Earlier this year, the Research Services team (part of Essex’s Library Services) orchestrated a Social Media for Researchers panel as part of Research Visibility Focus Week. In this blog post, we summarise the key points.

With tips on how to build your visibility and profile, managing your social media presence, and sharing your research with a broader audience, our panel had a wide-ranging discussion packed with useful insights regarding a number of platforms.
The six panellists, and the host , all seated and looking up to the audience.

Meet the panellists:

  • Analisa Pais, Lecturer in Health & Social Care. Analisa uses some platforms as part of a professional team (Collaboration of Aphasia Trialists - CATs) (YouTube and Facebook), and others personally (Instagram and X) to be able to focus what she says to her audience and keep a divide between her personal life and professional audience. Analisa also works with other teams to convert content to different social platforms (e.g., YouTube).

  • Chloe Tasker, Psychology PhD student. Chloe uses Instagram to share her personal journey and progress as a researcher. Chloe’s research topic of women’s sexual arousal is an important one that is still considered taboo by many, and so having an accessible platform to share her research and connect with others is crucial.

  • Haider Raza, Senior Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence. Haider shared his experience of using LinkedIn as a researcher to build networks, share his research, and engage in discussions with relevant communities of experts.

  • Matt Lodder, Senior Lecturer, Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre. Matt has been involved in online discussions since the mid-90s when discussion boards and RSS feeds were the main forms of online communication. Now, X is Matt’s largest platform, although he uses Instagram, YouTube, and podcasts to engage in discussions around his areas of research - the history of art and tattooing.

  • Steve Peers, Professor of EU Law and Human Rights Law, Steve primarily uses X to contribute to debates around issues of EU law and his other areas of interest. He has gained a significant following due to his willingness to participate in discussions, and as a result has been invited to collaborate with many organisations though news interviews, blog posts, conference presentations and more. Steve also writes his own blog.

  • Tara Van Ho, Senior Lecturer in Law. Tara uses X professionally and Facebook personally, and keeps the two separate. Her engagement with her research community on X has built her profile over the years, leading journalists to reach out to her for comment, and even being cited on Bill Gates’ Wikipedia page.

The discussion covered three broad sections:

They can be read independently of each other so if you want to jump straight to a section that interests you, you can access them using the links above. Alternatively, you can read them all as one using the links at the end of each post.

We hope you get as much from these blog posts as we did from the panel discussion!

Building your visibility, profile, and networks

Given the sheer volume of online content, it can be difficult for researchers new to social media to build a following and cut through to their audience. But this is not an insurmountable hurdle; new stars rise on social media by the minute!

Choosing an appropriate platform

Choosing the right social media platform for what you want to achieve is crucial. While our panellists use different platforms, all had a purpose for using their chosen platform(s), and tailor how they use them as a result.

Chloe uses Instagram to share her PhD journey and updates on her research topic through regular, personal videos and photos, an informal yet engaging approach well suited for Instagram.

In contrast, Steve uses X to engage in discussions on matters of law from both an academic and personal perspective. Since anyone can jump into any thread, X allows many different voices to come together to talk about any topic. But both the open forum and character limits within Tweets contribute toward X’s reputation of being unsuitable for nuanced debates. To overcome this, Steve also writes long-form blog posts giving a detailed perspective that he shares in relevant X conversations. In both cases, Chloe and Steve's aims directly inform their platform choices.

Joining conversations

It can be daunting to post on social media if you are new to a platform, even when you have a clear goal in mind. If you’ve ever been scrolling X at 2am, you will know that things can escalate quickly! However, it’s important to engage to build your “brand” as a researcher to enable you to connect with other experts and your audience.

Matt emphasised the need to be proactive in building your networks: "simply start by following your colleagues and other people of interest in your field. Keep an eye on who they are engaging with and what conversations or hashtags are relevant. You can then use this to find others to follow and chat with. Eventually, you will find communities and networks to which you feel comfortable contributing."

Engaging regularly with these communities can help you to build your reputation as a valuable voice in the field. Steve has found that this is also a great way to engage with people outside of academia. Journalists, for example, often use X threads to look for experts to provide an opinion on the latest news stories, or panellists for a discussion panel. Even if you’re only sharing what you’re currently working on or have worked on in the past, your expertise will shine through and be valued by the right people.

Leveraging connections

In addition to joining groups directly related to your areas of interest, you should consider connecting with groups adjacent to your research areas. Haider noted that, while it is vitally important that you curate your following on social media, it’s important not to get stuck in a bubble. By widening your outlook, not only are you ensuring that you are getting a more representative view of the conversation, but you're also able to tap into broader networks to boost your visibility.

Matt suggested joining networks that have members with bigger profiles than yours so that your perspective can be shared with their audience. You will be amplified naturally as others see you contribute to discussions involving more visible profiles. Matt also encouraged others not to be afraid to reach out and ask others to share your posts if you have something to promote, like a new publication or call for participants. Similarly, if you see people who are adjacent to your space, reach out to them too. Matt sent one of his books to a YouTuber who reacts to tattoos in films to reach a completely new audience - "It’s OK to stand on the shoulders of giants - just make sure you reciprocate where possible!"

Personality is key

All our panellists agreed that personality was key to building a following. Matt has been recognised in public by social media followers, his image and willingness to inject some personal perspective into his social media presence means his accounts are enjoyable to follow and can hook people into topics they may otherwise overlook.

Christian Leppich, the University’s Digital Content Lead and audience member also emphasised the importance of personality. Christian said that he was keen for people incorporate their personality into their social media profiles, as this greatly increases engagement. Researchers can join Social Media Training Courses, run throughout the year, and ask for individual guidance on maximising your research profile across social media. The Comms Team can also support with creating bespoke images and video to promote your research in a personalised way across the main University and departmental social media channels. 

Some platforms lend themselves to this more easily than others. Visual media immediately connects with an audience since they can see you, or at least your environment. They see you as a real person, not a faceless programme. This is one of the reasons why Chloe’s content works so well on Instagram. That isn’t to say other formats can’t inject some personality - our panellists have had plenty of experience sharing personal opinions on X and reaping the benefits (and occasional backlash) of doing so.


  • Social media can help you to build your “brand” as a researcher and connect with other experts. Join communities and build followings that align with what you’re working on. Engage regularly in relevant conversations to become recognised as a valuable voice in the field/community.
  • Be authentic and show your personality. People don’t engage with robots so inject some of your enthusiasm, humour, and honest perspective when you share your work and engaging with others. Be safe doing so, but don't be afraid to share personal or non-work-related content.
  • Choose the right platform for your goals and audience. Know what you want to achieve by using social media. Are you looking to find potential collaborations? Are you looking to keep up to date with your field/interests? Are you looking to promote/share what you’re working on? For researchers, X and LinkedIn are good for professional networks, whereas YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are better for reaching the general public.
  • Find people who are adjacent to your space and already have a big following to help you share your work. Feel free to reach out to people that have bigger followings than yours who can amplify your voice. Just be sure to do the same for others!

In part 2 of this series, we discuss managing your social media presence and use as a researcher.