How Twitter Can Enhance Your Research
June 3, 2014 09:00 AM
Using the microblogging service can add extra value to your next research project and for expanding the communication reach of your department, division, or team. Twitter can be used for external and internal communications, crowdsourcing, metrics, and organization. Successful use of any of these areas will add value and enhance your project, opening up additional avenues for networking, data, peer discussion, and project promotion.
Twitter is great for getting alerts on upcoming talks, seminars, guest lectures, and gatherings from institutions and other like-minded teams. But what really enhances the experience is when participants tweet highlights, quotes, and other items of note. Their followers, who may not be in the same place or unable to attend, can share the experience and stay informed on any news coming from the event. This engagement factor can foster a deeper sense of camaraderie and cooperation among team members and other peers, especially students, part-time researchers, and others who are the “last to know” about such events.
Use regular tweets to provide advice on weekly tasks, readings, or problems faced by your team or organization. Keeping engaged with peers, Ph.D. students, and interns enable them to follow updates on your research and workload, possibly exposing them to newer work they may be unaware of. The service provides ongoing communication that can help reassure everyone regarding interest and engagement. With a limited character count, the exchanges are kept brief and to the point, which may make a difference to the research being produced.
As many research projects are done in a group context, sharing information found on Twitter with your colleagues with only two or three clicks is very convenient. The brief nature of the platform is great for on-the-fly thoughts and link-sharing that can be referenced more substantially at a later time.
A function that predates the digital era, crowdsourcing is built on contributions from volunteers on a given project. The advancement of the internet has accelerated the sophistication of crowdsourcing methodologies. Projects that are adept at using social media develop refined mechanisms for ensuring that today’s contributions are quality assured, within large data sets, and create interferences that interact in such a way to reduce complexity and confusion.
Twitter provides many opportunities for such crowdsourcing activities across the sciences, social sciences, history, and literature. A targeted Twitter campaign can get people to help with gathering information, making observations, undertake data analysis, transcribe and edit documents—all done often just for the love of the activity.
If used consistently, your Twitter activity can be examined monthly and used as a metric to assess how tweeting is working for you and your project. Showing growth in your followers, content readers, retweets, and other categories can be helpful for funding applications.
There’s no need to deeply analyze the data. Every month, log the results to the following:
Number of followers
Names of those who stand out as possible future collaborators
Invitations to write blog posts or speak at events
Number of hits to your website via Twitter
A simple review at the end of the month can give you an impression of how effective your interaction on Twitter is for your project.
Twitter data can be overwhelming at a first glance. Is it possible to follow 50 of the most influential people within a topic and handle all of the data coming from an already-crowded Twitter feed? Yes—through using the “list” functionality. Creating lists for your research project puts people and companies within easy reference. Each subject can be put into its own list without you needing to follow each user to see what posts originate with that topic matter. Your lists can be set to private for only your use, or public so that anyone can see and follow it. Finding a list from a thought leader in your area of expertise can become a valuable source of information.
Word of Caution
Remember the tried-and-true mantra, “Not everything on the internet is true.” Always use due diligence on the data you discover; it is wise to assume the information is false until you verify the quality of the source. If your project allows for factual ambiguity, remember to note that for your audience. When used as an additional project avenue, Twitter and its varied uses can uncover great data that will enhance your work.