is a lot that could happen in the academia around these tools: blogging for ideas and verification, social reading, crowdsourcing (Phylo already does this!).. There are plenty of possibilities.

    However, this type of working does not neatly fit into the peer-reviewed publications paradigm that is currently prevalent. Science has not always been like this, and this might only be one step on the way to new ways of doing and evaluating science.

    OK, I have ventured a bit far from the core of your blog post, but I think the work and its dissemination are closely tied nowadays, and discussing this would be important.