How to effectively use Twitter for a research project

How to effectively use Twitter for a research project

04 Oct 2021

Francesco Osimanti, Trust-IT Services Project Manager & HRB expert 

Have you just published a paper or a preprint and eager to spread the word across Twitter? How can you do this more efficiently? Most scientists and researchers agree on the importance of telling a compelling story about research. Unfortunately, Twitter is not exactly the place to be wordy or lengthy, so there is the chance that some key-aspects of your work won’t stand out as much as you’d like. Nonetheless, on Twitter, you can breakdown your scientific narrative in the format of a series of tweets or thread.


Create a story and break it down in a series of Tweets 

Let’s try to imagine you’re on a Conference stage and you are about to present your research. What would you do? You already have the pillars of your story: main title, each slide tackling a specific subject, figures, videos and key-messages to be highlighted. So why not do the same on Twitter? You can split and choose some of these pillars to start building your story, exactly the same way you would do for a presentation. Take time to compose a thread of tweets that convey your key findings in a meaningful (and logical) manner. Remember, always tell a cohesive and readable story for your audience.

The very first tweet of the thread is fundamental. This is because everything that follows will be posted as replies to this initial tweet. Therefore, you need to make it eye-catching so that it grabs the readers’ attention and whet their appetite for what is coming next!
Remember though, there’s a catch with Twitter! It doesn’t have an edit button (you can only delete your tweet and post it again), so the proofreading phase is critical before you publish anything. 


Use visuals to get your audience hooked 

We all know that tweets with photos and videos are retweeted more often than text-only tweets. They also spark much higher interaction and engagement. Therefore, when composing your thread, try to accompany each tweet with a contextualised visual item.
Same rule of thumb as before: the first tweet is supposed to pave the way for the next ones, so choose the best visual representation of your results for that first post. This will help not only illustrate your results and make them easy to digest, but also engage the reader. You could post a photo of the model you developed, your laboratories, your experimental setup and prop. Just let your creativity off the leash! A nice compromise is a gif animation. This lets you show your readers a long and sophisticated story or explanation in motion instead of boring and endless texts.


Always link your paper (DOI is a must!)

The fight against the 280-character limitation is never-ending. Make sure you save enough space for the link to your publication or preprint. Using URL shorteners can make your life easier when it comes to adding links.
To send your followers directly to your publication, you can also use the DOI – a unique alphanumeric code that works as a persistent link for an article. That is definitely the safest way, since URLs may become outdated in the future (e.g. thanks to a website revamp or for some strange URL redirection). The DOI won’t ever change.


Amplify the reach of the story and leverage your network

One thing to consider is that a whopping 2.5 million new scientific articles are published every year. It’s therefore easy to miss relevant papers in your research field. There is a simple way to tackle this. Once you’ve put the pieces of your story together, repeat it to make sure your paper achieves maximum exposure and outreach. Ask your supervisor, PhD colleagues, co-authors, and university twitter account to share your tweet thread and add a few words (preferably of appreciation, needless to say) from their perspective. This can provide a genuine frame and context.

One last thing to remember. Be careful when tweeting about controversial and sensitive topics (e.g. genetically modified food or global warming or vaccines). Although such topics may be a part of your research and you may need to tweet about them as part of your dissemination strategy, always be careful with the tone you use and your language. Try to stay clear of using aggressive comments or standpoints.
Now you should be ready. So why not get started with a thread of tweets about your next publication!


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Publication date: 04 Oct 2021