Finding your community with Twitter: Case Study

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We’ve touched on the value of Twitter as a tool for promoting your research and its potential impact value in general, but today we are going to focus on a specific example of this in action. We’re going to look at our targeted efforts to promote Professor Hugh Craig’s recent PhD Scholarship and how – with just a little bit of focus – we had the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, tweeting about it.

Twitter 101

We know Twitter is an excellent tool for spreading the word; the length and breadth of your potential audience is practically limitless. So providing you know a little bit about your audience, you can enlarge it a whole lot more while you learn more about it. Expanding your audience on Twitter opens up your network and creates more room for positive exchange too, so there’s every chance you’ll learn more about your field. Wins all round.

Summing up

So while we’re on Twitter, let’s just touch again on the most effective ways to use it. If you’re following these principles you’ll be attracting new followers and will keep them engaged over time.

  • Be brief: Twitter has precise parameters that encourage brevity, so you won’t be writing a novel here anyway, but be as concise as you can. Try to focus on a specific event, publication or whatever it is you’re tweeting about – don’t try and do too much with your Tweet.
  • Link: Ensure you include links in your Tweet. Steer people to the source, whether it’s a blog post, a seminar you’re giving or a journal article you’ve just published. Twitter is a very useful tool not only for sharing information and content, but for promoting that content in a way that drives your audience to the core of it. Twitter might appear to be all surface, but it is an excellent gateway to the real content.
  • Use visuals: where relevant, images and videos will give your Tweets added appeal. According to Twitter, people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that contain images or videos.
  • Use relevant hashtags #: hashtags are a powerful and essential Twitter currency. They will allow you to expand your reach and tap into relevant conversations. Think of them as keywords that are relevant to your work. Using hashtags astutely enables you to join a wider conversation. Search for hashtags your self (more on this in a bit) and appear in the results in the searches of others.
  • Ask / reply / retweet: being an active, effective Tweeter isn’t a monologue. Ensure your respond to questions put to you (you can join any conversation by mentioning someone using their account name – @name), ask questions of others and retweet, with or without comment, Tweets that are of particular interest. Being active in these spaces will broaden your community. It’s all about engagement, really. Twitter can function as a fertile forum; a sort of digital village green, very, very effectively.

Targeted Tweets

Once you know your audience and have established a presence within a community, Twitter will work for your research profile. No doubt about it. But taking the right steps are crucial. There is a lot of activity on Twitter. It’s torrential. And your Tweets can quite easily be lost in the Tweet roar, so the only answer you get is a resounding echo. Obviously, this is not what we want. You need to Tweet with purpose. You need to Tweet in an informed way.

In order to target your audience, before anything else, you need to know:

  • what conversations they are involved in
  • who they are

A good way to answer these questions is to utilise Twitter’s search function. Like any search function, this is only as good as you make it. It is quite broad, in that it operates primarily on a keyword logic, but it has some very useful filters. Let’s get started.

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From your Twitter account find the search window toward the top right of screen. Now there are plenty of methods to search on Twitter, which will uncover all sorts of things. As I mentioned, we’re operating on a Keyword principle, so if you enter one or more keywords and search you will get hits based on matches in Tweet content. This simple strategy could yield some interesting results, but more than likely you will end up trawling through a lot of irrelevant content, especially if your keywords are broad. Let’s get a little more specific.

Find what your audience is Tweeting about

One of the best strategies for promoting your work on Twitter is to place it within a relevant and healthy discussion. How? Use the search function to find conversations that are of interest and are likely to increase engagement with your Tweets and thus, your work. #youthunemployment #homeschooling #climatechange. Try it.

The best thing about this method of searching is focus. Talk to who you really want to. Smart hashtags are excellent links that will lead those who are interested, invariably, to what they are searching for. They are excellent for short-term events like conferences, where a very specific conversation thread can be pushed, but they work well for ongoing conversations as well.

