What Social Media can do for researchers?

By Zine Sapula

social-media[Picture source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/liako/3141182898#]


We cannot ignore the impact of social media in the research process. It has become a place where current topics are being shared and debated. An individual connects to twitter, Facebook or any LinkedIn etc. to keep up to date with things that are happening around the world and field of interest. Information available on these platforms help a researcher to get ideas of the new research project or it shapes how one thinks of a certain topic. It is evident that social media is here to transform how we seek and retrieve information. Typical example, most times print news are old news, by the time printed media reaches stores people are already informed via social media and other online platforms.


Social media can be used to increase researcher’s scholarly activity online. Research landscape is evolving, therefore researchers must get on the bandwagon and be where knowledge seekers are. Social media buzz provides researchers with an opportunity to expand ways of distributing research output. They must use social media as a complementary channel to traditional ones to disseminate and reach out to the wider audience. Although social media has its own disadvantages but researchers should start thinking about the benefits of using these tools to promote their publications and increase their online visibility.


Knowledge economy promotes and encourages research collaboration, knowledge transfer and sharing of ideas amongst researchers at home institutions, nationally and internationally. In this case, social media are used to connect and to find collaborators globally at the comfort of the researcher’s space. Also, it facilitates collaboration and communication processes between spatially separated groups and nations (Bastalich 2010)


Some researchers already have social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, google plus, LinkedIn, Academic edu, research gate or any other social media but they do not use these accounts for scholarly communication. Lack of time should not be an excuse for not promoting research work on these platforms. Time can be made, if a researcher uses Facebook or twitter or WhatsApp for his personal communication then there’s enough time to use social media for scholarly communication, and to connect and network with experts within the research field. So much has been written on how to and why you have to use social media for research purposes. Professor Waldo Krugell (2013a) of NWU School of Economics gives a very interesting overview of how social media can benefit your research.


Blogging allows a researcher to post topics of his research interests, conference experiences and it gives followers an advantage to respond or debate issues. It may be subject specific or generic about things that interest the researcher. Actually, I find blogging as another way of transferring tacit knowledge to the next person as it allows your follows to and fro conversation. Some people find it time consuming as it requires one to keep on communicating with the followers. This insight is very helpful to start going with blogging (Dunleavy, 2016) how you can use time to write a blogpost from journal article .

Alternative social media can be used such as Twitter which has 140 characters and it’s not necessary to use all characters but a link to the publication is sufficient. Twitter allows one to add links to resources, publications, news, audio visual etc. So much can be done to twitter to bring the followers up-to-date. A researcher can #hashtag the conference proceedings and link his conference paper with a #hashtag so it can be easily retrieved. If updating all the social media accounts is a nuisance you may decide to update one account and link all accounts to one or share your post from one account to other accounts. Example, if you have a blog, any published post on the blog can be shared with all other accounts.

A conference paper uploaded on slide share, research gate, LinkedIn etc. a researcher gains metrics for the likes and shares, downloads etc. The competition is very high in research, it’s either you publish or perish, nonetheless (Krugell, 2013b) in his paper “Publish or Perish – can social media save your life?” provides why researcher’s should consider using social media in their life time.

Traditional ways of publishing are no longer the only way to gain impact, social media provides alternative metrics (Almetrics) which measure the mentions on mass media, shares, clicks views, saves, and downloads etc. on social media which increases the impact. Researcher can use Impactstory to track where the researcher has been cited or mentioned, saved, downloads viewed, etc.


Bastalich, W.  2010.  Knowledge economy and research innovation.  Studies in higher education, 35(7):845-857.

Dunleavy, P.  2016.  How to write a blogpost from your journal article in eleven easy steps.  http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2016/01/25/how-to-write-a-blogpost-from-your-journal-article/  Date of access: 07 Sept 2016.

Krugell, W.F.  2013a.  Chalk dust to star dust – How social media can benefit your research.  http://www.slideshare.net/WaldoKrugell/chalk-dust-to-star-dust  Date of access: 07 Sept. 2016.

Krugell, W.F.  2013b.  Publish or Perish – can social media save your life.  http://www.slideshare.net/WaldoKrugell/publication-and-social-media-25909426 Date of access: 07 Sept. 2016.


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