Here at the BSI we have had great success in promoting articles from our official journals, Clinical & Experimental Immunology and Immunology, through social media channels. With the advent of Altmetrics and the increasing requirement for researchers to demonstrate the impact of their work, raising the profile of your research through social media brings real benefits. Below we offer you some tips to help you get your research noticed.
Search engine optimisation
Before you start writing your article, there are several principles you can apply to try to increase your article’s search engine discoverability once published. We recommend using the extensive resources offered by our publisher, Wiley. Employing these fundamentals will increase your chances of gaining exposure through internet search results and will make your article easier to promote. We also recommend Kudos, which is a comprehensive suite of free tools designed to enrich your content for a web audience.
Choosing your platforms
Links on Facebook also contribute to Altmetric scores, and the platform allows for more expansive posts. If you don’t think it appropriate to share your academic musings with your friends and family, you can set up a Facebook ‘page’ for your work. This is distinct from your personal profile and requires your audience to subscribe for updates.
If you have a Google account, consider promoting your work on Google+. Even though audience figures are modest, don’t let this discourage you as posts on this platform give your article greater prominence in Google search results. Post format is similar to that of Facebook so a time-saving tip is to create one piece of content and duplicate it on both.
Instagram isn’t yet tracked by Altmetric, and limits you to posting from a mobile device, but with astute – and copious – use of hashtags it can gain your work a boost in visibility. There are websites that suggest hashtags to use on Instagram and they can offer up some helpful suggestions.
‘To the outsider, hashtags can seem like a peculiar quirk of social media, but they are vital in linking posts to broader themes and events.’
Setting up a profile
Adopt a ‘Goldilocks’ approach to choosing a profile name – the BSI chose ‘britsocimm’ for our channels, having deemed ‘bsi’ too ambiguous and ‘britishsocietyforimmunology’ too long. Concise and descriptive should be your aim.
In terms of profile images, it is best to use the suggested dimensions of each platform as these will display correctly when viewed on any device. For example, a search for ‘Facebook profile image size’ will return a number of infographics demonstrating which aspect ratio and dimensions are best for your headshot and banner images. Pixelated images can make a page look unprofessional, so you should at least make sure that your headshot is of a reasonable quality.
Once you have set up a profile, you now need to think about what you’re going to broadcast. Posts with visual media perform better than text-only content, and some networks allow multiple-image slideshows within individual posts, which can be particularly engaging for viewers. Microscopy is very popular (particularly with an immunology audience!) and full-colour figures are also well received. Humour is an obvious and effective way of getting excellent engagement and is gold dust on social media.
Mentioning the profiles of others in your posts can help you reach a broader audience, and colleagues are particularly likely to share your messages. You could also reference the journal’s own account if it has one, the publisher’s account, or the account of a scholarly body that has a stake in your work. There’s a strong chance they will share your posts to their own followers, growing your potential audience exponentially.
Giving clear instructions on what action you would like your readers to take, or explicitly asking for a particular type of engagement, can help turn an interested party into an active participant. For example, try including: ‘Read more:<url>’, ‘Pls RT’, ‘Thoughts?’. These calls-to-action have been shown to boost engagement.
To the outsider, hashtags can seem like a peculiar quirk of social media, but they are vital in linking posts to broader themes and events. If your paper deals with a particular subject, inserting a related hashtag can help make it more discoverable and give it a longer lifespan, e.g. #cancer, #t1d, #microbiome. Hashtags are particularly useful on ‘world days’, for example you could post a link to your cutting-edge malaria paper on World Malaria Day and link to the broader activities by including the official hashtag of #worldmalariaday.
Finally, always include a link to your article page in every one of your posts – otherwise it won’t count towards your Altmetric score.
Blogging is another excellent way of boosting your Altmetric score.
Video abstracts and introductions to articles are a brilliant way of gaining ‘face time’ with interested parties, and are increasing in popularity amongst academics. The BSI recently produced a video of our journals’ Editors-in-Chief to support a joint virtual issue and it has had more than 2,000 views. An effective, easy way to record a video for social media is to purchase a cheap lapel microphone, plug it into your phone or tablet, place it in landscape orientation on a stationary surface or fix it to a selfie stick, attach the microphone to yourself and record away. Preparation is vital with video, so make sure you take time to script and rehearse your presentation before filming, otherwise you risk getting bogged down in editing.
Wikipedia is another site that has a strong impact on Google search results and boosts Altmetric scores. If there is a Wikipedia entry that would benefit from a reference to your article, it’s a great idea to add it. Be aware though that Wikipedia is strict with tenuous references, so be judicious with your amendments. Blogging is another excellent way of boosting your Altmetric score. If you don’t have the time to maintain a regular blog of your own, guest-authoring on others’ channels is a great alternative. If you do have your own blog, you should let Altmetric know its web address as references to your work will only be logged if they are monitoring your feed.
You reap what you sow. It’s all very well broadcasting your work to the masses, but you will find that people will more readily engage with your material if you become an active participant on your chosen networks. So, if you see something you like, don’t be shy to get involved with the conversation, like it, share it, or tag a colleague in the comments.
Will Strange, BSI Journals Marketing Assistant