These days we take it for granted that social media will enhance a researcher’s reach and impact and thicken their collaborative networks. Our institutions encourage us to “storify” our work on Twitter, Facebook, Academia.edu, and the like, and we know that if we aren’t already doing this, we will soon have to.
Convinced enough by some of these claims, or to satisfy a latent sense of adventure, we (the editors of the Journal of Intercultural Studies) began an official Twitter account for the journal, launched in June last year. And here I share what I have learnt so far:
First, while you don’t really need to know anything or have any experience about the platform you choose, you do need to talk to someone who does and to listen to them very closely: because each media will have intricate social conventions known only to its insiders, and ignorance of these may mark your behavior in ways that you may not like. On Twitter, for example, when publicizing or linking to an article, it’s conventional to provide the most complete synopsis of the argument or research findings possible. This is particularly important if your link is located behind a paywall. It is always polite to “follow back.”
But, most importantly, a successful Twitter account is fueled by a genuine willingness to connect, listen, and talk with other members. Alternatively, those who use the platform as a one-way broadcast mechanism are obvious and more likely to be discounted.
Second, the instrumentalist gains – too easily the target of my cynicism – appear to be true in our case; even though we only ever manage to tweet a couple of times a week at the most. Our submission rate doubled in the months immediately following with no discernible drop in quality. And while this may be due to a random convergence of factors, my intuition tells me it’s Twitter (oh the science). I’m even more certain that tweets really do increase article views (this is much easier to prove). I’m yet to know, however, whether this converts into downloads and citations (though someone somewhere has surely studied this more systematically). In other words, it’s unclear what people are doing beyond the page views and what level of engagement or impact is actually being enacted, but it is reasonable to conclude that the journal’s profile and discoverability has surely benefitted.
But in my view the real benefit for the journal has been a more tangible sense of belonging to a research community, and one that is truly global. I have been impacted by reading our contributors’ feeds and getting to see the events occurring in their localities that motivate and shape their scholarship – and a more complete picture of research emerges. This inevitably helps us to ensure that the journal provides a good, formal counterpart where this research can be discovered and debated; one that is sensitive to, and more representational of, the global dialogues in the field.
Follow Journal of Intercultural Studies on Twitter @Journal_ICS.