Use Twitter well, as a researcher, and report on your success

Here are two examples I’ve come across:

1. Tweet directly

I heard a great story from a researcher who tweeted event information directly at 72 of her contacts, and then they re-tweeted her message to a potential audience of around 50,000.

Note that she used Twitter to direct-message people who could help her to promote her work. The “potential audience” of 50,000 were all the followers of the people who tweeted or re-tweeted about her work. I really like this story, as a way to impress line managers with your effective use of social media. It’s simple, it’s got numbers (line managers like those!) and it demonstrates that you go beyond just tweeting into the void at whoever is following you. It’s using your network contacts properly!

2. Monitor your twitter high-hitters & report on media attention

I also noticed that the JISC headlines which land in my inbox feature a section for “Our media coverage” and a section on “Our social media activity”. It’s a very nice example of an e-mail newsletter altogether, but the “Our social media activity” section attracted my attention, because of the way it presents tweets. They look something like this:

 

Retweeted by 94 people with a potential reach of 84.7k
‘Forget 24-hour drinking; students want 24-hour libraries’ http://bbc.in/1knWz0M (via @BBCNews) pic.twitter.com/qnXLEJvnCT

 

(from JISC’s May 2014 headlines)

I like this because these measures are easy to find in Twitter analytics, so that any researcher can see his/her tweets with the widest reach. JISC presumably tell folks this in their newsletter because there may be others who also find them interesting, and they are using Twitter as a filter & highlighter for you.

By monitoring your own high-hitting tweets in this way you will soon learn what your audience is interested in re-tweeting. Have you got the right audience? (If not, start following people who you would like to have follow you!) Can you tailor your message to attract their attention? (If indeed, attention is one of your goals on Twitter.)

You could also look out for “faves” and replies on Twitter, but I note that JISC is not doing so in this context.

Such a record of high-hitting tweets & of media attention might be something of interest to other team members, to line managers & possibly even research project funders if it’s part of your impact strategy to reach a broad audience.

Of course, I follow a lot of twitterers and only see a fraction of what they tweet so I know that the “potential reach” is just that, and the actual reach is likely to be considerably lower. Still, with a wider potential reach, you ought to have a wider actual reach, and those who have re-tweeted have considered your tweet to some degree. Although it is very easy to re-tweet without investigating, so I still wouldn’t claim too much without more context.

How do you get more context?

In the story of the researcher with her direct message tweets, these were about an event. So she will have a lot more information about the success of that event, I imagine.

The number of hits on the link(s) in your tweets could also indicate a more participative Twitter audience, but if it’s your website you’re promoting, then I’d rather look at the number of visitors to that site in total, as a success story to report to line managers (bigger numbers!). You could check how many visitors came there via Twitter, to see if your efforts on Twitter are paying off, but just those who click on the links you tweeted will be a smaller number than that figure, since people might also “MT” or “via” your tweet with their own shortcut links.

A journal article that you’re promoting will have altmetrics: if your publisher doesn’t collate these, your institutional repository might, or you can use ORCID and ImpactStory to do it yourself.

You could possibly do some kind of calculation that for x tweets in the course of a year, your ROI (return on investment) has been x visitors from twitter to your website/blog/article(s), although this is less simple, and it’s the simplicity of these examples that I like.

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