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Three questions to ask yourself if you’re an academic starting on social media

Three questions to ask yourself if you’re an academic starting on social media

Are you an academic that wants to get started with using social media for work purposes but is struggling to know where to begin? You’ve come to the right place!

For many academics, the idea of establishing some sort of presence on social media is shifting from an optional extra to something resembling a requirement. And, while these digital technologies offer many exciting opportunities for broadening your reach, having great conversations and making useful connections across the globe, they can also be a daunting prospect – where should you start? What strategy should you take?

Luckily, we can help. We’ve picked out three key questions to help you form the basis of your own social media strategy, which you can explore below.

1.Why do you want to use social media?

This is probably a somewhat obvious question, but it’s also arguably the most important one you can ask yourself.

Using social media for work is a different world to using Facebook to stay up to date with family and friends. If you don’t have an idea of what you want to get out of it, you can easily find yourself going off-piste and probably losing interest. Therefore, it’s worth giving this some serious thought before you get stuck in.

There are many reasons why you might want to use social media;

  • Perhaps you want to widen your network by building your contacts list and engaging in conversations with your peers across the globe.
  • Or maybe you want to get under the skin of your work with a blog or podcast to help more people access and understand your work – and maybe even increase how often you are cited.
  • Perhaps you want to contribute to discussions about your area of expertise and establish yourself as a thought leader in that field.
  • You could want to source and share links to great content that your peers and students will find useful.
  • You might not even want to actually say anything yourself, but instead, want to use social media to source things to read and observe.
  • Or, you might want to do something completely different!

Whatever your reason(s) why you want to go in on social media, make sure you know where you’re heading – it will make things so much easier in the long run.

2. What sort of social media user are you?

Just as your reasons for using social media will be different from person to person, how you actually go about using social media will vary too.

We’ve identified four common types of social media user – which one are you?

The lurker: this type of person actually accounts for upwards of 80% of Internet users. You’re not interested in posting yourself, instead, you’re using social media to read, watch, learn and consume. You’re on the hunt for content rather than looking to create it. You’ll like things without actually ‘liking’ them, if you catch our drift. Despite the creepy name, there’s nothing weird about being this type of user.

The sharer: lurking is all well and good, but you’re far too generous to keep all that great content to yourself – you’re a sharer. You want to be the person your followers look to for links to excellent articles, videos, podcasts and more, the person who, just by adding your seal of approval in the form of a share will be enough for people to check it out themselves. But, you’re not really interested in creation – for you, it’s all about curation.

The networker: you’re really interested in the ‘social’ part of social media, so networking is the time of the game for you. Just like networking offline, you want to meet interesting and useful people, and add them to your contacts book. This might mean connecting with colleagues from your institution or finding other scholars in your field from around the world – including potential partners for future collaborations. And, of course, being a networker isn’t just about building your contacts – you’re there to have great conversations too, and it’s the same on social media. You’ll leave comments, reply to questions and find interesting and interested people to talk to.

The creator: not quite as God-like as the name suggests, but still pretty impressive – creators account for the smallest proportion of social media users, but they usually end up with the biggest influence. While you probably also do plenty of networking and sharing, you’re also adding plenty of your own quality content into the mix. That might mean writing blog posts, making podcasts and videos, sharing images and infographics…essentially, you’re putting yourself out there with lots of original content.

It’s worth remembering that these types of social media user won’t necessarily match your offline character; as extroverted as you would expect a Creator to be, I can say from personal experience that introverts can fall into this category too!

3.What about evaluation?

With so much emphasis on impact in the REF scoring, understanding how to evaluate your social media efforts is really, really important. The good news is that most social networks offer you insights at no cost and, after a couple of plays, they’re fairly easy to understand.

On top of that, if you master evaluating your own efforts you can get into the habit of doing it on a regular basis – which could save you a panicked call to your communications/marketing teams in the run up to the next REF submission.

The problem with social media insights is that there are a lot to pick from. You will be best served concentrating on the metrics that have the most relevance to social media goals – the ‘why’ from our first question. These goals might look a little like this…

Awareness: if you’re after awareness then you need to look at metrics like the amount of followers you have and the impressions/reach for your posts. These metrics are arguably the least useful, as all they really do is give you an idea of what your potential audience might be rather than what they are interested in, as well as the fact that awareness is generally pretty tough to measure. However, they are still figures that are worth being aware of and can help provide some context when measured alongside other metrics.

Social Engagement: if you want your content to generate engagement then the metrics for you to focus on are likes, comments, shares and your engagement rate – which is usually calculated by dividing the total number of likes, comments and shares with how many people your content reached of how many impressions it generated. These metrics can help you understand what sort of content your audience really reacts to and give you an idea of whether or not your audience is actually taking notice of what you post. You can often get far better results from a smaller audience that has a high engagement rate than by simply having thousands of followers.

Taking Action: getting a few likes on social media is all well and good, but chances are you probably want people to go further than that. If that’s the case, you’ll be interested in metrics such as downloads, link clicks and newsletter/event sign ups. You could also reasonably include shares in this mix because they imply something deeper than just a like – they show that you’ve posted something that someone else has deemed worthy of sharing with their own network. These metrics are the ones really worth paying attention to, as they reflect actions that are going to give your content the most impact.

Want more advice on getting started with crafting your own social media strategy? Fill in the form below to watch the recording from our webinar or take a look at our practical training sessions that will help you make the most of social and digital technologies to better promote your work, widen your networks and – with REF in mind – measure impact.