Find who your audience is

Your Twitter community will consist of those with a shared interest, right? Identify them by searching and filtering by account.

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When this “Australian Cinema” search is filtered by account we get plenty of interesting results including bloggers, publications, publishers, professional associations and writers. Try this out too, you might identify some valuable contacts who you can follow and engage with. New contacts breed more contacts.

“Speak to it, Horatio” – the network in action

When we set about Promoting Professor Hugh Craig’s PhD Scholarship we did a couple of things. First we said, very briefly, what it was and linked to the story on the UON website. We also included 4 hashtags to open the conversation, based on the specifics of the Scholarship (#Shakespeare, #LiteraryStudies, #ComputerScience and #Statistics) and directed the Tweet toward some key members of this community:

  • @dnmcinnis (Shakespeare scholar based at the University of Melbourne)
  • @ALSjournal (Australian Literary Journal)
  • @Wwm_Shakespeare (the Bard as 21st Century Tweeter)
  • @EnglishWarwick (English department at the University of Warwick)

After a little bit of searching, we concluded each of these had something to offer as a voice in a dialogue we were attempting to initiate.

The Tweet resulted in some very positive results.

DavidMcInnisTweet

David McInnis retweeted. This opened up the topic to his and our community.

Even better …

ShakespeareTweet

It was retweeted by William Shakespeare and exposed to his 106,000 odd followers. And that’s what we’re talking about here: enlarging the scope of a conversation.

With a touch of targeted Tweeting, shortly after we had gathered 10 retweets (some by people with a large number of followers), 25 likes and 31 unique visits (learn more about Twitter analytics) to the UON PhD scholarship web page – a great result for such a specific topic!

After things had wrapped up, Professor Craig duly reported some quality prospective applications.

 

 

 

Blog it yourself with UONBlogs

So you subscribe to this blog – or you’re reading this post – then you know what a blog is. At least. Great! You know what one is and in an age that has witnessed the rise and rise of social media, digital networking and content marketing, you’ve probably been told on more than one occasion you should have one. But why, right?  We’re going to start thinking about how a blog – yours or one you contribute to – can work in your favour to increase your research impact.

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First things first, though. Let’s get some context.

Blog = Web Log

A brief history of the humble Blog begins when the term was coined sometime, way back last century, in 1999. Jump to 2011 and there were over 156 million blogs out there. A rapid rise to popularity, any way you look at it. Blogs have been compared to diaries, and they have and continue to be used in this way, but what really sets the concept apart and makes it a success is the way it gives you not only a voice among the online crowd, but the potential for a massive audience.

As you know, a blog is made up of ‘posts,’ which make their way directly to your online readership (your ‘followers’) with a relative directness and immediacy that is difficult to beat. All the major blogging platforms have their quirks; their pros and cons, but what they all share is a design that enables you to communicate in a concise manner – and this, I’m sure you will all agree, is very important. One of the most common complaints directed toward social media and other online activity is that it takes up a lot of time.

So you’re blogging about your research and opening up platforms for discussion, but you’re not writing a rigorous essay or extended piece – that hard work is already taken care of in your journal article or chapter – you’re simply promoting your work in a different context to a potentially, much wider audience. With this in mind, make sure you take every opportunity to use this exposure; point readers back toward your work – if you can’t see the connection between blogging about your research and your research impact, this is it. In a nutshell. The mantra is: the more people read your work the more chance it has of being cited.

The great thing about blogs is your posts don’t have to be a burden but they have a permanency or a longer life-span than something like a tweet, which gets buried rather quickly in the torrent of Twitter activity.

Blogging about research and blogging with increased research impact in mind is all about finding and extending your community. We’re talking about quality posts, not frequent posts.

