Promoting your research paper on Twitter

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 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:

@millacarmonia on a study of tail mor­pho­logy recently pub­lished in @JEvBio. This thread talks through the res­ults, lead­ing with their most eye-catch­ing figure.

@ginnygreenway on the pos­sible drivers of repro­duct­ive inter­fer­ence. This thread uses very straight­for­ward lan­guage to explain the res­ults from their paper.

@ParrotsGroup make excel­lent use of a very eye-catch­ing fig­ure from their paper in this Tweet

@mnbrien made excel­lent use of a fig­ure in this Tweet to sum­mar­ise their work suc­cinctly and in a way that stood out from the crowd. 

@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.