Dr. Tara Pirie, ecologist and former social media accounts manager at University of Reading & Dr. Nicola Cook, Managing Editor at JEB and ESEB Social Media Manager.
For academics, Twitter has become the social media platform of choice for sharing results and engaging in scientific discussion and debate. Twitter feeds, or timelines, are a wealth of information that changes very quickly such that individual tweets can be easily overlooked. Whether you are completely new to Twitter or are already finding your feet, there are a few straightforward things that you can do to improve the reach of your tweets and make sure that your research gets the publicity that it deserves:
1. Identify the “Wow?” factor in your manuscript. A good tweet explains, in straightforward language, why your results are important as well as what they are. The twitter format means you have to do that in 280 characters, so stick to what really matters. You can add more detail in additional tweets by using the “+” button to create a thread. BUT, the headline tweet needs to draw the audience in so that they will want to read more.
2. Consider your audience. Be as clear and concise as possible while avoiding jargon. Tweets that are accessible to everyone will attract both specialist and generalist interest.
3. Include hashtags and twitter handles of relevant twitter accounts and users. Hashtags are searchable and allow users to find tweets related to topics they are interested in. For example, #evolution, #sexualselection, #phylogenetics, #popgen, #drosophila. Including Twitter handles links your tweet to co-authors, funders and publishers and will make it easier for them to pick up your post and amplify it. TIP: Use the “Tag People” option so that you don’t eat up your 280 characters with handles.
4. Graphics (figures, images, videos etc.) that convey information quickly will help your tweet stand out. They add depth and personality and ultimately increase engagement. An eye-catching image of your study species or an easily digestible figure are great options.
5. Include links to the article itself, especially if your paper is open access. This makes it easy for readers to access your work once you have piqued interest. You can also link to a blog article about your paper or perhaps your lab website. Any links posted in Tweets will be automatically shortened using Twitter’s t.co service. A URL of any length posted in the Tweet box will be shortened to 23 characters and your character count will reflect that. This allows you to post long URLs without using up too many characters.
6. Don’t be scared to issue the same tweet on a few different occasions and at different times of the day—this will give you exposure to individuals who missed it the first time round or those in different time zones.
7. Finally, some great examples of Tweets and threads from existing Twitter users:
@AlisonFeder on the evolution of drug resistance in HIV. A great thread which very clearly outlines the results in her recently published paper and what those results mean in practice and for future research.
@premdaguilar et al. put together an excellent Graphical Abstract to go with their paper in @JEvBio that explained the results of their paper without using a single word! This made for a stand-out Tweet from @JEvBio on the authors’ behalf.