Social media

Why bother with ‘social’ media?

There are 2.307 billion active social media users in the world, so you’re almost guaranteed to come across someone who is interested in your research. But there are more social media channels than Twitter and Facebook, so establish where your audience gathers, the times they are more active and the content they are interested in.  Go where they are, rather than expect them to come to you.

Social media is simply another form of communication and it still needs to be a two way conversation – anyone would get fed up if they had a friend who talked at them all day and didn’t listen to your views!

Some facts
  • By 2017, the global audience should reach 2.55 billion
  • More than 95% of Facebook users and 60% of Twitter users log-in daily
  • Fastest growing demographic on Twitter is 55-65 years
  • On Facebook this age group has risen by 46%
  • More professionals, academics, institutions and societies are becoming actively involved with social networks
Top tips
  • Schedule posts for optimum times
  • Try to engage audience in a two-way conversation. Target influential figures in your field
  • Posts with images have double the engagement of those without
  • If you ask followers to “RT,” you’ll get a 12x higher retweet rate than if you don’t. However, if you spell out “retweet”, that figure jumps to 23x
  • Use key tools to reduce manual effort such as Crowdbooster, TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
Where to start?

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are usually the most popular choice as they are quick and easy to set up. However there are many other social platforms out there that are on the rise, such as Instagram or SnapChat.

Each social media channel has its advantages, but it can be very time-consuming to run three or more accounts at once. Twitter is usually great at conferences or during events as it provides a quick way to interact with other people involved, whilst Facebook and LinkedIn have excellent discussion groups, for example. Do some browsing to see where your community is more lively and then decide what channel to focus on.

If you already have a website or run a blog, make sure to include the link in your profile so people can instantly find out more about you. Once you have set up your profile, discover who are the leaders in your field and reach out to them by following them, commenting on their posts and reshare/retweet their posts. Befriend them!

Share content and insight on current issues, topics or debates. Set up a Google Alerts or Feedly on keywords, themes or topics that relevant to your audience, this will enable you to keep up to date with news items and blog posts, which you can then share with your followers.

Join in conversations and start discussions, but also offer an opinion, advice or post questions to encourage engagement. Listen to what people are saying, not only about the product or brand but about wider topics and themes.

Think about your community

Social media is a vital channel for communicating with your audiences and it’s an opportunity to demonstrate you’re an expert in your field. It’s not just about sharing your research, or a link to your paper. The main point is to establish yourself as an expert in your specific field. This could be very niche, and often niche areas are those that have more engagement from the community!

If you are attending a conference, find out what the official hashtag is and engage in conversations with other delegates, during and after sessions. You never know who’s at that conference, and it might be the right chance for your work to get noticed by the right people!

Also think about sharing current news, videos, pictures, podcasts, and whitepapers. Anything that is relevant and helpful to your community is likely to get positive engagement. Share lots of different types of content and use images where possible in your posts (statistically they generate double the engagement than the posts without).  If you need to resize the images use Canva.com which has lots of social media templates and it’s free!

Tools

If you are serious about social media, or if you are running a social media account on behalf of an organisation, you might want to create a ‘content calendar’ to plan your posts in advance.  But remember that spontaneity is also really important, as well as listening to conversations. You can also use key tools to reduce manual effort such as Crowdbooster, TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

Is there anything else you would like to see here? Send your suggestions to authors.hub@bmj.com