Author- Dave Riley, Research Assistant Project Twitter
Following on from my first post on smashing the barriers that face academics when it comes to the creation of academic content online, this post explains how Project Twitter aims to transcend these obstacles. In order to overcome the two most cumbersome barriers of time and tech know-how, Project Twitter’s guiding principle is that of “maximum engagement, minimum fuss”. The core of the idea is to have staff and PGRs collectively build a digital community around the research output of Cardiff School of Law and Politics. A shared twitter account will both drive engagement with the work we do in Cardiff and foster opportunities for inter-disciplinary communication and collaboration. This post will explain how we will tweet, what we will tweet, and how we will measure the experiment’s success.
How will we tweet?
The Law Lab will provide staff and academics with their own bespoke “comment cards”, (such as that pictured below) which are easily edited in Microsoft Paint and tweeted out using shared access to the Law Lab’s twitter account. Staff and PGRs will be provided with two templates, one that includes their photograph and one which doesn’t. Photographs help drive engagement in providing a human face with which to interact, however there are a number of subjects for which a photograph may be inappropriate, and so this option will be provided.
Keep Twitter fun! Dave Riley describes a guiding principle of Law Lab's upcoming "Project Twitter" pic.twitter.com/xCcDmrvp9J
— LawLab Cardiff Uni (@LawLab_cardiff) June 8, 2017
What will we tweet and how often?
Everyone in the department has years’ worth of research that deserves to reach a new audience and to be discussed in a wider forum. To use an example of my own, my project @SouthAsia71 which has attracted over 4,000 followers, tweets research carried out over the course of my PhD. My footnotes are turned into infographics and editorial tweets are condensed and stripped back versions of analysis contained in my thesis. Another way to think about the process is that tweets can form a useful by-product of your research that need not take up too much of your time.
"Hindus [the] particular focus" of the Pak Army's campaign. US ConGen Blood continued to report murders in Dacca- pic.twitter.com/QjhNB8xxok
— Dave Riley (@SouthAsia71) March 25, 2017
— Dave Riley (@SouthAsia71) July 1, 2017
A good place to start may be to think about the most interesting aspect or conclusion of a research paper or thesis chapter that you’ve written. It is a challenge to reduce your work into an engaging, jargon-free paragraph without losing academic rigour, but one that it is achievable. Maybe there are a few points that you want to make, you can easily put together a short series of tweets on a certain topic- maybe put together a twitter moment. Don’t be put off by thoughts of your research being too niche or un-shareable- we’re creating a community and an audience interested in legal research- niche is good!
It’s not only past research that you can tweet about- you can also react to ongoing news stories and events- injecting your expertise into a wide range of topics. A great example of this technique has been Lydia Hayes, who recently reacted with disgust at the idea of characterising home care as unpaid work. Seeing the story, she quickly tweeted out her response- she gained 60 new followers, reached thousands of people and bagged an interview on a BBC radio programme. As scholars in the field, you we can carry a lot of weight when we enter a debate- Lydia demonstrated this beautifully.
— Lydia Hayes (@DrLJBHayes) May 15, 2017
The 'workers' taking up Tory offer of an unpaid year off work to care for family will be women. Reaffirming carework as unpaid labour.
— Lydia Hayes (@DrLJBHayes) May 15, 2017
There’s also a myriad of different ways you could produce engaging content. There’s certainly further scope for the production of different infographics, animations, videos- and probably a lot of stuff I haven’t imagined. We’re all about encouraging innovative thinking and trial and error is to be encouraged.
You can tweet as much or as little as you like. I’d encourage you to have a go in the first instance and produce a few tweets over the next month or so- After that do whatever suits you, put out whatever you want to, there won’t be any pressure from above- the idea is to provide an easy route to research dissemination and to boost engagement with our research. Perhaps something gets your goat in the news and you want to correct the record, perhaps you’ve found a really good piece of evidence within your research that you want to share- perhaps you want to promote a recent publication through summarising major point or questions, maybe you’ve got a free half an hour and want to do something productive? Sharing on social media needs to stay fun, and we want to keep it that way!
How are we measuring success?
A tweet can be “success” for a number of reasons. Tweets can be successful if they reach a lot of people via retweets, if they provoke a debate and interaction, or if they have a high engagement rate. Different tweets may be looking to do different things- for example, Lydia’s tweet about the Tory care agenda was designed to make the point and reach as wider audience as possible, and it was successful in doing that. Whereas another tweet about more fine grained policy could be aimed at a smaller audience whereby a smaller number of quality interactions would render the tweet a success.
This said, twitter is hit and miss and timing can be crucial- if you’re reacting to a rolling news story for example, it’s important to get your tweet out ASAP. If you’re tweeting your research it matters less- but can be “luck of the draw” in terms of who sees your tweet at a certain time- To alleviate this and give your tweets the best chance of success, we will re-share tweets for the future at different times of the day. So, for example, if a tweet is sent one morning- we’ll make sure that next week it will be repeated on a different day and time next week
Ultimately we’re looking to foster engagement with our work and promote opportunities for collaboration. The project will work as long as we’re having fun doing it- so if we’re having fun, we’ll be succeeding!