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.”