Photo Credit: Alan O’Rourke via Compfight (Creative Commons Licence 2.0)
When I initially started using twitter three ago (tweeting as TooheyL as well as one of a group on the ADR Research Network’s twitter account), I worried it might be nothing but a procrastination technique. While this can sometimes be true, more importantly I have found that tweeting has been beneficial for my research. So, here I’d like to present my top 6 ways that Twitter can help your research:
- It makes you write: Experts such as Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardener make it clear that successful researchers have writing as a feature of your daily life, not something to be done on ‘research days’. Interestingly, what you write is not nearly as important as the fact that you are putting words on a page – the hard part is beginning. Writing two or three tweets first thing in the morning is an easy way to launch yourself into a more substantial piece straight after. If you commit yourself to just 250 words a day, that’s 5000 words a month – in many disciplines the length of a short article.
- It makes you bold: Many researchers (myself included) shirk away from stating their own opinion. They tend to bury their opinions in footnotes, qualifiers, and complicated frameworks. Twitter, because it is so short, needs to be direct, and you need to be bold. I promise that boldness will transfer into your writing, with positive results.
- It adds to the impact of your research: Hashtags are a great way to alert new audiences to your research and create a buzz around workshops, conferences, and publications. For example, I recently tweeted about my colleague’s book launch, and you can see in the statistics on who saw and engaged with that single tweet. Had I been a little more succinct (see point #4 below!) I could also have added a hyperlink to the publisher.Twitter is also a very effective means to drive traffic to your blog post. For example, 90% of the referrals to our blog come from tweets and retweets. It is very easy to set up new blog posts to be automatically tweeted.
Twitter can help you demonstrate your research impact – an increasingly essential for academics across the world. Altmetrics are an increasingly important metric that tracks impact across a range of media, and show your impact on the world beyond other academic publications.
- It makes you succinct. A tweet can only consist of 140 characters, fewer if you include a picture or hyperlink. (Pictures are a great addition to a tweet, and greatly increase the attention your tweet receives). With every 140 character message you compose, you are learning to contract your thoughts down to their essence. This is an exercise in discipline that flows through to your academic writing
- It keeps you current: Strategically following media outlets, members of parliament, NGOs, international institutions and well-connected academics mean you are at the cutting edge of news stories, current controversies, and major developments. This is especially helpful to know when to submit op-ed pieces for public outlets, such as newspapers or the Conversation.
- It’s great networking: Twitter can connect you with academics in your field all around the world. Rather than just following others, you have the chance to RT (reply) to tweets and engage in mini-discussions. This is especially useful if you are flying solo in your field at your own institution. When you do travel, it’s easier to reach out to someone with whom you’re connected on Twitter, to met up face-to-face. Introverts can use Twitter to their advantage by searching for event hashtags and keywords, and engage with conference speakers before the conference begins.
If you’re now convinced that tweeting is a great idea, there is a useful primer on how to use twitter for academic purposes on the blog of the Online Academic.