Dr. Michael Mackert on using social media to promote your work.
By Susan Kirtz, MPH
Managing Editor, Texas Health Journal
Director of Special Projects, Center for Health Communication
The University of Texas at Austin
The Texas Health Journal reached out to Dr. Michael Mackert, Associate Professor in the Moody College of Communication and Director of the Center for Health Communication at The University of Texas at Austin to learn more about how he uses social media to promote his work. You can follow Dr. Mackert @mackert and the Center for Health Communication @uthealthcomm. Read on to learn about his approach and his top 5 tips for success!
How do you use social media to promote your work, both as a faculty researcher and the Director of the Center for Health Communication (CHC)?
As a researcher, any time a new article is published I always share it on Twitter. Research shows that articles shared on social media get more citations. It's an easy way to help ensure that others see new research when it's published, and it’s a great way to learn about other work that interests you.
For the CHC, I share information about our bigger projects on both my personal social media and on the CHC Facebook and Twitter pages. This allows people who are interested in our work to stay up to date on what we're doing, and it's an important way for others who don't already know about the CHC to discover us.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of using social media?
There are a lot of benefits, certainly in terms of visibility. A tweet that I shared about one of our center projects received more than one million impressions. That's important for raising awareness of our center, but also the health issues that we're working on. That particular project is about the opioid epidemic in Texas, so getting that kind of visibility also helps serve our mission to help improve the health of Texans and people around the world.
I have also made new connections with people - researchers, professionals, and students - through social media. It's another way that our center, and personally as the CHC Director, can help bring together teams to start new research projects and programs.
It can be a challenge to be consistently active, though. I've found that it works best if I schedule some posts for the entire week in advance. Other tweets about issues or interesting news items that I want to share just happen throughout the week.
What types of posts work best?
The posts that I've found work best are about topical issues (like our center's work related to the opioid epidemic in Texas) or that feature exciting news (like an exciting speaker at our summer Health Communication Leadership Institute). I try to share things like that consistently since I know they're of broad interest, given some of my other posts can be more niche if they're related to my particular research interests.
I think it's important to let some personality come through on social media. It's easy for people to see academics and researchers as a bit dry and terrible at explaining what they do to the general public. So on social media I try not to make it just about work and research, which is why my feed sometimes includes random quotes from Parks and Recreation or excessive posts about hockey during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
What are your top 5 tips for people who want to use social media to promote their work?
- Be consistently active. No one is going to want to follow you if you take a 5-month break between tweets.
- Don't just share your own work. Share interesting ideas and the work of others, too.
- Participate in conversations and reply to people who share your work.
- Interact with organizations and institutions that are relevant to your work. It can raise the visibility of what you're doing.
- Have fun and let some of your personality and life come through.