career development / Research

Why researchers should use social media

There are a variety of factors that can make your transition from doctoral research to an academic career more likely. Publishing during your PhD and attracting research funding are traditionally seen as very effective ways of building your professional identity and reputation – which can help you stand out in the highly competitive academic job market. And researchers are increasingly using social media to promote their work and make connections, there are over 100 social media platforms that you could potentially use!

But does it work?

The evidence that it does exist is persuasive.  Moving to a World Beyond “p < 0.05”, a paper published in the American Statistician in 2019, is a good example of the influence social media can have in terms of increased circulation, duration and overall impact of a piece of academic research. It was tweeted by 1482 accounts, reached over 2.5M accounts and the article received over 150,000 views. Of course, we don’t know how much reach this research would have made without the use of Twitter but I think it’s safe to assume it wouldn’t have made the impact that it ultimately did. A researcher at the University of Galway in Ireland also suggests that you should be using Twitter if you want to increase awareness of your research; ‘if you’re a young scientist or you’re a young PhD student (and) you promote your science on social media, then you kind of accelerate your h-index’ (the h-index is a metric for measuring the influence of academic researchers).

What are the benefits of being active and visible on social media?

Increased opportunities to publicise your research publications

Twitter, one of the most influential social media platforms, has been likened to ‘microblogging’ and the UK is estimated to be the 5th most popular user in the world with over 19M regular followers. That is a huge number of potential readers of your research. Twitter also makes your research more accessible, creating opportunities for non-scientists and not just academics, post-docs and PhD students, to engage with your work.  

Build your academic reputation

Academia is a highly competitive job market and the number of PhD graduates outweighs the number of academic positions every year – developing your professional reputation as an early career researcher can help to differentiate yourself. Skilled users of social media (this is a good example ) can raise their profile, create interest in their work and significantly increase the number of citations their papers receive – all of which can make you stand out when HR academic panels are making hiring decisions   

Make connections with other researchers in your field

With over 800 million worldwide users, the professional networking platform Linked In can enable you to make valuable connections. There could be opportunities to ask questions, share expertise and discuss future collaboration. Perhaps the more informal nature of social media means that researchers can also develop more effective working relationships – and PhD students and Post Docs can have greater access to eminent academic researchers in their field. Social media can also increase awareness of sources of research funding

How will you know your use of social media is being effective? Analyse the data!

There are a number of metrics & data science companies that can measure the impact of social media in creating interest in your research. This can give you a sense of who is reading your work as soon as it is published, rather than having to wait months or even years before your work is cited

So there are lots of compelling reasons to use Research Gate, Twitter, Linked In, Instagram and You Tube, for example – whatever stage you are at in your research career. If you are a relatively inexperienced user of the variety of social media platforms it’s a good idea to develop your expertise before attempting to publicise your research. If you are a University of Warwick postgraduate there will be a number of careers skills workshops on how to use Linked In for career success advertised on My Advantage throughout the academic year.

Still not convinced? Above all, connecting with other researchers who share your passion for your particular area of expertise can only increase your sense of enjoyment and motivation. Enthusiasm is infectious and sharing your ideas and insight with other interested researchers and organisations will only heighten your excitement and curiosity – whether you are just starting your academic career or are a highly experienced researcher.


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