This post by SAGE’s Camille Gamboa first appeared at SAGE Connection under the title, “6 Reasons why researchers (of any age) should get active on twitter now.”
These comments represent my personal perspective as a PR professional, a graduate student, and a researcher.
While as a member of our PR team, I managed SAGE’s Twitter account for a time, I have to admit that it was only very recently that I began to dabble in building my own personal Twitter profile. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the medium as an excellent channel for communication, but the thought of creating and publicizing my own clever comments throughout the day in 140 characters or less seemed daunting. It wasn’t until I was at a PR conference confronted by the prospect of winning a Starbucks gift card through a Twitter competition that my competitive spirits got the best of me and I decided to give it a try. So I dusted off the Twitter app on my phone (which had previously been used only to monitor the news from WSJ or the witty tweets of Jimmy Fallon every six months or so) and began tweeting “only for the day,” I thought to myself.
One week, 20 followers, and one Starbucks gift card later, I’m hooked (check out @CamilleGamboa to see what I mean #shamelessplug). Here’s why you should be too:
1. Access: A few weeks ago, I attended a conference at which Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) came and declared a passionate dedication to the brain and behavioral sciences. I tweeted out my appreciation from the @SocialScienceSpace Twitter account and was delighted to see that it was retweeted by Chaka’s own team.
How else would I be able to publicly and instantaneously express gratitude to policymakers who champion the social and behavioral sciences?
You might be surprised to find out that your own scholarly celebrities are on Twitter and interacting with people just like you. They won’t have as many followers as the Mileys and Justins of the world, so they will appreciate the Twitter attention and are more likely to respond.
2. To join provocative, important conversations in real time: You may not know this, but some awesome scholarly conversations are taking place every day 140-characters-at-a-time between academic tweeters. For example, last month, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (OBSSR), and SAGE held a Twitter chat to discuss how systems science can be used in public health. Questions proposed to anyone with a Twitter account were answered in real time and made public instantly.
Additionally, if you are not on Twitter at conferences, you might be surprised to see the conversations that your colleagues are thumbing all around you (check out some tips for live tweeting an academic event here).
Twitter is even changing the way that many do research – it can be a useful source of new research ideas or tips and a place to make connections for future collaboration (see a social media citation guide here).
3. Because you might be better at it than your students: When it comes to personal Twitter profiles, I used to think that that world was made for and dominated by public figures and those from an even younger generation who may be more adept at creating pithy messages and hashtags. While I will be the first to admit that my intern is better than me at many things, I found that my experience as a professional and a researcher has given me a lot to say on the Twitter feeds. While your tweets might look differently than those of your students, you have answers, experience, connections, and research that tweeters everywhere are looking for and it may be easier for you to find inspiration for a tweet than it would for them.
4. For the good of the Twitterverse: Though they may dominate the trending Twitter topics, you have something to offer the social media world that the reality-TV elite do not. You can contribute a thoughtful, informed, and even helpful voice of reason to those who are misinformed and in the process of learning. If you care about a certain cause and want to involve yourself in its debate, there is no more current medium through which to do it than Twitter.
Additionally, as I mentioned before, policy makers and global drivers of change are on Twitter. It can become a useful tool for making a difference and for opining your thoughts, wants, and needs to government leaders (e.g. “Yes @SenatorJDoe, federal-funded psychological research does save lives”).
5. Because it’s here to stay: Whether you want to accept it or not, Twitter is growing fast. According to the numbers that Twitter provided in its IPO filing, there were 151 million active tweeters in June of 2012 and 218 million in June of 2013 – that’s 44% growth in one year. Furthermore, twitter is becoming more and more popular among younger generations – your students of tomorrow.
6. (And of course) It will help you publicize your research: Twitter can become a great outlet for publicizing your new research and essentially another outlet for getting citations. It can even help you with SEO of your scholarly content. In fact, tweets are the 8th most important factor in SEO ranking (meaning the more tweets your research gets, the higher up it will be in research searches). Of course, research that is optimized for Google searches will be more discoverable, which will help both you and other researchers in your discipline to make valuable research connections.
Don’t knock it till you try it
Just a little over a week ago, the thought of building my personal Twitter profile was intimidating, not useful for professional or scholarly endeavors, and overall not the best use of my time. Now, after giving it a try, I get Twitter. It is more than just a trendy social media tool and an outlet for discussing lighthearted topics. I now see it as a powerful communicative instrument that while fun to use and can lead to some very meaningful connections.
I am by no means an expert at building a personal Twitter profile, but I am thoroughly enjoying the trial and error involved in getting it started and the benefits it has provided already. My tweets are mostly about public relations, social media, higher education, the social sciences, and communicating research. Feel free to join me on my journey.