Hands on heart – not everyone has the time or wants to dedicate their time to pursue science communication besides their research career. That’s okay. But, even if you do not plan to communicate science to the lay audience, being present on social media can have benefits for you as a scientist. With that I am not solely talking about the “professional” platforms such as Researchgate and Linkedin. Especially twitter is being highly appreciated by many academics who use it either as an individual or as a lab account.
Networking has certainly been a challenge during the last year, but a good network can be crucial for future job opportunities. While this might not be as problematic for already established scientists, PhD students and early career researchers are still at the beginning of forming their networks and hindered by the lack of in-person networking opportunities. However, this does not indicate that networking cannot take place at all. In fact, it is quite straightforward to establish a network on Twitter. There are numerous online conferences, talks, and webinars taking place right now and speakers often include their Twitter handles. Additionally, you can take a look into relevant conference and research topic hashtags and create a tweet yourself or see which other people are using the hashtag. By taking a look at their profile you can easily identify whether you share interests.
Bio with your research interests
A lot of people include an informative “bio” (= profile description) with research interests and affiliation, often completed by a link to their website with publications and CV. To get in touch, you can follow the other person and engage with their tweets. Retweeting (= sharing tweets) can go a long way – but of course you can contact the person with a direct message, too. In order for other people to identify whether you can add value to their network you should include a bio with your research interests and have some tweets or retweets on your timeline already. Make sure to only follow people and institutions you are actually interested in and do not feel obliged to follow back just because someone else followed you. You came across an interesting paper? See if it has been shared or if one of the authors is on Twitter.
Exchange with colleagues
On Twitter there is a lot of space for discussion. Whether it is about methods, ideas, or other peoples’ experiences. There is for example a big community exchanging information and ideas about open science and statistics (e.g. #OpenScience, #RStats). Next to skill development and accessibility questions, many people share their experiences in academia and discuss problems under the #AcademicTwitter hashtag. For some fields there are Twitter accounts that automatically share freshly published papers that can help you stay up to date with your literature.
Share your research and yourself
The network you have established can also help you to increase the visibility of your work. Under normal circumstances the traditional media have the power to decide whether they want to share your research with e.g. a press release. On Twitter you can make this decision yourself. You can share fresh preprints or published papers with a concise summary, links to upcoming talks or poster sessions, a link to your CV in your bio, your last interview – there are almost no limits.
A lot of job opportunities are nowadays shared on Twitter. Another good thing to keep in mind is that Twitter activity might be a predictor of citation rate if your research is relevant in your field.
In the end, do not forget that you decide yourself if you want to be the silent follower that just wants to be up to date about recent research or if you actively want to add to the discourse.