Twitter has distinguished itself among social media platforms as the place to share news and opinion. It is especially suited to promoting research and has many useful features for finding and engaging with your audiences.
According to data from Rival IQ, posts from the Higher Education sector enjoy the highest engagement rates on Twitter, particularly with video (which can be embedded in tweets) and interesting status updates – more so than mere links and images. Our section on creating multimedia resources can help you make these assets to share online. Watch the tutorial videos on this page for technical guides to using Twitter.
See our guidance on mitigating risk online, including how to deal with negativity and create positive engagement, and see below for strategies to succeed on Twitter.
Hashtags and handles: increase engagement on Twitter
The most powerful tool of Twitter is probably the #hashtag (see video below). This little invention allows the platform to gather tweets about a particular topic in a long thread, connecting all conversations about that topic in one place. If enough users are tweeting with a particular hashtag, the topic will "trend", meaning it will be listed among the most popular conversations of the moment for all to see.
Using a hashtag in your tweets increases their visibility and makes it easier for your intended audience to find your content. Many research topics now have their own #day or #week (e.g. #WorldDiabetesDay, #BiodiversityDay, #SpaceWeek) so attaching your research posts to a relevant established Twitter day and/or hashtag gives them an instant advantage. See some awareness day calendars in our "additional resources" on the overview page of this section.
You can also search for hashtags relevant to your discipline, industry or area of interest – which is a good way to find Twitter users from your field to follow and interact with. Similarly, click into the hashtags of conferences, events or posts from other academics to find Twitter users from stakeholder groups that are relevant to your research. For example, the hashtag #HorizonEU, associated with European Commission cluster information days and brokerage events, can lead you to a broad spectrum of Twitter accounts and topics connected with European-funded research and innovation. See our guidance on using social media to make the most of conferences for more tips and advice like this.
Great to see antibiotic resistance (#AMR) on the front page of @BBCNews today. But it's a shame that it's so light-touch on potential solutions - as the article says "1 in 5 people with an infection in 2020 had an antibiotic-resistant one" That's huge! 1/4https://t.co/FXX6BSntUv— Oxford Martin School (@oxmartinschool) November 17, 2021
It's good practice to follow and tag others to encourage engagement and increase the reach and visibility of your tweets (see video above). However, don't bombard strangers' personal accounts without any introduction – reach out first, either by email or a direct message (DM) on Twitter. Similarly, don't inundate people with impersonal, multi-recipient DMs asking them to share your tweets. Send polite, personalised requests via email or DM, with a brief explanation, drafted tweet content, and an image or link as appropriate.
Tip: Always check a hashtag before using it, in case it's no longer in use or attached to a conversation you weren't expecting. Write a hashtag by #SpellingEachWord with a capital letter, this way it's accessible to people using screen readers and you eliminate the risk of people see something you didn't intend, like #Powergenitalia from Powergen Italia!
Lib Guide! See even more advice from UCD Library, including 'What makes a good tweet' and 'Twitter for scientists'.
Pictures on Twitter
Images are very useful on Twitter. Their chief advantage is that, when attached to a tweet, you're allowed to tag up to ten Twitter accounts in the image – separate from the 280 characters you're allowed in each post.
Check out our guidance on how to create graphics for social media, as well as tools to condense key information into a Twitter flyer-sized infographic for promoting your findings.
When attaching an image to your tweet, Twitter gives you the option to add an image description, which can be up to 1,000 extra characters of text and makes your tweet more accessible (to visually impaired users, for examples). It appears on your post as an ‘ALT badge.’ Here's a guide from Twitter on how to write great image descriptions.
Video on Twitter
Video achieves the highest engagement per post on Twitter for the Higher Education sector. You can attach and embed a video using the same process for attaching images, and the video will play automatically (silently) once a user scrolls over it. Some people add subtitles so the content can be consumed without playing sound. Here's an example from Nature.
A standard Twitter account will only let you embed videos up to 140 seconds long. If you're producing a video that's over that length, consider also creating a shorter teaser to promote the full video on Twitter and other platforms. See our guidance on creating videos.
One difference between tweeting video and images, however, is that you cannot tag other accounts in a video.
What and when to tweet
Aside from the obvious occasions – promoting a newly published paper, attending a conference, etc. – you can increase your following and engagement on Twitter by sharing other relevant content.
News items related to your research provide an opportunity to refer to and expand on your own work, as the Oxford Martin School did in the example further up the page. Similarly, capturing interesting imaging or some other unique asset from your project can provide an opportunity to grab the attention of your intended audiences...
What a difference a mask makes @UCD_Research @UCDMedicine @ucddublin More great work from @nolankucd and his Schlieren Optical Imaging @MaterDublin with support from @Matersurgery pic.twitter.com/3ujGWLfdaT— MaterSurgery (@Matersurgery) May 8, 2020
Other people's posts provide an opportunity to join a conversation or gain new and influential followers, for instance by interacting with and promoting the research and communications of other academics.
As mentioned above, contributing to Twitter discourse about conferences and events (online and offline) using the associated hashtag is a great way to gain visibility for yourself and your work. Take these opportunities to have conversations and grow your network online, just as you would in the real world.
It's totally fine for your daily Twitter activity to consist of simply retweeting content that you think your audience will find interesting. Only "quote tweet" if you have something valuable to add. When you do, as with your own tweets, reinforce the value of your research and outputs.
Staying safe on Twitter
Visit Twitter's supports for staying safe and customising your experience on the platform, including how to unfollow, report abuse, block another user, protect your tweets, filter notifications, and more.