We’ve been looking at the theme of “saying no” recently on the piirus.ac.uk blog. Our regular correspondent Andrew Clappison took this theme as a chance to acknowledge that knowing when to say ‘no’ to social media can be incredibly valuable.
While piirus.ac.uk is a natural fan of social media, I know it can also be a big black hole. It’s far too easy to get sucked into spending hours and hours across many accounts, whilst gaining very little. In this blogpost, I encourage you to ‘wise-up’ and become more savvy about your social media use, and you can too, simply by giving yourself a realistic goal and asking yourself some pretty simple questions. Be wise and read on…
Have a goal
Before you decide which social media channel works best for you, you need to understand your goals and which social media channels will best serve these.
So of course, you need some goals! Setting goals is central to any social media strategy and is just as important for individuals, as it is organisations. Many of the most effective individuals on social media will have clear goals that shape their overall approach and keep them motivated. These goals don’t need to be complicated: something as simple as ‘I aim to build a network of researchers who share similar interests’ is enough to give your activities more purpose.
Start with asking yourself ‘What do I want to achieve?’ and ‘Which social media channel(s) will help best achieve this?’ Let’s look at how to address this second question.
Do your homework and learn to say ‘no’ to some channels
At this stage, it’s important to take a few steps backwards and to answer the following:
Which social media channels are most frequently used by your target audience?
Say ‘no’ to social media channels that don’t reach your target audience. Your target audience might not be other academics, of course. It could equally be practitioners, stakeholders contributing to your research, the media, policy makers, funding bodies – in fact the potential list is endless and shaped by your research and what you want to achieve. If you are very ambitious then you may want to target a variety of audiences, but beware of overstretching yourself.
Connecting or broadcasting: how do each of the most relevant channels meet your needs?
Some are great places to lurk and to listen to conversations, whilst others require you to be active in regularly creating content and/or engaging with other people. Some are good at showcasing your CV or research papers. Take a look at our overview of some social networking sites, for instance:‘Piirus clarifies academic social network sites landscape’
Try each channel out and don’t be afraid to withdraw from it, if it isn’t right for you. (You might be interested in Jenny Delasalle’s post for the Thesis Whisperer on how to close a blog down).
How much time will be required to manage different channels, and how much time do you have?
This is all about flexibility and compromises. For instance, if you think having a blog would best meet your social media goals but you can only spare fifteen minutes a day, then consider whether you can get your message across just as effectively by sending a few daily tweets.
You might find certain social media channels easier to use, such as those where you can sign in with an existing profile and then link up to other social media channels where you are also active, thus saving you time. (Tip: IFTTT is very helpful at joining up separate channels if you don’t find easy options embedded in your tools or channels of choice.)
We can also recommend working as a team on a shared channel or collection of channels as a very effective way of maximising your time. It works for piirus.ac.uk!
We also have more advice in our Digital Identity Health Check for Academics.
Understand the big picture
Richard van Noorden, reporting in Nature, has looked at academics’ use of the ‘big three’ social media channels: Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Of the three, Facebook is least likely to be used professionally; and, while LinkedIn is seen by many as an easily maintained ‘contact point’ for peers seeking to get in touch, Twitter is more actively used in a variety of multifunctional ways.
According to the report, Twitter is more likely to be used by researchers to discover jobs, find peers and seek out recommended papers. Following discussions, commenting on research, and posting links to their research are also common activities.
It’s useful to get the big picture, but equally important not to dismiss any channels until you understand your goals and your target audience a little more clearly. For instance, we know that Facebook and LinkedIn have lots of specialist groups, including one for PhD mums, for example. Once you do know where the people you want to connect with hang out, and how you want to interact with them, then it’s time to say ‘no’ to those channels that don’t match-up.
A little knowledge goes a long way
Once you have a little knowledge it’s much easier to identify the channel(s) that will work best for you. You don’t have to collect endless information, but it’s incredibly valuable to gain a little knowledge on how your target audience engages with social media, and what might be required of you, to achieve your goals. You don’t have to be ‘nerdy’ or evangelical about social media. In fact, we know that sometimes its wisest to say “no” to social media.
Image credit: Alison Quine (CC BY 2.0)