Beyond the Journal: The science of communication

Scientists getting social

04 Jun 2018
In this month's column, we offer tips to make the most of social media for your professional life.

By Ruth Francis

Many scientists want to use social media to their advantage, but lack confidence about how to get the most out of what can be seen as a drain on already precious time. Don’t worry, we are here to help show you how a little effort can have impact. 

Of course, different networks have different purposes and we don't have to use them all. From a professional and public engagement perspective, Twitter may prove most useful, where people are openly discussing and sharing information. LinkedIn is growing and evolving, but is seen as somewhere to connect to your professional network for career development rather than to chat and share ideas.

If you want to make the most of social media for your professional life here are some basics:

1. Ensure your profile is clear and up to date. 

This includes a clear profile pic! On Twitter, that could be an image showing something related to your research field, but make sure it’s clear why that's relevant and say in the blurb who you are and your interests. Trying to hide who you are makes you seem distrustful. If setting up a new profile, ensure you pick a tasteful username. If you use a personal account for work purposes, you may want to review and delete any previous tweets that do not portray you in a professional manner.

On LinkedIn, a CV is fine, but an augmented CV is better. Consider the summary at the top of the page as your elevator pitch and figure out the best way to show your expertise in just 80 characters, which is how much people see before the 'see more' link when viewing your profile in the app. You have a vast 129 characters on a mobile browser and an epic 305 characters on a laptop browser!

2. Build relationships and engage. 

Social media is best when it's two way and not just used to push out information. Find relevant people to follow on Twitter and choose a handful of hashtags to watch so you can see conversations happening and engage with them. Once your network is growing, ask questions and respond to questions asked by others.

If the pace of Twitter seems overwhelming, try using a social media management tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so you can create and follow lists and hashtags in different columns, rather than seeing your whole network flash past your eyes. If you're unsure, then have a look at Asia Research News (@ResearchSEA) and how we've organised lists around our community of Twitter friends, and journalists and media.

3. Show your personality. 

If you're shy and use Twitter strictly for work, then stay focused on your areas of knowledge and expertise, but have some fun and join conversations. It's fine to stick to your niche. Tweeting from a conference is one way to do this, and will help you make connections if you use the conference hashtag. For events you can't attend, following a hashtag and responding to tweets shows your interest in ongoing conversations in your field. 

Lots of people ask the hive mind for information or advice about things they're working on or challenged by. Not only are you building connections, but you're letting people know more about you, too. 

4. A picture is worth a thousand words.

This is particularly true on Twitter, where words are limited, so use pictures and GIFs to catch the eye. Check out for ideas. People love people, so selfies are always a popular option and it is easy to upload images and video direct from phones. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts get far more engagement when an image is included -- even if it’s not a cat! 

We particularly enjoy the following accounts and hashtags, in part because of their use of images, but also tone of voice and topics. 


5. Get social with us! #AsiaResearchPics

We want to see images of researchers and research taking place in Asia. Whether you're an old pro or a newcomer, upload a picture of yourself at work or something you're working on and add #AsiaResearchPics so we can see and share it. 

Ruth Francis is a communications expert with over 17 years experience working in academia and publishing, including Springer Nature, BioMed Central, Cancer Research UK and King's College London. Follow her @roobina.