Tuesday, 11 December 2012

How can a researcher use social media?

I was asked if social media is good for researchers. Well of course! (And what else can I say as a researcher and as a social media holic?)

Source: uef.fi via Johanna on Pinterest
While I was thinking about the issue from my own point of view (I started a LinkedIn group for Finnish social media researchers last year and have got a lot of useful information from that) I found out a web page by University of Eastern Finland. They had lots of good hints on it so I wanted to translate some of the stuff for my own blog too.

Many of the tools in social media are free of charge for universities and specialists

True. But I add a warning: even if they are free now, it does not mean they remain free of charge in the future too. Keep in mind too that the services may disappear any day if they are profitable for the service provider.

With social media tools you can co-operate with people from different organizations without the mess of account bureaucracy

Yes. E.g. in Yammer you can have a secret group for your project people, invited by their emails.

You can reach useful tools that help working that your own employer do not provide

E.g. on my university laptop the only picture editing tool is Paint and I am not allowed to add e.g. GIMP that I am otherwise using - I lack the admin rights to my computer. However with help of Sumo Paint I can do some picture editing in the net without installing the software.

Get visibility for you and your research – build your web identity (expert brand)

The brand goes to two-ways - it is good for the university's reputation that it has researchers valued in social media networks while it is also good for the researchers themselves if their employer is seen as valued organization. So both are needed. The more links the university pages are get from social media the more they are valued by the search engines too.

Collaboration and networking
•Find the researcher community of your own field
•See e.g. services like LinkedIn, LeMill, Mendeley (sharing pdf’s) and ResearchGate.

Source: lemill.net via Johanna on Pinterest

ResearchGate is like LinkedIn but for researchers.
Xing is the professional network in German-speaking area. LeMill is started in Finland for sharing sharing open educational resources but it is maintained in English

In these groups you can ask ideas for good sources, tell about good conferences, get visibility to your publications and your projects. Maybe you get funding, maybe new projects or coworkers. You never know what can happen when you let the social media do its wonders!

Rich communication enabled by the tools (e.g. chats and video chat) gives you more presence in your interactions – all over the world and with help of instant messaging and Skype you can reduce the amount of emails - and phone costs.

I love the way Skype is working for groups of about 10 people. You can ask an opinion from your colleagues and the one who is online answers you. The others can go through the discussion when they are online too and add comments if needed.

In social tools it is easy to co-write, save and share documents, edit and share the pictures and use picture databases

The services I am using are GoogleDocs for co-writing and Dropbox for saving and sharing the documents. I use a lot of Flickr for finding pictures that can be used freely.

The materials and videos from conferences can be shared through social media

SlideShare and YouTube are good services for this. In our recent Mindtrek seminar I was tweeting for SOITA project and made some seminar videos to YouTube. The materials we provided were added to SlideShare and later on also to our Storify story of all SOITA presentations.  I do think that we have reached much more people with help of social media than we otherwise could have reached.

Social bookmark services researchers can not only collect useful links for themselves but share them with a group of people or in public

For links I currently use mostly Twitter and Pinterest. Pinterest is ideal for collection of links, we have e.g. one for CMAD event which our university project is co-organizing with others. I also use the new secret Pinterest board for stuff that is not public yet. I used to use Delicious and Diigo too but think they lack the social effects I get from Twitter and Pinterest.

Now - what would you add?  What possibilities did we forget?

One researcher people have praised me is Alexander Stocker. He even has a Facebook page for his blog where he tells about his research work and the conferences he has attended. After all the praise I just wish my German would be better. Another great example is Alf Rehn from Åbo Akademi in Finland. He must be busy with all of his projects but still he has time to be active on Twitter too.

Monday, 3 December 2012

How can an organization full of specialists use social media for PR work?

I was interviewed for a thesis about using social media for PR and I wanted to share my answers with  you too.

Do you think Social Media is a good platform for PR activities?
PR is defined in Wikipedia like this: Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions.

Yes of course it is a good platform for PR. There are a lot of possibilities you can do for free and you can reach the people who are interested about you easily without any middle-men (aka journalists) who choose the messages they want to deliver further – with social media the public itself makes the decisions of what is important to them and what they want to distribute further to their own networks. Social media is not making the content creation any easier than it was before because just like press the public wants good quality content too (they can be even more demanding). People can easily start following brands in social media. They can look for you or they can find you via their own networks e.g. when someone retweets your content.

Social media is also a good channel to get feedback from customers and other interest groups.

How can Social Media be used for PR?
Wikipedia says: "Common PR activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication."

So when you are e.g. speaking in a conference, you can inform about that in social media in very many ways:
  • tell in Facebook that you are going to be in the conference
  • if there is a LinkedIn (or Facebook) event about the conference, you can join it and promote it to your followers too
  • live tweet from the conference
  • stream from the conference (live-video)
  • add the video of the presentation to YouTube
  • take photos of the conferences and share them in social media
  • add the presentation material to SlideShare
  • blog about the conference
If you win industry awards you can share the information in your social media channels mentioned above and you can add the information to Wikipedia which will make your public image better.

For working with press Twitter is ideal as many journalists use it for news hunting. You can also share materials with them e.g. using Pinterest (for links) or some photo services like Flickr for photos.

With social media services you can also communicate with employees, you can e.g. have Facebook/LinkedIn groups where the open positions are informed or ask them to contribute to your blog or have internal microblog channel in Yammer.

What are the risks using Social Media for PR?
The biggest risk is forget about social media.

Another risk is in resourcing. When you start using social media you need to keep updating the channels also in the future, long breaks in content creation are much worse than no social media channels at all. Sometimes the social media channels are given to hands of people who do not understand that it is different to talk with your own friends in social media than with customers of a company and in those cases a lot of bad publicity can be got.

Organizations also need to prepare themselves for crisis: what do they do if something unexpected happens, who can answer and how fast can it be done. E.g. removing customer comments from Facebook pages or blogs is not a good idea as social media culture is open.

What are possible activities for an organization full of specialists like us using Social Media for PR?

Your key resources are your employers the specialists themselves. Try to encourage them to participate to social media with their own name and to include their employer in their profiles. Give them social media trainings and give them reasons to participate. Define how much resources they can use for social media monitoring and participating during the office hours.