Recently, Tim Hitchcock at the University of Sussex wrote that Twitter and blogs make good sense in the academic world. In his article, he writes that in using social media platforms like Twitter, blogs and the like, experts “both get more research done, and build a community of engaged readers for the work itself.” He continues, “the most successful early career [experts] have already started building a form of public dialogue in to their academic practice – building an audience for their work, in the process of doing the work itself.”
Hitchkock’s point is spot-on. But while some people just seem to have a natural knack for both doing interesting work AND engaging people around their work, what about the rest of us normal people? In my normal-person-life, I find that one of the most difficult components of the sort of community engagement via social media that Hitchcock writes about is building the community in the first place. If you’re starting from scratch, how do you get people to hear what you have to say? How do you go from 0 followers to an engaged community?
This conundrum can be helped along with altmetrics. Altmetrics, a term coined by Jason Priem, are metrics about articles, data sets, videos, web pages, and anything else that can be considered research output. Altmetrics give an immediate measure of impact, interest and engagement, as opposed to traditional article metrics that can take years to start showing up.
Altmetrics can give excellent assessments of who is reading and sharing, what gets attention, and where your online communication thrives (and, just as importantly, where it doesn’t). Altmetrics aren’t just a measurement device, though – they can help you to hone in on where and how you should spend your time engaging a community.
Take altmetric.com, which has made a sweet bookmarklet that you can use to quickly see where your articles are getting traction. If you’ve published an article, you can use the bookmarklet to see what venues people are using to talk about it and who is creating that buzz. Did it get tweeted about? Blogged about? Who’s talking about your article, and who follows them? You can quickly expand on your network by engaging those who have already shown interest in your work, then taking advantage of their networks, and going from there.
And even better, the altmetric.com bookmarklet is free! Take advantage of the insights that it gives, and use them to build your online community. If you’re anything like me and you don’t have superpower research and public engagement skills, you can take all of the help that you can get.
By Erin Eldermire
ILN United States Country Coordinator