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Published by

Nicky Hobbs

19 September 2023, 8:10 UTC Share

Social media, a powerful way to share your ideas

Do I have to be on social media to raise the profile of my research work and build my reputation? 

We were delighted to talk about social media with UPEN members at a recent workshop about building professional profiles online. A pre-session survey highlighted how attendees used social media, and it was interesting to see that almost 10% of the respondents did not use social media at all, with 11% feeling very confident across social media platforms. 

The majority of UPEN members, who were involved, represent their institution and themselves on social media if they do use it. The most used platforms are X (previously Twitter), LinkedIn, and Facebook, but there are UPEN members using Instagram, YouTube Threads, Mastodon, and Substack.

Given that social media is a tool that the majority of us use, 48% of respondents did not feel very confident, whilst 31.5% felt only relatively confident. 

At a time when we have demanding roles, extra tasks that we spend time on, and everything else that life throws at us, what are the reasons to engage on social media platforms?

Using Social media can be a powerful way to share your ideas

By engaging on social media you can enhance public understanding of complex issues, this can have a positive societal impact and is an increasingly important aspect of universities’ civic role.

Being online can help you to directly engage and make valuable connections with others, leading to new opportunities for research and impact. Your profile can drive impact by building recognition among decision-makers and informing public debate.

But Social media has its downsides

While the experience of engaging on social media is often very positive,  there are downsides. Sometimes it can result in being misinterpreted and/or subject to abusive comments online. This is unacceptable, and you will want to be aware of platform guidelines and your university/institution policy. You must feel safe when online and know how to escalate any worries.

It can be time-consuming to engage with social media, alongside the demands of an academic career. The balance will be different for everyone and must be carefully managed.

Social media is constantly evolving – there are already platforms requesting biometric data – you may not feel comfortable with certain platforms and their rules or outlook.

How can you make social media work for you?

If you feel that being active on social media would benefit your work, there are some guidelines for making an impact in a way that works for you. 

Focus on your audience

Make the most of your time online by doing your research on your audience, what platform are they using and most active on? Rather than spending time on lots of social media platforms focus on the one where you are most likely to achieve impact.

Spend some time getting to know and understand what your audience does online, what they like, and what they react to so that you can make sure that when you do post, you are taking the preferences of your audience into consideration.

Spend time on profile and posts

Try to spend some time making your profile look professional, and make sure your info or bio section does credit to your expertise and experience.

Take your time crafting a post to be informative and lead your audience to learn more about your work. Watch out for typos and make sure you’re using the correct images. If you’re posting about shared work, make sure you have permission to do so and that you’ve informed your university if you need to.

But don’t forget to be sociable!

Social media is a place to be sociable – your ideas and work will have more impact if you engage with other people on their posts and join in conversations. 

There are many positives to being on social media; using these platforms can bring your work to a wider audience in a way that may ultimately benefit society. Some great tools exist that can help you save time and learn from what you do. We recommend reading some of the articles below to help you manage your time and stay safe online.

Further reading:

Popular social media sites and information about them

Creating your social media profile

Good information about accessibility on social media

Calendars and planning tools

Track your links with bitly

A guide to free and paid analytics tools

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