By Jeremy Swan
Fellows often question the value of investing their professional time in building a social media identity. Your online presence can be used as a business card, to extend your network and facilitate later contacts, while sharing information about your research, such as articles you’re reading or publish, links to stories you like or have contributed to online. You may also choose to share information about work-related conferences you’re attending, links to useful websites, or to highlight individuals who you find interesting or want to give a “shout-out” to.
While the use of Twitter likely won’t result in more citations1, it may expand your network and create unusual opportunities. Twitter is often encouraged at conferences and meetings, as attendees “live-tweet” using conference-specific hashtags to summarize proceedings with links to the presenters’ user-accounts and websites. This “free publicity” can be harnessed, especially if you have an account or something to link to.
Fellowships are intended both to train fellows and also to help graduate students and postdocs launch their careers. While you may not think of social media training as a part of this effort, it is, and an important one. Whether you personally use social media or not, it is one of the most effective communication channels in the world today, and it’s important to at least have an understanding of how social media functions and how its use can benefit your career.
On February 25, the NICHD Communications Office hosted a webinar on the use of social media: to update staff, share important scientific advances and opportunities, and engage with the public. The webinar introduced the basics of social media, by using examples from NICHD's activity and highlighting ways in which staff can leverage the official NICHD Facebook and Twitter accounts with their personal accounts to enhance their research and careers.
Content suggestions to promote your work and get mentioned in tweets and on Facebook posts can be submitted to the Communication Office. The submission process is more informal for social media than traditional media, and can be made by directly emailing communications staff (NichdNewMedia@mail.nih.gov) or the Communications Director, Kerri Childress (Kerri.Childress@nih.gov).
The webinar also included information about creating a compelling tweet or Facebook post by customizing it for differing audiences, using hashtags, and including images when possible. Mentioning and following individuals and organizations help to build relationships, at the same time as aggregating scientific news, job leads, funding and training opportunities, and professional events.