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Information on how to use social media as a researcher


Welcome to a Guide on Social Media for Researchers

This quote from Small, exemplifies why people are interested in social media:

"Public conversations about our research make scientists accountable for delivering something of value to those taxpayers. In an era of budget cutting, early-career scientists will have to be effective ambassadors for the profession. This might manifest in conversations with family members or with strangers sitting next to us on a plane, or it might mean posting videos on YouTube or blogging about our ongoing research. The days of scientists communicating only with each other, in the languages of our individual disciplines, and relying on science journalists to translate for the public, are rapidly coming to an end.

 Gaston Small (2011) Time to tweet.  Nature 479 141 doi:10.1038/nj7371-141a accessed 8.11.13

Online Guides to using Social media tools

Social Media Audit

Basically you need to carry out a subject search on social media - so how do you so this?

  • What's being said about topics you are currently researching?
  • What's being said about the research you've published and what's being said about the field you work in?
  • Who is doing the talking
  • What social media tools are they using?
  • How can you learn from them?


Useful tools

  • Real-time social media search and analysis.  Can carry out Advanced searching and limit to type of tool, e.g., blog or video
  • Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your search
  • enables you to search on twitter to find out what is trending in your subject area

Tips for social networking for researchers


Here are some tips for social networking (adapted from Handbook of social media for researchers and supervisors):

Create and maintain a consistent professional profile

Research interests and expertise should be reflected consistently across different tools such as on Twitter, in a blog, or on curation tools such as or, or in a professional profile on Facebook or  A consistent and focussed profile not only helps you to identify your audience and make targeted contributions but it also helps to project yourself as an expert or as somebody who actively conducts research in one or more key areas in your research domain

Choose "few" tools to do "more"

Having a presence on too many tools can cause fragmentation of the content and wastes your time

Conduct regular evaluations of the tools that you use

It would be useful to conduct weekly evaluations: e.g., how many new connections have you made through Twitter?  What was it that you learned this week that you could have missed if you were not on Twitter?  remember it takes time for effects to come through however regular stocktaking helps to formulate strategies for effective use of the technologies or to leave them altogether

If a particular tool is not providing value, give it up!

Not every technology will work the same for everybody.  Therefore, if something does not work for you, provide value or has a high cost-to-benefit ratio, then it would be a good idea to give up the technology.

Keep your purpose and audience in mind?

 If you set up an account, e.g., on Mendeley, is it for your purposes alone as a reference manager? Or are you planning to use it for interacting and collaborating with others? Are you planning to use it as a way to publicise your research interests and expertise?

Take care not to overload your followers

If it is your professional Twitter account, for example, then your followers will be expecting messages/insights from you that relate to your research.  So don't overload them with personal events and messages.  With professional news also, be selective in your updates, not everything that is of interest to you would be of interest to your followers: post insights/news/links that could trigger discussions in your research area.

Keep aware of intellectual property (IP), copyright issues and other legal aspects associated with using social software tools

Web2Rights is a JISC-funded initiative and includes a number of useful resources, e.g.,, that provide guidance about IPR and other legal issues that may arise when using social software. Jisclegal  will be useful for copyright information. 

Consider setting up two accounts to separate personal and professional profiles and updates

Many researchers set up 2 different accounts on social networking sites,e.g., on Twitter or on Facebook. This might help to maintain boundaries between professional and personal, but you need to remember your different usernames and passwords!

Schedule time for social media

Keeping up with news is crucial, and maintaining a social media profile is important for professional purposes. But do it wisely.  Make it something you schedule time for.  Once it's a scheduled activity like anything else, it doesn't become a task that takes up your entire day.

You can make use of social media content through subscriptions or through searches

You can make use of social media content as a "lurker" in case you don't have the time or inclination to get fully involved in contributing and participating.  You can subscribe to blogs that you are interested in via RSS feeds, or subscribe to podcasts via iTunes, or search via hashtags (hashtags can be seen as metadata, describing the content of a tweet) on Twitter.

Remember that social media is not the only form of communication

Not all colleagues who might ne interested in your research will be using social software tools.  Therefore, consider engaging with such colleagues through traditional methods, e.g., a newsletter (either a downloadable file for a website or by sending by post) or a postcard-type format for distributing at conferences and other events.






See our ISStirling YouTube channel for database demos, "how to" videos and more


Web2Rights has a 6 minute animation, from 2008 in which the issues of intellectual property rights in a social media environment are discussed.