Written by Jessica Tir (@jessicatir), edited by Simon Bakke
Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool for networking with other researchers and connecting your work with new audiences. But while it seems lower-stakes than more formal modes of communication such as articles and public talks, it requires thoughtful use to get the most out of it.
Why should you bother putting in the effort? Actively working to improve your Twitter communication can help you find unexpected collaborators, get your research noticed, and push your work beyond the bubble of academia. Admittedly, I’m still working on building my social media presence — navigating the art of microblogging can be a challenge. I’ve been researching how to make the most out of my Twitter profile, and here are some important takeaways:
Matthew Hurteau, a professor teaching science policy at the University of New Mexico, asked his students for their perspective on how effective scientists are at using Twitter. Their opinions generated a lot of conversation and controversy in the science communication Twitter community. One concept that really stuck with me was that many thought it’s pointless to share new publications without including a one-line summary or call to action.
My suggestion: If you want your work to reach non-scientists, avoid jargon in your tweet. Consider linking to a blog post or article instead of a journal publication to make your research easier to digest for those who don’t have a background in your area. However, f you’re sharing a technical piece, you may want to use a tagline that will make researchers in your field want to click. Be mindful of how narrow you want to make your target audience.
4. Engage within and beyond your subfield
In ecology, a community of many different species that interact with each other — but not with species outside the community — is called “modular.” There may be plenty of interactions happening within this community, but very few interactions between communities.
This situation is a great metaphor for how scientific information might spread on Twitter. A communicator may generate a lot of conversation and tweet effectively, but their interactions could become modular, staying clumped within their subfield and not reaching new audiences. Instead of waiting for these interactions to come to you, actively seek them out! Follow people who study things that you don’t.
Most importantly… Twitter is a social network – so be social!
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