Beyond the Paper: How To Use Social Media To Build Your Research Profile

By Natalie Squance

The rise of social media has transformed the world and the way we interact with each other. The world of academia is no exception. As the pursuit of greater research impact becomes more embedded in scholarly circles, social media can prove to be a powerful tool. It can be used by academics looking to enhance the impact of public engagement with research, as well as raise their own profiles. However, does having a social media presence erode academic authority? While getting published in a high-standing academic journal is an impressive and incredible accolade, to expand the academic discussion beyond research and ignite the spark of change, sharing your work using alternative methods like social media is essential. Pamela Burnard, Professor of Arts, Creativities and Educations at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, states: 

Universities are meant to exist for everyone’s benefit. It’s bizarre that their main research output is complex, esoteric writing that only a few other academics read or understand. Nobody is claiming that academic writing is pointless, but why is it the norm? If we want research to address the biggest challenges facing society, we need academics to have the confidence – in a sense the permission – to depart radically from it. We need to be braver and take more risks with what we do. 


There’s no doubt that social media offers the potential to connect with more diverse, non-academic audiences, participate in public debates, and promote a better understanding of disciplines. But how exactly can researchers bridge the divide between the academia and the outside world? And build a plan that translates academic pursuits into social media content? 

Explore alternative platforms

It’s likely that you’ve observed a prevalence of researchers and PhD students on Twitter. Many are utilising the platform to share their work, establish their relevance within their field, and expand their networks. However, there has been a gradual shift towards using alternative platforms to build research profiles.


Reddit is a social network with a forum-style discussion structure. It doesn’t just offer opportunities for researchers to talk about their work but also to disseminate it. Over the years, Reddit has built a reputation as being an effective driver of traffic to blog posts and other forms of external content. The platform consists of hundreds of thousands of communities (known as Subreddits) that are centered around almost any conceivable topic, with many relating directly to academic disciplines such as r/philosophy, r/history, and r/economics. What’s more, posts aren’t at the mercy of mystery algorithms. Instead, peers curate the content through the use of up- or downvotes. The more a post or comment is praised by the community, the higher its visibility. This ensures that the most engaging and valuable discussion points rise to the top. 


Quora is a global question-and-answer website that encourages users to write from their own expertise. Like Reddit, it is largely self-moderated in that good-quality answers get upvoted, and poor answers are downvoted. Receiving around 1.5 monthly visitors, for academics, it’s a vast untapped source for raising research impact. With Quora, you can share knowledge in a genuine way that a whitepaper never can by joining existing conversations and can offer valuable insight without coming across as overly promotional. 


The secret sauce to TikTok’s success lies in its hyper-intelligent algorithm. It serves users relevant content without the need to search it out. By sharing tidbits of research and producing content that strikes a chord with audiences, academics can gain massive popularity with younger audiences with minimal promotion. Despite initial scepticism, researchers and professors are leveraging the power of video content to get their expertise in front of a wider audience. With its low barriers to entry and vast potential for engagement, this novel platform has created an opportunity for academics to reach entirely new communities and disrupt traditional notions of what it means to share knowledge.

Explore new ways of using the platforms

Social media is often seen as a way to solely enhance research dissemination. However the possibilities of using the platforms to support the research project throughout its entire lifecycle are endless. From gathering insights, creating focus groups and feedback loops, building relationships with fellow researchers, social media can support many academic activities.

Keep it real

Authenticity and true purpose are key to creating winning content. To truly connect with your audience, it’s essential to create content that speaks to their interests and values. Gone are the days of self-promotion. Instead, aim to share information that provides value, connect people with helpful resources, and learn from what your followers find important. By taking this approach, your audience will view you as a genuine and resourceful source of information.

Embarking on successful research communications and optimising social media may seem daunting, but fear not! Our team is here to guide you towards crafting a winning strategy. Bookings for our free academic communications strategy training workshops are open. Click here for more details on how to get involved. 

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