From Academia to Acamedia:
The Business Case to Socially Sign In
Connecting the dots to help academic research live
and thrive in the real world, transforming lives,
shaping policy, innovating industry, and changing
culture and practice.
A publication by
Page 2 Authors
Page 3 - 4 Foreword
Page 5 Introduction
Page 6 - 7 Help them find their “why”
Page 8 Look inside to find
Page 9 A Springboard for their Work
Page 10 - 11 Potential Pitfalls and Best Practices
Page 12 - 13 Social Media Success Story
Page 14 So, to Sign In?
Stuart Banbery is Marketing Manager at SocialSignIn, the complete social media management platform.
A member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and academically published research author, Stuart has
been awarded the distinguished Cranlea Prize for his sociological research and has been nominated for a
number of industry-specific marketing awards in innovation and digital marketing categories.
Emma Leech is Director of Marketing and Advancement at Loughborough University. Former
chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s (CIM) HE Sector Interest Group, former member
of CIM’s Board of Trustees and past chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Education
and Skills Group - Emma and her teams have won a string of awards over the past two decades -
including the prestigious Guardian University Awards 2015 Marketing and Comms campaign.
Those of us working in PR and communications have long struggled with academic
concerns about the media “dumbing down” their research and of the unspoken
elephant in the room – that academics who “do” media are somehow showing off, or
worse, that they aren’t serious about their research because they wouldn’t have time
for media if they were.
Add to that the obvious concern about perceptions and credibility through filters like the
mainstream press, and the fact that putting your head above the parapet may leave you
open to criticism from other academics, and it’s easy to understand why it has often been
difficult to engage academics with the communications agenda.
Fast forward to the age of social media. Impact is now important, REF is all consuming and
public engagement has become mainstream. News and opinion moves more quickly than
ever with online setting the pace and the international media agenda. This is my world. It’s
also a world that can, I believe, help rather than hinder us in making the amazing research
that happens in our universities something to be shared, shouted about and celebrated.
Social, video, online thought leadership, media profile and the immediacy of digital storytelling are integral parts of
our communications armoury. Very few Vice-Chancellors, even those who have previously been wary of “media”, fail to
see the importance of academic profile in achieving their strategic ambitions.
Fast forward to the age
of social media. Impact
is now important, REF is
all consuming and public
engagement has become
The sheer scale, power and speed of social in reaching stakeholders, students,
funders, the public, the academic community and business to name but a few is
We can bring our research to life using inspiring videos, infographics, sharable content
and thought-leadership. We can trace the value of these activities as triggers to very
tangible measures of impact – invitations to conferences, enterprise and research
collaborations, partnership development, increases in citation impact… the list is endless.
We’ve used social to “hot house” relationship building with media and with industry,
to connect academics to Select Committees looking for expert witnesses, to begin the
process of policy transformation, to develop international profile and partnerships.
Some days our job is far from easy but it’s never dull, and we work with some of the
brightest people in the world. Our work makes a difference. Connecting the dots to help
academic research live and thrive in the real world, transforming lives, shaping policy,
innovating industry, and changing culture and practice. The remarkable
thing is how quickly social can help us bring these ideals to life.
The power of social media to give University Marketing departments the ability to engage, recruit and retain key audiences is now
acknowledged and accepted.
But social media is not just “another channel”, its reach and potential are staggering; Twitter has over 305 million monthly active users.
Instagram over 300 million users. And then there’s Facebook, with 1.59 BILLION active monthly users - and that’s not counting blog readers.
At first glance, the connection between academia and social media might not be obvious, with social media more-associated with selfies than
serious academic rigour.
But there is now a rapidly-growing trend for universities to encourage their academics to use social media to engage with the public and
disseminate their research to build brands, profiles and reach. More interestingly, academics themselves are now beginning to realise the
potential of social channels.
However, alongside social media becoming established as a key ingredient of academic life and an effective platform for promoting work and
networking with peers, there exists an undercurrent of questions and concerns surrounding how, why, when and where to engage with the
online community - ensuring professionalism and academic credibility are maintained.
