Five tips for academics to get the most out of social media

social media, snapchat, facebook, twitter, academia, pixabay

We’ve come a long way since the days of Friendster and Bebo, and social media has become more than just a way to catch up with friend. Social media is not only a way to keep abreast of the latest news in the world, but also a way to engage with an audience you may not have known you had.

Whether you’re a PhD toiling away at research, or a professor wondering how to best engage your first years, social media has made it so much easier to reach a wider audience and to fully engross the one you already had. Here we run through some simple tips to use widely accessible tools to help you out. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, why not check out our previous article on social media tools.

Before I get on to how to best use your own content, it’s worth noting that using pre-existing material can help build your profile and ensure there’s a steady flow of content. Of course, you should never plagiarise someone else’s work, but sharing links to interesting articles or blogs can help in keeping your audience engaged.

Not to get bogged down in overly technical jargon, and without going too in-depth, but a lot of modern social media platforms value consistency over almost everything else. A good example of this is YouTube, whose algorithm typically favours channels who post videos on a regular, reliable basis, which results in those channels showing up as suggested videos more often than their ‘less reliable’ colleagues.

You should set yourself a goal of posting regularly. A good place to start is once a week, maybe a fortnight if you’re caught for time. Ultimately, or ideally, you should be aiming to post once every other day (or, if you’re particularly ambitious, several times per day!).

Of course, producing that amount of regular, totally original content may distract from your “bread & butter” work, so sharing useful, relevant articles can be useful to keep the algorithms on your side.

This should be the foundation on which you build your online platform. While you may recoil at the word, blogging is really just a synonym for online publishing, typically specifically referring to self-published pieces.

Language is key when blogging, as you want to make the terms & words used as accessible as possible. Some people say you should presume that five year-old children are your audience, but I think that’s a bit reductive of a saying – you can respect your audience while still simplifying your content.

It’s important to be consistent with the style of writing you use. If your blog is usually very serious and technical, suddenly becoming conversational and humorous may be a bit jarring for the reader.

Variety may be the spice of life, but sudden changes do nobody any good. It’s also advisable to try to avoid using overly technical language, also known as jargon. While you might know what reversing the polarity of the neutron flow means, your readers mightn’t.

At the same time, you don’t have to ‘dumb it down’ too much. Simplicity, accessibility and regularity are keys to success when blogging.

Twitter, quite like pop icon Madonna, seems to be changing itself in new, wild ways every other week, most recently allowing some users to double the character count of their tweets to 280. Images are crucial to succeeding on the platform, as they break up the monotony that scrolling through blocks of text can bring. Even if you’re tweeting a link to an article or something you’ve done, using a photo offers you the ability to tag people without taking from your precious character count.

On Twitter, almost more so than other platforms, it’s crucial to act appropriately. And while that has other meanings, I use the term “act appropriately” here to mean choosing who you tag in Tweets, what hashtags you use and what images you use; everything has to be relevant to what you’re sharing.

The goal of tagging people in photos, or using hashtags, is to attract people who may be interested in you, not something unrelated you think might titillate or excite the general public. Be true to yourself, be true to your content, and the retweets will follow.

Almost everyone has a Facebook account – my 83 year-old grandmother has a Facebook account – which makes it an ideal platform to build and maintain a vast & varied audience.

Above I referred to YouTube, and their content algorithm: Facebook are trying to overtake YouTube as the primary video hosting platform, and tend to give priority over what shows up in people’s timeline to videos. Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and become the next Alfred Hitchcock, but adding a video (even a GIF, or animated picture) to your posts should help you access more and more people than otherwise.

As Shakespeare himself said, brevity is the soul of wit, so it’s best to keep your video under a minute – any longer and people may give it a skip!

If you’re a bit unsure about how to produce your own vids, don’t worry: plenty of pre-installed computer programs like iMovie and even Windows Movie Maker are more than capable of easily producing something quick & professional looking.

If you want to try something else, you can try using EditShare’s Lightworks program (which is free), or something like Final Cut Pro (which isn’t).

If video isn’t for you (which is fair enough), putting a picture with your text post is better than text alone.

Video killed the radio star, but podcasting brought them back. Millions of people listen to podcasts daily, whether it’s on your morning commute or while working, the world is podcast mad.

Microphones are surprisingly cheap these days, and you can get a half-decent USB microphone for less than €20. If you’re working/studying at a University, it may be worthwhile giving a call to your campus radio station or audio visual department, as their equipment will likely be of higher quality (and possibly free). If you’re worried about editing your podcasts, Audacity is a free audio editing software that works on pretty much every computer going.

SoundCloud is traditionally the first port-of-call for podcasts, as the hosting site allows for relatively easy access to iTunes and other popular podcast services. Mixcloud is a decent alternative if SoundCloud doesn’t suit (as is hosting the audio on your own site, but that’s a bit more complicated).

