Using altmetrics and social media for research and networking

December 2, 2014 Anne T. Stone

Today it’s easy to connect with people around the world and participate in communities of interest. For researchers, there are also many ways to measure the influence of their research. Altmetrics provide a useful tool to identify who is sharing research in your area with his/her own broader communities. The Altmetric score can be considered a measure of the popularity and interest in your research area around the world. And beyond that, it is a way to build your professional network and expand the reach of your research.

There are many ways to use social media with the Altmetric score to grow your network and connect with others who share an interest in your research area. Here are practical ways to use Altmetric scores which appear on every article published by Wiley.

By looking at the Altmetric score of your own research articles, you may discover that you have audiences that surprise you. You may also find friends and colleagues who are getting the word out about your research. Then, as you review Altmetric results for research in your field, you will find others interested in your research area and discover what they think is important enough to share with others. You will also discover news outlets and blogs that are actively following your research area which may provide a quick filter on the media worth further investigation.

altmetric score

Connect with your audience

When you see the Altmetric score for an article, click on it and you’ll find the really interesting information clearly laid out. Use the Altmetrics report to understand more about the article’s community of interest. If people are sharing research on Twitter, Facebook and Google, start there.

It’s simple to dive in to see exactly what people are saying about the research article online. Learn more about them by checking out their profiles and connect with them. When you find people are sharing your research thank them for their interest, especially when they have a large number of social media followers. Look for the people adding their own insights too – they are engaged and will likely welcome a conversation with you.

You can choose the media you wish to use to reach out to people you want to connect with. You may not have a Twitter account to simply reply to a tweet with a tweet. That’s OK. If the person is in a similar professional field, you may want to use LinkedIn to send a message. For people who want to keep a more private profile, it’s still possible to connect and keep messages limited to email.

When a post appears in an organization’s social channel, like the American College of Chest Physician’s post below, you may simply want to say thank you. You may raise your profile by adding a helpful comment that may benefit others who follow the organization. Professional organizations value contributions from their members.

altmetric results

Altmetric score

Spend your time well

As you may already know from personal experience, it’s easy to fall down the social media rabbit hole and find yourself in a world where time doesn’t seem to exist. Many people avoid using social media because they don’t want to waste time. Managing the time you spend on social media does require focus. If you have been avoiding it altogether, glancing at a few Altmetrics reports doesn’t take much time and you don’t have to be on any social media network to benefit from them.

I recommend blocking time for “Social Listening Research.”  Understanding what people around the world are saying about research in your area of interest can lead to new insights, directions for your investigation, and new relationships. There are many successful, global research collaborations among researchers who never meet in person.

Set yourself a goal or two for the amount of time you set aside. It could be a ‘low-value’ time in your week, a commute on public transportation, or lunchtime at your desk. The appointment you set for yourself might look like this. Pick from any of the goals.

Social Listening - Friday, 3-4 PM

  • Check Altmetric Alerts
  • Read one blog post. Add a helpful or insightful comment - link back to relevant research DOIs in your comments.
  • Scan three news articles. There may be an article you could share with a colleague or friend about a problem or area of interest.
  • Share two articles you read this week and why you think they are interesting on a social media channel you use (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook as a Public post).
  • Connect with 5 new people you think you might be able to learn from or help.

Altmetric Email Alerts make it easier to resist the rabbit hole. Find the research you are interested in tracking. If it doesn’t already have an Altmetric score and it is newly published, it may take a few weeks before anything is captured. Click on the Altmetric icon and then choose “Track This Article”. In about three seconds you will be set up to receive an email anytime a new post is found related to that research. Set a rule in your email to deposit them in a folder directly. You won’t be distracted from the rest of your important messages and you’ll have all the info in one place for your appointment with yourself.

Resist the urge to compare scores

Researchers naturally like to compare data points – so do marketers. I really hope you will think beyond the number. In my opinion, there are many reasons to resist the urge to compare scores.

  • Altmetric scores are a recent phenomenon. Research published in the “pre-Social Media era” may not have had the benefit of social posts or blog posts.
  • News media and blog posts contribute significantly to the score. If a press release was issued about the research by the author’s funding agency, research institution, professional or other organization that will influence the amount of news coverage the article receives and, thus, it’s score.
  • Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. When an article gets momentum in news and social media coverage it’s likely that the article will continue to gain ground in terms of its Altmetric score.
  • Some articles may never get an Altmetric score. There are many possible reasons. The score is related to social sharing and news coverage. Foundational research may not be as newsworthy or easily understandable and ‘shareable’ to a broad audience. If the research community you are in tends to avoid social media for professional purposes, the network is smaller.

Before the world went online, understanding media reach was a more exclusive domain of publicity professionals. They started with press clips, a sort of scrap book of newspaper and magazine clippings. By collecting all the media coverage for a story and circulations numbers there was an approximate idea of reach. But we couldn’t know who was reading and what they shared with friends – we guessed at a pass-along rate. Altmetrics remind me of how far we have come in less than 20 years. The future will offer more powerful ways to connect people with research and one another – with Altmetrics, you can start today.

About the Author

Senior Marketing Manager, Wiley // Anne Stone is Senior Marketing Manager in Community Marketing. For over 20 years she has connected people to research with a constantly-evolving marketing toolkit.

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