So you’ve deposited your research paper in your institution’s online repository, now what? Just because it’s online, doesn’t automatically mean it’ll get lots of interest, you can harness the power of the social web to promote your papers and engage with your peers.
Here are a number of tips which I feel can help researchers make use of social media and related online activities to maximise the visibility of their research papers.
These are based on my personal experiences and I’ve learnt a lot through trying to make my own papers more visible:
1. Be pro-active:
For example, for the delivery of a recent paper, the co-authors agreed a plan on how to inform the members of our professional networks. We uploaded the paper to the institutional repository and included the URL on our presentation slides, which were then uploaded to Slideshare (an online resource for sharing slides) shortly before the presentation. This meant that could write blog posts with appropriate short URLs available in advance, which we could use whilst we responded to questions on social media channels such as Twitter during the presentation. The key is to find the opportunities you have to promote your work and then make sure you maximise these by being prepared.
2. Monitor what works:
Monitor where people are getting your report from to find out the best channels for promoting it. A good way to do this is through usage statistics. Look at Slideshare and YouTube views and Google Analytics (which can tell you how many visits you have had to a page and track where they are coming from). Websites like Topsy provide statistics on URL usage and Twitter hashtags (these mark your work on a subject area and mean you can monitor twitter responses and activity). Topsy can also provide comparisons with previous work and approaches taken by your peers.
3. Make it easy for readers:
Make it easy for those who are interested in your research to access your research by providing links to the papers. Remember that they’ll want to read the paper and not the metadata about the paper, so provide direct links to the paper or key parts of it. You may find that readers view your papers in mobile devices – perhaps even in bed! So consider making your paper available in a mobile-friendly format such as HTML (this is the ‘language’ that web pages are written in).
4. Don’t forget the links:
Between 50-80% of traffic to institutional repositories come from Google. A good way to ensure you come up near the top of a search is to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques, making sure key words in the content are placed effectively to increase web traffic. For papers hosted in open access repositories you will probably not be able to address ‘on-the-page SEO’ – tailoring the content or headings. Therefore it will be important to provide ‘off-the-page SEO’ – links to the repository item.
5. Encourage feedback and discussion:
Unlike repositories, social media stories are often decided by support feedback and discussion. We can exploit this feature by being involved with these discussions, use it as an opportunity to answer questions or correct mistakes and ask for feedback.
6. Develop your network:
Seek to grow your network and create new contacts. For example, conferences that you attend may have their own Twitter hashtag (which people can search by to find out information on the event). This provides you with an ideal opportunity to develop your Twitter network. You could follow other researchers who have similar interests to yourself, or tweet about the conference.
7. Understand your social media network:
Understanding who is getting to your information and how is key to successful promotion, and is the same with social media. Twitter analytics tools such as SocialBro can provide insights into your network, by showing you who your followers are.
8. Know your limits in the social media environment:
‘Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, YouTube… I haven’t got the time!’ Remember that you can’t expect to make use of every social web service which is available. Prioritise channels based on relevance and the potential to reach your key audiences. Analysing these channels will help you to prioritise.
9. Seek improvements:
Reflect on your use of social media and online services and identify improvements you can make. If things aren’t working, change it!
10. And finally my top piece of advice… participate!
If you’re not there you can’t reap the benefits!
Brian Kelly works for the Innovation Support Centre at UKOLN, based at the University of Bath.