I’m on the train returning from Qualitative Health Research 2012 (#QHR2012). I’m feeling inspired watching the beautiful Fall colours of rural Quebec pass by my window. Perfect time to write.
Many moons ago I started a series of blog posts on a concept I termed Academic PR. My first post in this series was me waxing poetic about my observation that academic programs don’t teach students how to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities, especially using the web and new media. My second post in this series was about the academic social networking website academia.edu (a site that I think has been largely subsumed by LinkedIn, but I’ll write about that another day).
This post has taken me months to write. My excuse has to do with my previous conception of what I am calling academic PR, a set of strategies for academic professionals seeking to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities. I was stuck believing that academic PR has to be an individual endeavour. Yet I realized successful professionals in every field need to engage in an ongoing dialogue with others – whether that dialogue is an argument, an agreement, or, more likely, a little of both. Rather than finding ways to output your ideas to the world, successful professionals in many contexts must listen as much, if not more, than they speak. And it’s this dialogic nature of networking that makes Twitter an essential tool for academic PR.
So with those reflections in mind, I give you the five key concepts that researchers ought to know about Twitter.
Five key concepts for academic PR using Twitter:
1. I know many academics who are apprehensive about joining social networking websites. Unlike sites like Facebook and Academia.edu, Twitter content is largely public. You don’t need to create a Twitter account to know what’s happening on Twitter.
2. Twitter is searchable. Twitter stores information in a database each time a user posts content. Keywords and proper names can be used as Twitter search terms any time by any user.
3. Twitter users use hashtags (keywords followed by #) to create communities and streamline searching. For academics, the most apparent use of hashtags is to follow conversations at academic conferences (e.g., this week’s conference hashtag was #QHR2012). Learning about relevant hashtags can be a powerful way for users to plug themselves into relevant community dialogs (e.g., #cdnpse is a hashtag used for academics interested in discussing Canadian post-secondary education.)
4. Twitter data often contains hyperlinks to blogs, news stories, academic articles, or online photos and videos. Further, Twitter users often link one another’s usernames to create connections and conversations between users.
5. Twitter is a venue for enhancing the discoverability of you work or the work of others in a community that is meaningful to you. You can link your work, join meaningful conversations, and meet other users who are interested in the same things you are.
Please feel free to leave feedback, comments or concerns.