Social media

Social media platforms are an excellent way of communicating directly with people interested in both your research and your viewpoint, whether they are scientists in your field, journalists or granting or government agencies. Academics increasingly use Twitter to engage in public debates or to communicate with their peers around the world.   

Interested in getting involved in social media but don’t know where to start? Reluctant to throw yourself into it, body and soul? Our team can advise you on ways of ensuring effective, relevant and healthy visibility.

Caroline Devillers
Conseillère en communication 
Direction des communications et de l’accès à l’information 

Basic best practices

Identify yourself clearly 

Think of how you present yourself. Give your name and your position at the CRCHUM. Don’t use an alias to hide who you really are. Make sure that your profile and content align with how you want to be perceived by your colleagues and future collaborators or partners.  

Take responsibility for your posts  

If you post content related to your work or issues related to the CRCHUM, please include a statement such as “These are my own views, not those of my employer”. Use the first person singular when writing. 

Don’t send out messages in a fit of anger or frustration. Give some thought to what you’ve written before posting and if you have doubts about your content, don’t ignore your doubts. Come back to it later or ask a colleague to check its neutrality.  

Remember that you are personally responsible for everything you write. 

Keep in mind that posts have a long life online  

Everything you post in the public arena of the internet will live on for a very (very) long time. It could be copied, archived, shared or redistributed in contexts very different from the one in which it was posted.

Be aware that even posts limited to a restricted circle or posted in a private group could become available to others in the future. On social media, post only information that you wouldn’t repudiate if it were made public. If you share documents, be sure to date them to avoid them being used out of context in the future.   

Be respectful

Respect your audience and your peers. Don’t insult anyone, don’t use obscenities and don’t behave in a way that would be unacceptable at your workplace.  

It may be important to express your viewpoint and not feel censored, but it’s also important to understand that certain people may not agree with you and that certain subjects, such as politics and religion, give rise to heated discussions that verge on rudeness and bad manners. Put things into perspective and make sure that your engagement is constructive and positive.  

Remember that certain comments don’t deserve an answer.  

Protect your reputation and the CRCHUM’s 

If you receive or come across a comment online that could damage your reputation or that of the CRCHUM, contact the teams at the CHUM’s Communications and Research Directorates. Sometimes a more formal response from the organization is more appropriate than just a post on social media.  

Act with integrity 

Be cordial and professional and be the first to correct your own errors. Acknowledging an error on social media is a good opportunity to show that you’re human.  

Don’t delete your comments or posts just because they are critical or get people stirred up. If you do so, there are good chances that you will be found out, exposed and brought before the people’s court.  

Comply with the law

Comply with copyright, confidentiality and content use laws. Don’t post libellous content and don’t disclose confidential information. Under most laws, it’s the individual who is liable for any breach of law. Remember that the laws of other countries may apply to your messages.  

Tips for the efficient use of social media

Having an article published in a scientific journal shouldn’t be seen as an end result, but rather as the start of a new phase of your work: promotion.   

Although promoting your work is often accomplished through media relations (news reports, interviews, etc.), social media are a key component of this phase. Used efficiently, they can extend the life of your research work, raise your profile outside your scientific circle and open the door to unexpected collaborations.  

Don’t forget that social media are… social. 

Share your thoughts and get involved in the discussion. Log in and interact with other researchers, students and journalists.  

An important point: Treat people online as respectfully as those you converse with face-to-face.

Be active 

Social media channels are continuously updated. Be sure that your research stands out. For example, if you post an article, try to present it to your audience from different angles or by using a variety of formats (computer graphics, video, GIF, etc.), highlight your conclusions if they relate to an issue in the news, congratulate your co-authors, pass on information about other research related to your own research work, etc.  

Be careful about what you post 

Posting on the web propels you into the public arena. Anyone can read your posts—your future students, your colleagues, your university, or a future funding body wanting to support a project that you care about. Before posting, think twice and check that the content is appropriate for all your audiences. 

Connect to your audience

Thanks to social media, you are now able to create a direct connection with the people your research is intended for. To reach a broader audience, you’ll need to consider creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Each of these networks has its own advantages and codes of operation.

  • On Facebook, creating your personal page will allow you to contact people by name. Don’t hesitate to promote your page to researchers you’ve met at conferences, colleagues or friends. Facebook is a place where informal conversations occur; 
  • With Twitter, you’ll be able to connect with people you wouldn’t meet in your everyday life. Less personal than Facebook, Twitter gives you visibility in a wider network;  
  • LinkedIn is ideal for promoting your work in a strictly professional setting. It allows you to reach people working in areas of expertise related to your research.   

Find your audience

A few tips for successfully using social media: 

  • Make yourself known: ensure that your profile is clear and interesting;  
  • Join groups in which people already discuss subjects similar to yours and join the conversation. Every platform has a search function, which you can use to look for key words related to your research work and to find out who is talking. Get in touch with these people;  
  • Follow the leaders in your field, extend your network and follow the hot topics in your field; 
  • Strike up a conversation with people talking about topics related to your research. Actively participate in discussions and ask questions. Your goal is to get noticed and to present yourself as an expert;  
  • Reply in a timely fashion. 

Take your audience into consideration  

Be careful about the type of content that you post. Don’t just be satisfied with sharing your own content; share that of others, too. If you see something relevant for your audience, point this content out to them, even if it’s not yours.  

Social media are… visual 

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Visual content is more appealing to audiences because it conveys your message more efficiently than text alone. Don’t forget that you have to get the attention of people scrolling through a long feed of content on their phones between two bus or metro stops. If you have an image or video, you have an advantage. 

Using hashtags  

On Twitter, hashtags are words preceded by the symbol # (#science, for example), that help users find content when searching. Facebook and LinkedIn also use them. 

Determine which hashtags to use to draw attention to your content and increase the visibility of your social media posts. Don’t hesitate to read posts dealing with the same subject as yours for inspiration about what hashtags to use.  

Tagging relations 

On Twitter, using tags allows you to inform a friend, group, company or organization that you mentioned them in one of your posts on this social network. In your message, you simply need to use the @ sign followed by the username: @CRCHUM or @UMontreal, for example. The tagged account will then receive a notification that someone mentioned them in a tweet. 

The use of one or more tags in your posts is a good habit to adopt. It stirs the curiosity of the people or organizations mentioned, and encourages them to look at what you said about them and share your content. It also boosts your visibility.  

Analyze content that you’ve disseminated 

Make sure that the techniques you are using are working and that the channels used are the best ones for getting your content out. What social media did your audience use to find out about your study? What post worked best? With what audience(s)? In what countries?  

Analytics tools integrated into each of your social media accounts can provide you with information. Tools such as Altmetric, often connected to your post (publisher’s site) may also be useful for collecting this type of information. Once the analysis is done, you can make adjustments.  

Take stock 

From time to time, it’s a good idea to step back and ask whether social media, which sometimes require a lot of your energy, are a good investment when it comes to promoting your work. It is sometimes preferable to close an unused account than to leave posts and messages online that are no longer relevant to you.  

Lastly, remember that it isn’t necessary to have a social media profile to be a well-known scientist. There are other ways of letting your fellow citizens know about your work (media, blogs, articles in The Conversation Canada, conferences for general audiences) and of bringing science into the public sphere.



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