Want to be an academic influencer on social media? Here's how.

Posted in: #thinklist, Business and society, Social media

Back in April we launched the #thinklist - a list of academics working in responsible business who are at the top of their game in social media influence. The launch of the list generated some discussion, both about the method we used but also about whether social media has any real value as a means of research engagement. While some think that social media is a distraction and can even be harmful to academic careers, our #thinklisters are proof that there's value to be found in 280 characters. So we asked a few of them for some more detail on how and why they use social media, and their top tips for success.


You can use Twitter to share your research

Primarily, our #thinklisters are using Twitter (and other platforms) to share their research. Twitter offers an easy way to share papers, events and conferences with a wide audience, and might improve your citation rate. While it can be a challenge to summarise ideas into 280 characters, using videos or screenshots of key ideas can help bring the research to life.

One of our #thinklisters commented,

Social media allowed me to establish and cultivate relationships that eventually allowed me to gain access to unique datasets and other useful resources. I have also initiated a few research collaborations, got invited to attend fantastic conferences, and very simply, I got to meet so many people that were willing to share views and feedback on my research.

Ioannis Ioannou


But it’s not just about self promotion

A common criticism of Twitter is that it's all about self-promotion, but our #thinklisters are sharing a lot more than their research. Twitter is a conversational tool, and a means of sharing a broad range of thoughts and ideas. Besides their research, our #thinklisters tweet about things they find "beautiful, funny, or awe-inspiring", "issues such as spirituality and human flourishing", and often about "politics and contemporary issues". Broadening their focus and giving a more personal view helps to start conversations and build relationships, and as one of our #thinklisters said about his reasons for tweeting,

I feel that by doing so I am (or I become) a member of a community that deeply cares about particular issues - in my case social responsibility and sustainability - and is also willing and able to do something about it

Ioannis Ioannou


Try to add value

Links and images aren't included in the 280 character limit, so it's now much easier to include more information in your tweets and to add value. A tip from one #thinklister is that "if you are tweeting an article, find the best idea in it and screenshot it, or summarize it in your own words." Sharing materials using links and references offers your followers more than just an opinion or soundbite. Commenting on why he thinks he's been particularly successful in building a following of over 5,000, another of our #thinklisters suggests

I often add references about what I’m saying or links to other articles and opinion pieces. What I like about Twitter is being able to access articles and information that I wouldn’t be able to access on my own. I’d like to think that this is true for other people, as well.

Josep Lozano


Organisation or inspiration?

Often Twitter can seem overwhelming, with new tweets coming through every few seconds once you're following more than a few people. A top tip from #thinklister Cathy Clark - use the private list function.

Create private lists of key groups or stakeholders that you want to track in an organised way. I have lists of board members, alumni, colleagues, impact investors, entrepreneurs, customers…think about the stakeholders you have, then create private lists. Then you can check your list every day or two. It helps to focus your attention

Cathy Clark

You can also use public lists of particular interest or expert groups - like our #thinklist.

On the other hand, you could also view the stream of every changing ideas and comments as a source of inspiration. According to one of our #thinklisters,

I read what my feed collates as much as I share...The idea is really to share the phenomena, ideas, that inspire me (and be inspired by others' tweets)...it's a good way to take a break from work and return to it with more ideas!

Thomas Roulet


You can reach different audiences

While twitter feeds focusing on business and society research will inevitably attract followers from the same field, our #thinklisters also commented that Twitter is a good place to connect with other audiences that it might otherwise be difficult to access. In particular, Twitter can be a useful source for journalists who are looking for experts to comment on particular topics, so an active profile can lead to requests for comment and participation in media activity.

I often engage with journalists, and people in the media, that are interested in new research findings or seek input for a piece they happen to be working on and is relevant to my research

Ioannis Ioannou


Be polite

When you're limited to a few words only, it's easy to come across as curt or even rude. Our #thinklisters were united in their emphasis of the need to be extremely civil and to avoid being reactive or impolite.

Now that Twitter allows us all 280 characters, you can have a bit of nuance, make concessions, acknowledge points on the other side

Jonathan Haidt

They also point out that building up a good following takes time and effort, and consistency not just of posting but of the content of your posts - it's not just about how often you tweet, but the quality of your content.

I never tweet reactively; I tend to think about what I say and schedule my tweets to post them at the right time (that sometimes allows me to re-write and even eliminate them before posting)

Josep Lozano


Above all, have fun!

Social media doesn't have to be all about work. Our #thinklisters sometimes mix the personal and the  professional - sometimes with the same account, sometimes with separate ones - but the key is to be "genuine, sincere, as well as personal". And as one of our #thinklisters admits, Twitter can be a very useful "procrastination tool" to take your mind off work and enable you to come back refreshed and reinvigorated.

So, if you are a responsible business academic and you want to grow your social media influence - and maybe become one of our top #thinklisters, take our experts' advice and get tweeting. With conference season upon us, you might want to start by joining the conversation at #IABS, #EGOS2018, @aom_sim, @AOM_OrgNatEnv, @SEEconf, and more.

Many thanks to #thinklisters Cathy ClarkJonathan HaidtIoannis Ioannou, Josep Lozano and Thomas Roulet for their contributions to this piece.


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Posted in: #thinklist, Business and society, Social media


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