Reasons Why Your Academic Research Group Should be on Social Media

Academia and social media. In the not too distant past, this would have seemed like a bit of an oxymoron. We thought of Facebook as a place simply full of funny cat videos, Twitter as an endless scroll of one-liner jokes, and Instagram as the go-to for snooping through the holiday snaps of the people you haven't seen or spoken to for the last 5 years. It was a place for procrastination, time wasting, and unfounded opinions.


But "no more!" we say, while retweeting some academic paper on a topic we know virtually nothing about, but want to try and make a point that we are multidimensional, educated people with an interest in things beyond our own expertise... oh look, this cat can't spell cheeseburger, how funny!


Okay, so I'm not saying that social media is the perfect place for academia, of course it's used by literally billions of people (3.96 billion to be precise[1]) so it's going to have some variety, but there are plenty of benefits and advantages these days as to why it can be a great place for you and your academic research group!


1. Connection and collaboration

3.96 billion users is a lot of people which means there is plenty of opportunity to connect with others on social media. Whether this means connecting with your current group and using the many tools available to stay in contact, share your thoughts, or finding other, like-minded researchers from your field to bounce ideas off (and use to collaborate on projects).


It's so easy to quickly send a message - or share a link - and it's definitely simpler than remembering to hit "reply all" every time you send an email!


2. Sharing your research

Once upon a time you had to rely on attempts to be published by newspapers and official websites, but now it's easier than ever to get your groups research out into the world.


These days, many academics and researchers take to the likes of Twitter to publicise their work and gain some traction on their ideas.


Many people have had a lot of success after having been spotted by a few followers who liked and retweeted their posts - whose followers then liked and retweeted the post - whose followers then liked and retweeted the post (you get the jist)... eventually bigger news outlets picked up the stories and discussed them on TV and online. Anyone can go viral, anyone can have their voice heard. [2]


3. Learning and news

Similarly, social media makes it very easy for you to find other peoples' news and ideas. With so many users (and thus so many interests), it's possible to find a niche for everything, no matter how unusual your idea or research is.


You can use hashtags to quickly search for updates in your field and again, the fantastic integrated communications systems makes it super easy to then share what you've found with your colleagues.


TikTok gets a particularly strong reputation for being an unusual space, and not one you'd immediately associate with academics, but it is the best example of a platform with really specific subcultures of people who love learning about particular topics.


The hashtag #LearnOnTikTok has been used by millions of people to share fun and interesting information they want to teach the rest of the world, and is a great resource for sharing your research.



4. Getting feedback

In some ways, social media can be quite intimidating knowing that what you post is completely out there in the world, available to almost anyone who wants to see it. (Really makes you think twice about posting some of those aforementioned holiday snaps!)


It can be scary because we don't know what people will think, say, or comment, knowing full well it might be negative or we might be criticised (but if this does happen, we have a blog post listing some ways you can deal with it here).


On the flip side, it also means you can gather plenty of positive and constructive feedback! If your group posts your research online and asks questions from either fellow academics or the public, the people will come!


When I was doing my dissertation, I managed to get about 30 responses to a survey that I sent to my close network. I was a little disappointed by this low number, so shared it on social media and ended up with nearly 600 individual people answering questions for my research!


Harness the power of the platforms, and feel free to take advantage of other people scrolling through their procrastination!


These are just a few reasons for using social media, but once you get your group out there, I'm sure you will discover countless more.


A research group is all about learning, sharing, collaborating, and helping each other, so why wouldn't you utilise the biggest network of people coming together that the world has ever known?! And, at the end of the day, if nothing else quite goes to plan, you now have an easy way to send each other videos of cats making each other jump.