Social Media for Research Communications#

There are billions of users of social media around the world. It is now common practice for the researcher to advertise their work on social media or other internet-based communication platforms. You can use social media to communicate with many different groups both academic or lay audiences.

Benefits of Using Social Media#

  • Quickly and easily showcases what you, your team or your institution do.

  • Builds awareness of a topic or project that you are working on.

  • Doesn’t cost anything as most accounts can be set up and run for free. Although, maintaining a social media account successfully can be time-consuming.

  • Provides an insight into the impact that you are having in terms of followers, visits and downloads.

  • Increases visits to your website and affects search rankings.

  • You can find out about what others are doing in related projects, disciplines or organisations.

  • You can build relationships, and hopefully collaborations, through these networks.

Social Media Platforms#

You could use academic-based social media sites such as ResearchGate or or more general ones such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Linkedin.

More than 20 million researchers (figure from spring 2021) have signed up to ResearchGate and it can therefore offer a great opportunity for sharing papers, connecting with colleagues through the messaging feature and can be used to advertise projects. There are similar benefits to using or Mendeley, although they are not used as much as ResearchGate.

A regular criticism of these sites is the spamming of your email with constant updates that are hard to turn off.

More general social media sites are very popular with academic audiences and a Nature survey in 2014 [VN14] highlighted that researchers mostly use X and LinkedIn for professional use rather than Facebook.

This survey also showed that X had a wider range of uses compared to the other social media platforms, such as following discussions, posting work content, discovering peers, discovering recommended papers and commenting on others research. It has become the communication channel of choice for many researchers and is opening up research discussions at a much earlier stage than previously seen.

X can be used to build up a personal academic profile, for use throughout a research project and can also be used by organisations to promote their work and message. Scientists can also be contacted directly by the public, which enables a more approachable level of communication [KC21]. However recent changes to the platform have also alienated some academics and in the longer term this may result in a more widespread move by researchers away from X to more open platforms [Hil23, Val23].

Despite this X remains popular and, given its wide ranging uses for academic purposes, the next two sub-chapters focus on how to use it effectively. Below we also offer a brief overview of the most popular general social media sites used by researchers - X, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

X (formerly Twitter)#

  • They have 393 million monthly active users as of September 2023 [Hay23].

  • It is less formal than other platforms and very popular with academic audiences.

  • Character limit is only 280 unless you pay for X Premium, but you can join tweets in threads.

  • You can tag others in your tweets or photos.

  • You can add links, photos and videos (max 2 minutes 20 seconds) in tweets. You can also add links to videos.

  • If you don’t have an image, adding a link will generate a preview image.

  • It is a conversational and chatty platform. So be chatty in tweets and use images and gifs to make your tweets more fun.


  • They have 930 million monthly active users as of February 2023 [Asl23].

  • It is a more formal and professional communication channel than X and Facebook.

  • Character limit is larger than X at 63,206.

  • You can tag others in your posts.

  • You can add links, photos (size 1200 x 628 pixels) and videos (max 10 minutes) in posts.

  • It is used as an interactive CV, for recruitment and professional networking.

  • Keeping posts brief is a good idea.

  • You can target a particular sector or industry.

  • If you have no image for your post but do have a link, it will make a preview of the link so make sure the page you are linking to is up to date and has a relevant image.


  • They have 3.03 billion monthly active users as of June 2023 [Meta23].

  • Character limit the same as LinkedIn at 63,206.

  • You can add tags to other users.

  • You can add links, photos (size 1200 x 628 pixels) and videos (up to 240 minutes and max 4GB size file) to your posts.

  • It is a community-based platform so you have to create that community and be relevant to it.

  • Businesses have to pay for their posts to be seen as Facebook prioritises friends and family in the news feed algorithm. So it’s not the best platform for professional organisations.


  • They have 2 billion monthly active users as of December 2021 [Rod21].

  • Character limit is 2,200. So larger than X but less than Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • You can add tags to other users.

  • You can only add links in your bio so not in posts. But you can feature links using Linktree.

  • Photos are square (1080 x 1080 pixels).

  • Video length between 3 and 60 seconds, max file size is 4GB. Stories are 15 seconds long.

  • It is a visual media platform so you need a bank of videos to use it effectively for professional use.