In the previous article of this series, we discussed the benefits of tweeting your next publication and preprint, such as expanding your paper’s reach and boosting citations. Here we will share our top Twitter tips for academics on how exactly to compose a tweet about your new paper or preprint.
Tell a story by composing a thread of tweets
Your publication or preprint has just come out, and you are excited to tell the whole of Twitter about it. What is the best way to do this? Most scientists agree on the importance of telling a persuasive story about your research. On Twitter, you can tell your scientific narrative in the format of a series of tweets – a thread.
Think about how you would present your published work at a conference. You already have the building blocks of your story such as figures, section titles, and key messages from your manuscript. You can choose some of these blocks to help you tell your story on Twitter, just like you would prepare your presentation for a conference. Take time to compose a thread of tweets that convey your key findings – you want to make sure you are telling a persuasive and cohesive story.
The first tweet of the tread is crucial since all the following tweets will be posted as replies to this initial tweet. This first tweet should grab the reader’s attention and persuade them to read the whole thread and check out your paper. Have a look at the example below: the first sentence makes us curious to read further by promising an interesting story ahead.
What does the synthetic frog’s heart tell it’s Bayesian brain? Read our new pre-print “In the Body’s Eye: The Computational Anatomy of Interoceptive Active Inference” to find out! https://t.co/9jhaauaD7T – explainer thread below: pic.twitter.com/LcrwQaptQB
— Micah Allen (@micahgallen) April 10, 2019
Tip: Since Twitter doesn’t have an edit button (you can only delete your tweet and post it again), we recommend proofreading your tweet carefully before publishing it. You can use online grammar tools like Grammarly to help you spot any errors.
Add a visual focus
Do you know that tweets with photos and videos are retweeted more often than text-only tweets? Twitter analysis of over 2 million tweets showed that tweets with photos and videos gain on average 35% or 28% boost in retweets, respectively. Therefore, when composing your thread, try to accompany each tweet with an image or video.
For your first tweet in the thread, try to choose the best visual representation of your results. You can add a panel explaining your model or a time-lapse video of fluorescently labeled cells (like in the example below). All these beautiful visualizations will not only illustrate your results but also engage the reader. You can also use a photo of your model organism, your lab, your experimental setup, screen-grab of the pdf, or a gif animation – any visualization to support a key message of your tweet. There is no limitation for your creativity here!
Have you seen yet our recent paper in @currentBiology?— Buzz Baum’s Lab (@lab_baum) July 7, 2020
To be able to live-image divisions of thermophilic archaea has been on our mind for a while! But how do you even start combining 70-80℃ temperatures with microscopy? https://t.co/VMIYl6ZhFP pic.twitter.com/Vl68XYipSt
Tip: You can present figures from your manuscript in a gif format. This format will allow you to show your readers a long complex story in motion instead of boring them with long text.
Keep in mind that some web links (eg from blogs and journal websites) may automatically generate an accompanying image, title, and first line of the article below your tweet once it has been sent, like in the tweet below.
An interesting study by O. Ross and his team at the @MayoClinic in @ParkinsonismD, exploring the genomic region of MAPT. This study, like some other studies before it, suggest that other genes in this region and not necessarily MAPT are involved in PD.https://t.co/BLEtbrYpRh— Ziv Gan-Or (@ZivGanOr) August 25, 2020
Use tags and hashtags
Consider carefully whom to tag, especially in your initial tweet. It’s a good practice to tag your co-authors. You can also tag your supervisor, funding agencies, your institution, and even your lab twitter (if you have one).
Throwing in an ‘amplifier’ – one of your followers with many followers themselves – can help you reach a much wider audience in case they re-tweet you. You can find out your potential amplifier using Twitter Analytics, which is a great tool to measure and boost your impact on Twitter. The best strategy is to choose an amplifier who is genuinely interested in your research field and may, therefore, find your paper useful and worth re-tweeting.
Using hashtags (#) will make your tweets visible to a wider audience (eg #SciComm or #PhDchat). Check which hashtags scientists you’re following are using and add them in. Find out if there is a specific hashtag popular within your research field as it’ll help you reach more scientists specializing in your field.
Don’t forget a link to your paper
With the length of tweets being limited to 280 characters, make sure to allocate some space for the link to your publication or preprint. Using URL shorteners like bit.ly will help you save space when adding links.
To send your followers directly to your publication, you can also use the DOI – a unique alphanumeric code that works as a persistent link for an article. While URL may get orphaned in the future (eg during restructure of the journal’s website), the DOI won’t change.
Discover your voice
All tweets are written by someone, but the most memorable ones stand out through their unique voice. Like your actual voice, your voice in writing conveys your personality and makes your writing unique. It therefore will help your audience to differentiate your tweets from others.
When writing a tweet, think about how you want to sound to your Twitter audience. Keep in mind that whether you are consciously shaping your voice or not, you will develop it through your tweets.
Tailor the tweeting time for your audience
To make sure your newest publication gets maximum engagement, you need to post your tweets at the time when most of your followers are online. Data from Sprout Social suggests that the safest time to post on Twitter to achieve good engagement is Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. They also show that the best times to post on Twitter are Wednesday and Friday at 9am, while Saturday is the worst day. However, Sprout social didn’t specifically analyze the academic segment on Twitter, so the best times to reach out to the academic audience may differ compared to the global one.
If your audience includes scientists from various countries, keep in mind time zone differences. Twitter Analytics can help you understand in which time zone most of your followers live and adjust your tweeting time accordingly. Also, you can use special apps such as the Circleboom app to find the best time to tweet for your Twitter account.
Repeat the story
With approximately 2.5 million new scientific articles published every year, it’s easy to miss even relevant papers in your research field. So, once you’ve got your story together, you need to repeat it to make sure your paper achieves maximal exposure and engagement. Ask your supervisor, lab colleagues, and university twitter account to share your tweet thread and add a few words from their perspective.
You can also coordinate your tweeting strategy with your co-authors. Consider if it’s more efficient for you all to tweet and re-tweet your paper on the same day or spread tweets over a week or month.
A note on controversial topics
Be careful when tweeting about controversial topics such as genetically modified food or climate change. We understand that such topics may be a part of your research, and you can’t avoid tweeting about them. However, try to be extra careful when selecting the language you use to try and avoid aggressive comments. Also, remember to be a responsible voice when engaging in important debates.
Now you should feel fully prepared to compose a thread of tweets about your next publication. We want to hear about your experience with Twitter. Do you have any useful tips on how to promote your research on Twitter? Please share those with us on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will include the best tips in our next article.