Showcasing Your University’s Research Through Social Media: Six Effective Strategies
Social media has the power to spread research and make it more accessible in ways that go beyond staid research papers. In 1995, Yoshiaki Nihei from Tohoku University in Japan published his observations of carrion crows that figured out a nifty way to have tough Japanese walnuts cracked open. The crows often place walnuts near idling cars at traffic signals for these “nutcracker” cars to unwittingly crushing the hard shells, revealing a nutty feast ! Being limited to obscure Japanese publications, this observation remained unknown to the world until David Attenborough filmed this unique behavior for a BBC series. Attenborough’s famous and familiar voice brought these crows and their behavior to the limelight! This story drives home the need for universities to step up their efforts to publicize important work by their researchers. In other words, for research to be discovered, concerted efforts are required from both universities and the researchers themselves.
By using social media, universities can have a wide reach and engage diverse audiences, nationally and internationally. This can increase a university’s visibility and credibility and allow greater collaboration opportunities with other institutions and researchers. Let’s look at some ways by which universities can develop unique and effective social media strategies for research promotion.
See also: Crafting a Patent Communication Strategy: Tips for Universities
Effective social media practices for universities to showcase their research
- Focusing on the university’s “brand”: It is important to build strong online branding to help an institute of higher learning to stand out amongst others. Branding features to focus on would be impactful and effective color palettes, fonts, and tone. Online profiles must have a clear description and suitable banner and images.
- Engaging with the target audience regularly: Interaction with followers can be encouraged through comments, likes, and shares on posts and real-time Q&A sessions. Responses to questions and comments must be done in a timely manner. Such two-way communication makes the experience more engaging.
- Harnessing multiple content formats and platforms: Multimedia content formats make research findings more appealing, accessible, and shareable. Infographics may be used to present research findings in a digestible format. Video content and podcasts may be relayed to showcase research progress and breakthroughs. Moreover, cross-promotion, or the use of multiple social media platforms is an exciting option to maximize reach.
- Collaboration: Partnering with other institutions, researchers, and organizations, as well as collaborating with academic influencers can be sought to share information and showcase research.
- Posting regularly and consistently: Consistency is key. In order to retain followers, it is important to keep posting relevant and up-to-date information on ongoing research. The “Schedule Tweets” feature may be used to ensure that tweets go out at a defined time.
- Tracking and measuring effectiveness: Finally, for these initiatives to succeed, it is critical to regularly monitor engagement rates, reach, and followers to assess the success of the social media strategy and make adjustments where needed.
Social media trends are constantly changing (e.g., TikTok is rapidly overtaking other platforms in terms of popularity and use by US teenagers, while the same demographic does not use Facebook much anymore). Social media platform use also varies by geography. Universities should promote content on platforms accordingly to be able to reach the right audience. With many of the popular social media platforms being blocked from use in China, Weibo and WeChat dominate the social media landscape for users in China. In Japan, LINE is the leading messenger app. Besides being a messaging service, LINE provides advertising opportunities in Japan and may be leveraged for research promotion by universities.
Examples of social media practices by universities to highlight their research
- The National University of Singapore (NUS) regularly posts updates on their research projects and initiatives on their various social media pages, along with visually appealing graphics and infographics. NUS has a presence on Instagram (@NUS_Singapore), Twitter (@NUSingapore), and even Snapchat (snapchat.com/add/NUSLife).
- The University of Tokyo in Japan uses their YouTube channel to share videos showcasing their research and developments, interactions with their researchers, and initiatives and events.
- Seoul National University in South Korea regularly updates their followers on research breakthroughs and activities on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay uses Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to share their academic activities and showcase their research through regular posts, including infographics and videos. This helps further the Institute’s goals of disseminating important information, as well as engaging with students and alumni. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore also has an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to regularly update their followers on ongoing research projects and academic initiatives.
- WeChat Libraries are a useful option where universities can offer their library collections and services to students, faculty, and staff. This option can benefit academic libraries outside China that may want to use WeChat to engage Chinese international students. Further, many universities, e.g., Peking University and Tsinghua University, have WeChat Official Accounts (WOAs) to produce and share content.
See also: Five Best Practices for Showcasing Your Research on Your University’s Website
Universities do not exist in a vacuum and therefore need to be proactive in building smart social media strategies unique to research promotion. A strong social media presence will lead to wider reach, engagement and interaction, and community building. Maximizing the reach of their research activities will help institutes of higher learning to build strong and fruitful academia–industry collaborations. It is also a cost-effective way to promote the university’s profile to attract more students and researchers to join them in their research projects, upcoming conferences, and professional networking opportunities.