Let’s sum-up: blogging and why it works

  • It’s quick
  • It’s public
  • It’s an ideal signpost
  • It can be read, tracked, cited and contested
  • It’s ideal for presenting the core of your research – the ‘take away’ element
  • It bridges disciplines and promotes collaboration
  • It’s free and easy

UONBlogs: right at your fingertips

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UONBlogs are a series of individual WordPress blogs that are coordinated right here at UON by a couple of key movers and shakers within Research Services and IT. The initiative was launched a couple of years ago and it’s always been driven by a commitment to the idea that any group or individual, regardless of their expertise or profile, should have every chance to promote what they do. So if you’ve ever felt like you’d like to explore blogging but didn’t know where to start, this is your chance. It’s good for UON and it’s good for you.

Who can get one?

You can get one of these blogs with a minimum of fuss if you’re at UON. There’s no catch other than signing a very straightforward form and committing yourself to keeping your blogging professional and focused on your research and research-related activities.

A quick glance at the blogs currently in action reveals a healthy and varied blogging community: history, urban and regional design creativity, digital music, sustainability and more.

How do I get started?

You can get the ball rolling by a simple email to rps@newcastle.edu.au. You’ll be asked a few questions and get a basic rundown of the WordPress platform following this and you’ll be on your way. What do you want to call your blog? Who’s involved? And what are you going to do with it?

Let’s have a look now at one of the more active and effective UONBlogs to see how you might use one to promote your research.

 

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Professor Victoria Haskins’ UONBlog, “Anzac: Her Story” is a good example of how to use a blog to supplement and bolster the profile of your research. Victoria has been posting in a way that successfully extends the scope of her research and increases the breadth of her readership. And this can only be a good thing. In her words, the blog:

“is based on research that I’ve been doing on the history of Australian women’s experiences of the Great War, as part of my NSW Centenary of Anzac Commemoration History Fellowship. It’s where I will be posting stories about different individual women whose stories of life during WWI have captured my imagination. I think these stories deserve to be shared more widely.”

What makes this blog successful (the stripped back, attractive look also helps) is the way Victoria uses it to really zero in on one strand of her research interest. This results in a focus that incorporates the key strengths of this format: succinctness and relevance in a small package. The blog does everything to activate the wild-fire like growth that is typical of online networks. Followers beget followers, word spreads and there’s every chance you’re attracting more readers back to the source – your papers themselves.

Next, we’ll move on to some useful blogging tips that will help you find your feet here.

 

Blogging for research impact

  • Take advantage of the web as network: ensure you use some of the other platforms we’ve talked about on this blog. When you post a blog, promote it on Twitter or Facebook. This is where you get the chance to channel and direct traffic. So get that link out there.
  • Be clear on who you are and what you do: context is a must. While the need for this is obvious if you’re posting as part of a multi-author blog, it’s also important if you’re authoring a solo blog. Your readers may lose interest if they’re not able to easily identify you as an author and where your work is being published or archived. It really pays to include a Bio page (Victoria’s blog, which we’ve already looked at is a good example) and the URLs or handles which will guide readers to  where your work is published or accessible.
  • Try writing blogpost versions of your journal articles: take a little time to repackage your hard work in a summarised version. It’s the best advertising your journal article can get.
  • Talk to your readers: a big positive to blogging is its capacity to promote and foster healthy debate. Encourage people to comment and respond when they do. Also, do this yourself. Share, talk, and connect. Link to the work of others and contribute to a community of mutual advantage.
  • Keep it simple: don’t lose sight of what you’re attempting to achieve with your blog – promote your work. By all means, try some things and get it looking like something you’re happy with, but don’t get fixated by the design. Most blog platforms organise your posts in chronological order, which is a huge advantage because what is most recent and in many fast-moving disciplines, timely, will be what the casual reader will encounter first. You can always classify your posts into different categories, but you’d do well not to put anything in place that’s going to bury your posts in a maze of links.

 

If you were on the fence, hopefully we’ve convinced you. There’s no doubt that blogging has the potential to make a positive contribution to your research impact. And if you’re still not convinced, don’t think of blogging as a distraction to your real work. Think of it as an activity that can complement it.

Blog away!