Communications Toolkit for Academics
A common misconception among many scientists and academics is that social media is a waste of time. They see it as a distraction, a fad for the young, or narcissistic. However, in some form or fashion, social media has become one of the most prolific ways to communicate, and, when employed correctly, can be an extremely valuable communication tool.
Social media presents an opportunity for academics to connect directly with audiences. Engaging in forms of new media, social media in particular, can allow one to gain swift access to mainstream media. Embracing the evolution of communications allows academics to keep pace with the ever-changing beat of the news cycle, share their research effectively, and tap into new audiences.
Social media, despite its pitfalls and minefields, is at the forefront of new media and presents a wealth of opportunity for academia-based communication.
Need help getting started with social media?
For professional purposes, the two top social media platforms are Twitter and LinkedIn.
With more than 500 million users, Twitter is one of the most popular social networking services and one of the most visited websites on the Internet. Twitter has become a social phenomenon, and as such it presents the potential for academics to tap into large audiences.
For example, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has more than 5 million Twitter followers. Particle physicist Brian Cox has more than 1.7 million followers. In each case, their use of Twitter has expanded their celebrity and reached audiences far beyond their fields.
Create a Twitter Account
The first step toward tapping into the Twitter audience is setting up an account. Signing up for a Twitter account is free, quick, and easy.
Start slow, there’s no pressure to dive right in to serious issues and make profound posts. Start by searching for and following people, organizations, causes, publications, and media outlets that interest you. You can always unfollow them at any point if you find their content and posts no longer interest you.
Key Tips and Twitter Lingo
- The maximum length of your username is 15 characters, but it is advisable to keep it as short as possible.
- The maximum length of a “tweet” is 140 characters. Keep in mind the 140 characters includes usernames, links, photos and videos.
- You can only direct message someone who is following you, and vice versa.
- Tweet: A tweet is a 140-character message that may contain photos, videos, and links.
- Follower: A follower is another Twitter user who has followed you to receive your tweets in their home stream.
- Retweet: A retweet is a re-posting of a tweet. Twitter's retweet feature helps you and others quickly share that tweet with all of your followers.
- Reply: A reply is a response to another user's tweet that begins with the @username of the person you're replying to. You can reply by clicking the reply button on a tweet.
- Mention: A mention is a tweet that contains another user’s @username anywhere in the body of the Tweet.
- Hashtag: A hashtag is any word or phrase immediately preceded by the # symbol. When you click on a hashtag, you'll see other tweets containing the same keyword or topic.
Who should I follow?
Once you’ve set up your account, you’ll want to start following relevant Twitter accounts. Here are a few suggestions:
- MSU accounts: @michiganstateu, @MSUNews, @msuresearch
- MSU college accounts
- Influencers in your field
- Journalists who cover your field
- Media outlets
- Science Magazine – AAAS – top 50 science stars of Twitter
LinkedIn is the largest online professional networking tool with more than 433 million members worldwide. Its purpose is to connect professionals to make them more productive and successful. As a scholar or scientist, it is important to have a LinkedIn account for journalists, colleagues, or potential grad students to connect with you.
Think of LinkedIn as an online resume or CV. It allows you to post your skills, experience, interests, background and more online. Once you’ve created your profile, you can search and connect with others based on things such as similar interests, common connections or previous employment.
LinkedIn also allows you to share interesting news articles or links that your connections will be able to see.
Sign up for LinkedIn
Other Social Media Platforms
Other social media platforms you may want to explore for personal use include:
YouTube – Video-sharing platform
Facebook - Connect with friends and family to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to you
Instagram - Share your life with friends through a series of photos
Flickr – Online photo management and sharing site
Pinterest – Online “catalog” where you can browse ideas and save them for later or post your own to share with others