Anchor is a relatively new platform that allows you to use your smartphone to record audio, mix in songs from Spotify as well as adding background songs and sound effects. The learning curve on Anchor might be a little steeper than you’d expect, but for the level of versatility it offers, it’s worth giving it a go.

Five Social Media Tools Academics Should Consider Using To Boost Their Profile

In a world where “fake news” and “alternatives facts” are being distributed and consumed on social media, the considered opinion of experts is being drowned out.

Traditional media outlets have also struggled to compete with those supplying an instantaneous reaction to events as they unfold. Those who garner the greatest reaction, no matter how ill-conceived or poorly considered their argument might be, will benefit from the algorithm used by Facebook.

In February of this year for example, Facebook took the decision to prioritise “reactions” over “likes” when ranking your newsfeed. In turn, even if users were appalled by what you had seen or read, Facebook’s algorithm only documents a reaction, taking it to that you want to see more posts of that nature in the future.

This has created a scenario whereby Facebook users only see certain types of content. This has obvious dangers, particularly for the 61% of Millennials who, according to the Pew Research Centre, use the social network as their main news source.

Although most traditional media outlets now have a firm focus on creating Facebook-friendly content, they find themselves in a race to produce articles that will draw a reaction rather than inform.

This leaves academics who might want to use social media to publicise their blogs, offer an opinion or advertise a publication fighting against a rising tide.

However, despite the bleak picture being painted above, there are a number of easy to use tools that enable users to make a greater impact on social media.

[heading size=”1″ color=”#fff000″]1. Buffer[/heading]

Although Hootsuite maybe a better-known platform for scheduling tweets, Buffer is cleaner and far easier to use.

Buffer’s simple interface makes it difficult for users to go wrong when scheduling social media posts, making it a far more beneficial tool if you’re only managing a small number of personal accounts.

The simple analytics suite enables users to see what posts are performing well and re-post such content with a click of a button.

Despite not offering the same level of detail as Hootsuite, Buffer comes with a series of extensions and features that add to its usefulness.

[heading size=”1″ color=”#fff000″]2. Pablo[/heading]

One such extension is Pablo, which brings the simplicity of Buffer to the world of graphic design, allowing academics to very quickly create images so as to promote conferences and events without having to spend time getting reacquainted with Photoshop.

Pablo allows users to very quickly overlay text onto images. All you have to do type text into a box, upload or select an image from the available gallery and you’re ready to post. Although you can spend a little more time playing around with additional details or inserting filters, it’s very easy to create an image that will garner a reaction from followers.

While other such apps exist, Pablo’s big advantage is its ability to integrate with Buffer’s smart scheduling.

[heading size=”1″ color=”#fff000″]3. Kudos[/heading]

A free tool for researchers, Kudos aims to help authors increase their readership by maximising the visibility and impact of their published articles.

Once the required data is uploaded, Kudos shares content across its various distribution or discovery channels, making your work available to a wider audience.

Like with all social media tools, Kudos uses an analytics suite, Altmetric, to track, monitor and detail the impact of your work.

By maximising an author’s readership and citations, Kudos also helps publishers identify high-interest content.

[heading size=”1″ color=”#fff000″]4. Slack[/heading]

If Outlook exists on one side of the spectrum and WhatsApp is on the other, then Slack sits somewhere in the middle.

The application was originally developed as an internal communication tool by Tiny Speck during the development of a video game titled “Glitch”.

However, after the video game was pulled in December 2012, Tiny Speck launched Slack in August 2013, before the company was renamed Slack Technologies in August 2014.

In Slack, teams, departments or groups create channels in which to hold conversations, making it a brilliant collaborative tool.

Consequently, it reduces the time spent formally responding to emails and helps cut back on needless correspondence that can clutter your inbox.

While Slack may not completely replace email in your project team, it supports video and audio calls and includes an easy to use planner, reducing further your reliance on Outlook.

[heading size=”1″ color=”#fff000″]5. Canva[/heading]

Arguably the most user-friendly way of creating gorgeous images, Canva allows those who are not graphically inclined to look like photoshop veterans.

Although Canva might seem a little restrictive to some, its drop and drag functionality takes much of the stress out of editing what might otherwise be a complicated design process.

Users simply select a graphic style and size, be it an image for use on social media, a blog post, or an A4 poster advertising an event etc. upload an image or use one from their massive library, add some features and text and hey presto you have a sophisticated design completed in minutes.

For further information or a tip or two, don’t be afraid to contact UCC Academy’s Digital Marketing Executive, Alan Drumm, on 021 490 5723 or email him at alan.drumm@ucc.ie