As you build your following, it’s important to get what you want out of social media and use it in a sustainable way. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different things you could be doing online: multiple platforms, trends, maximising engagement and knowing when and what to post. It can be easy to get so frustrated that you end up logging off permanently and lose all the hard work you put into reaching your audience.

This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series summarising the Research Services Team’s “Social media for researchers – panel discussion”. Part 1 covers building your visibility, profile, and networks and introduced our panellists. Part 3 covers sharing your research and summarises the event. Don’t worry if you’ve missed them – these parts can be read independently from each other.

Read on to see the best ways to continue to get what you want out of social media sustainably.

Be strategic to avoid burnout

When it comes to avoiding social media burnout, Matt emphasised the difference between “using” social media and “doing” social media. “Doing” social media is working purely to produce content, like influencers do. Matt suggested that researchers should instead look to integrate social media into what they are already doing, for example, sharing updates on their research as they happen, live-tweeting conferences, or joining topical debates.

Tara uses social media primarily whilst she is in-between other things. Waiting for a bus? Have a scroll for conversations to join. Going for a walk outside? Take a picture and pop it on your Instagram story. Achieved a milestone in your life or research? Celebrate with a quick post online. These can be simple ways to fit social media into our already busy lives.

Chloe highlighted that this can be harder depending on the platform you are using. It takes longer to plan and produce a high-quality video than to send out a quick tweet. This makes it important that you are passionate about what you are sharing so you want to engage rather than feeling you need to engage. Even if you think others won’t be interested, let your passion shine through in what you share. You will find likeminded communities and others will be engaged by your enthusiasm!

Connect outside of your immediate circle

Talking of communities, social media is a great way to be seen by both those who you know, and those you don’t. Those who know you can be great at boosting your profile, but those who don’t can be where you can really make an impact. Policy makers, journalists, and NGOs all use social media and keep an eye out for experts with which to engage.

For example, Steve has been invited to advise the UK Government, Tara advised X (back when that was something worth doing), and, of course, Matt manged to get invites to the Robbie Williams fashion line. Getting seen by people outside of your usual community can lead to new opportunities and collaborations.

This can take intentional effort. Social media algorithms tend to learn what you like, then just show you similar content over and over again. This means you may need to break out of the bubble with some intentional searching and connecting. Haider notes that LinkedIn is very much about this proactive approach to connecting and community-building. Users typically only see content from the people or organisations they follow so you need to regularly review your connections and think about whether you want different content.

Other platforms suggest a wider range of content but still allow for you to tweak what you see. For example, Analisa suggests disabling all notifications and only enabling them for certain people or groups you are interested in keeping up to date with. Whilst it can take some time and thought, regularly reviewing the way you engage on your social media platforms is important as it allows you to curate your feeds, rather than allowing inscrutable tech platforms to feed you information through algorithms.

Staying safe online

However, reaching beyond your immediate circle can come with risks. The mutual understanding of culture and context within a community can be lost once you step out of it, so considering ways to stay safe is important.

Several panellists separate their personal and professional social media accounts. For example, Analisa uses Facebook and YouTube from a team account and Instagram and X from her individual account for professional purposes, but has private accounts on some platforms for her personal use. Alternatively, you could create two different accounts for separate purposes on the same platform.

Other panellists don’t separate their personal and professional accounts or personas online. Matt considers this easier to manage, but it makes it more important to consider the consequences of your posts, since topics initially discussed in a professional context can have an impact on your personal life, and vice versa. Steve never mentions his location unless absolutely necessary, and Tara avoids putting photos online, especially of family members or her location. Steve also noted that safety considerations differ based on who you are, and that some groups seem to be able to say more than others without backlash.

The University can provide support for people who have been impacted by harassment and other threats originating from online interactions. You can find more information about the support on offer at the end of part 3.

Discussing controversial topics

A key factor in staying safe online is how you express your thoughts, especially on topics that can be considered controversial or inflammatory. It is important that academic voices contribute to discussions, providing informed and valuable insights. However, Steve recommends removing yourself as soon as the conversation escalates beyond academic discussion or makes you uncomfortable, as he had to do with some of the conversations around Brexit and other topics.

Muting or blocking people and conversations is an effective way to enforce boundaries and remove yourself from potentially harmful situations. Similarly, restricting who can follow you or see your profile and posts can help to ensure you are only connecting with the people you want to, especially when you are more visible. Just bear in mind this will make it harder for genuine connections to find you too!

Haider noted that it’s near impossible to pre-empt and avoid all potential backlash. He makes it clear that his posts are his own views to help manage any repercussions on those he’s affiliated with. The University is committed to enabling people to speak freely within the law by providing a supportive and inclusive environment, within which people can expect to learn, grow and develop through challenge. As a community this means that we may encounter ideas or arguments which may be experienced as objectionable or offensive, with a line drawn at speech and conduct which is unlawful or contrary to the University's Social Media Policy. As noted in part 1, Christian Leppich, Digital Content Lead, was an audience member and encouraged academics to share their research and personality online. The Communications Team not only offers training on things like libel and defamation but also offers 1-1 support, e.g. discussing research that may appeal to the wider public/media. You can find links at the end of part 3 or speak to your department.

As discussed in part 1, it’s important to remember that personality is key to engaging an audience, and being authentic and sharing your opinions is a key part of that. People will recognise you most for your individuality and what you are consistent in talking about. However, Analisa highlights the importance of remembering why you are using social media as a researcher. For example, think about how much you are sharing, to what audience, and how you are framing what you are saying.

Remember, one community may be sympathetic to what you say, whereas the exact same words could upset another. Using features like X’s communities, Instagram’s close friends, or restricting audiences on Facebook can make it easier to limit who sees what you say. When sharing more publicly, keeping what you say fact-based and focused on ideas rather than individuals/groups helps to prevent escalation, or at least make it easier to notice when others are shifting focus.


  • Be strategic about what you share and when you share it. Help avoid burnout by weaving what you’re already doing into social media, e.g., share when there is something to share.

  • Use social media to reach beyond your immediate circle to participate in research discussions and connect with NGOs, policy makers, journalists, and other experts.

  • Know why you are using social media and share your thoughts accordingly. It’s great to let your individuality shine through and be known for something.

  • Using social media risks backlash, especially when discussing controversial topics, but there are tactics you can use to mitigate the risks and keep yourself safe.

  • As long as you stay within the law and University guidelines, Essex is supportive of academic freedom and the sharing of opinions. The Communications Team can provide support and training to help you communicate online safely and effectively.


In part 3 of this series, we discuss sharing your research using social media.