Researchers spend countless hours drafting, revising, and perfecting their manuscripts before submission. Historically, the efforts end when a journal publishes the final version. However, in today’s scholarly publishing world, over 2 million articles are published each year, and savvy researchers are finding other ways to ensure that their work is noticed. Among the many possible avenues to share research, Twitter stands out as a fast and easy solution. Here are a few suggestions for using Twitter to find new readers (and potential citations):
Build a network of colleagues in your field
To have the best chance of reaching interested people, focus on building a network of researchers in your area of study. Chances are you know a couple of people on Twitter, so start by following them and telling them that you are on Twitter, too. Ask around at your next department meeting; you may be surprised who already has a Twitter account (after all, 1 in 40 scholars is active on Twitter). Colleagues with similar research interests are the most likely to give you good feedback on new work and to eventually cite you.
Engage with influencers in the scholarly publishing world
Chances are that you and your closest colleagues do not have very many Twitter followers. It can take a significant amount of time to cultivate a strong following. So if you can’t reach very many people directly, what can you do? For one, find influencers in your field. Influencers are people with strong followings (hundreds or even thousands of Twitter followers). Engage in conversations with these people, and offer links to your research if it is something that might interest them. Getting your comments or work retweeted by someone with a strong presence on Twitter can greatly increase your reach. Of course, you don’t want to just start tweeting your papers directly to an influencer; take the time to respond to their tweets and show an interest in their thoughts.
Mention organizations that have a stake in your research
Organizations such as research labs, member-based scientific societies, industry associations, nonprofits, and similar organizations are often looking for useful content on social media to keep their members and constituents engaged. Let’s say you’ve published some new research on muscular dystrophy. One search on Twitter for “muscular dystrophy” will yield various muscular dystrophy association channels, such as @MDAorg, @MDUK_News, and @ParentProjectMD. @Mentioning a channel in your tweets will put your tweet in their news feed. If decision makers feel your paper would be useful to their followers, many of whom likely either have muscular dystrophy or know someone with it, they will probably share your post with their followers. Given the character limit of tweets, choose your mentions wisely. Generally pick the channels that have the most relevance and the most followers.
Consider using hashtags for broadly promoting your work
Hashtags (#) are another good way of promoting your research more broadly via Twitter. The words you choose to associate with hashtags can make a big difference in reaching new readers. Hashtagging general terms like #research will likely yield very few views. Few people are generally looking for non-specific research. Also, the #research hashtag gets used hundreds of times daily. Therefore, tweets with that hashtag are often buried by other tweets in that feed relatively quickly. Instead, consider hashtagging more specific terms associated with your research. Using the example of muscular dystrophy research again, #musculardystrophy would reach people who are actively searching for information related to muscular dystrophy. The more specific you are with your hashtag use, the more likely you will reach readers interested in your work. Finally use no more than three hashtags per tweet to ensure it stays readable.
Choose a journal that actively shares new papers already
A number of journals are active on Twitter; Methods in Ecology and Evolution actually requires authors to provide a “tweetable” abstract of 120 characters. If your work is accepted by one of these journals, they will likely help you spread the news. Even if the journal that published your work is not on Twitter, you can share your work with other journals publishing related material. Again, you don’t want to simply spam every possible journal with tweets, but if your work is relevant to an article tweeted by a journal in your field, let them know.
Twitter is not a magic bullet, and there is no obvious correlation between Twitter mentions and subsequent citations at this time. Still, taking a few seconds to share a link could lead to hundreds of new readers, and you never know if one of them will be extremely interested in what they see.