Social media and research

Social media and research

Disseminate research on social media?

A useful primer on social media and social research is available on the UK Government’s website – offering an excellent overview of the topic, suggestion about the types of data that can be gathered and methodological guidance.

Below are some of my own, brief, personal suggestions about the myriad of ways you can use social media in your practice. 

Gathering quantitative data

You can simply share Bristol Online questionnaires on social media to broaden your sample. You can also supplement this with Twitter polls, which you can have as a ‘pinned tweet’ on Twitter so it is always at the top of your profile.


Qualitative data

Whilst Facebook and Linkedin likes and shares, Instagram likes and Twitter retweets can provide useful engagement metrics, richer data can be gleaned via ‘sentiment analyses’ or listening in on conversations about a specific topic in real time. ‘Social listening’ tools can offer meaningful insights into what people are saying. Though Twitter Analytics allows you to discover some robust demographics, the following tools go much deeper:


Hootsuite: is free for a basic plan, which provides analytics on all the major social platforms. It also lets you schedule or bulk upload tweets.

Audiense (correct spelling!): Audiense is quite expensive but you can schedule a free trial to coincide with your campaign.
Sproutsocial: Again, a free version is available. Sproutsocial aggregates robust comparative data from your ‘team members’ across multiple platforms. It also offers diverse ‘social listening’ tools, to track, tag and organise sentiments, mentions and topics.

Also look at Buzzsumo.


Analysing data

Comparing social media with other data can help explore correlations. Emerging social measurement tools can enable researchers interrogate patterns between or across platforms and groups. As much of the data is automated, tagged and collated, the process of analysing trends and themes becomes much easier.



  • Use Linkedin to locate potential collaborators or authorities in your chosen field. If you can’t find them, you can use Linkedin to get introduced to them. For example, if you were researching nutrition, entering ‘nutrition’ in the search box would connect you with some of the leading researchers and other relevant professionals. One month’s free trial as a ‘Jobseeker’ would give you access to any of your targets.


  • You can start a Linkedin and Facebook group to attract and interact with like-minded people. If your research is largely confidential, you can make your groups private. Even if you don’t want to start a group, Linkedin can help you search for relevant groups. For example, the Research, Methodology and Statistics in the Social Sciences group is highly active, with 120,000 members.


  • You can target likely champions of your work or potential collaborators through Manageflitter. The freemium version is largely associated with Twitter but also works across other platforms.

Leading the conversation

Use to pump out a regular supply of tweets that are relevant to your research area. works by using RSS feeds from trusted sources.



Provide updates on your research on Twitter. Post images of you and your colleagues attending a conference or event on Instagram. If you use the Hashme app to select trending hashtags related to your chosen area, your well-taken photo is more likely to attract attention. Adding a contact button on your Instagram profile adds a little more visibility.


Sharing published work        

Set up a Facebook group to help you hype the development and publication of your work. For a very small fee, Facebook ads can enable you to target very specific audiences by age, location and lifestyle.


How do I know who is talking about my research? can provide concrete metrics to help with grant applications. You can track all mentions of your work on mainstream publications, blogs, online citations and social media platforms.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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