So, based upon our experience and expertise within the social media management arena, and our longstanding partnerships with leading UK
Universities, we have produced this practical book to provide clear guidance for University Marketing departments on effective methods to
encourage and support their academics with social media.
Supported by real life success stories and underpinned by best practice principles, we hope you find this book an
effective resource and look forward to hearing about the impact you generate.
Stuart Banbery 5
Help them find their “why”(1/2)
Stepping into the unfamiliar realms of social media can be a scary prospect for those use to the cosy
confines of academia. Without some reassuring guidance or the helping hand of a socially-savvy
mentor it can all seem a lot of risk, with little reward.
So, our job as the “mentors” in this situation is to help our academic colleagues find their “why” with
social media. Why should they invest time, effort and their professional reputation in this relatively-new
communication channel? And the disadvantage they will face if they don’t.
They’re in Control
Academics will have control over what is said about their work across digital channels and therefore
what is picked up by mainstream media. It’s also a great way to raise your profile as a thought-leader
and build your personal brand.
Social media will give your Academics unparalleled access to a global network of peers and potential
collaborators. This doesn’t happen overnight, but once established this network can unlock the door
to more citations, speaking events, research grants and media attention. A little mutual sharing of
research can also hugely extend the reach of their content.
Managing their Media
To offset the thought of any misrepresentation or inaccuracies when you release your work into the
public domain, social media also gives you the opportunity to correct misinformation - and also question any work that is raising eyebrows.
The Promotion it Deserves
As ground-breaking as a piece of work is by one of your academics, sometimes they just don’t get the attention and adulation they deserve.
Social media can help ignite attention around a paper and catapult it into the science stratosphere.
Help them find their “why”(2/2)
Don’t miss a Thing
It’s impossible to keep on top of and digest all of the fantastic research papers that are published.
Social media and RSS feeds are a convenient way for your academics to quickly filter what they want,
helping them keep up-to-date on the latest trends and stories.
Sharing their Passion
There is nobody more passionate about academic research than an academic. Social media will enable
your academics to “make a difference”, inspire budding young researchers, increase the exposure that
research receives and broaden scientific understanding.
Inspiration for Future Directions
So, one of your academics writes an awesome blog, schedules a series of tantalising tweets, then
receives a boat-load of comments, suggestions, ideas and friend requests that all help provide ideas
for future study - what’s not to like?!
Let them know the Impact
Report successful social media engagement facts, stats and data back to your academics and their
Dean so that they can share them with colleagues and use them as evidence as part of their PDR.
Look inside to Find
It’s easy to gear your social media
feeds to have an external focus,
such as higher education news or
journalists who you are desperate to
cover your stories. But considering the
growth of social media among staff,
departments, research centres and
students, social media can also be a
great resource for finding your internal
Take the story about Alex Baker and Chris
Rose, the two PhD students from the
University of Sheffield that sent a helium
balloon up to the edge of space for £350
and uploaded the resulting footage on YouTube.
What’s most remarkable about this story is that one of their fellow students
posted it on Twitter, it was then picked up by a media relations officer at the
university who interviewed the pair and got the extra details before writing the
Over the next week, it was featured on the BBC and Channel 4 news websites,
various local papers and radio stations - there were even calls from a Ukrainian
magazine and Norwegian newspaper. Eventually it culminated with Alex and
Chris being interviewed on ITV Daybreak - all from one simple tweet
Do it yourself…
Encourage your academics to set up and use social profiles
(more on this later!).
Ask your student ambassadors to connect with your academics
and share content.
Make sure you are connected with all of your academics and
Set up social media listening tools to notify you of any golden
nuggets you might miss.
And finally, recruit academics as ‘advocates’. Academics are generally
more receptive to other academics who can explain the processes and
demonstrate the benefits that engaging in social media has brought to
their department, to their research group and, most importantly, to
Only a tiny fraction of the incredible
research undertaken by universities is
picked up by the mainstream media.
Social media, including blogging, can
help academics, and in-turn marketing
departments, to significantly increase
the reach of research work - exposing it
to a much-wider public.
Key media channels in this regard are
Twitter and the humble blog – two channels
that complement each other perfectly.
Many academics have also expressed that
they like blogging because it enables them
to clarify, crystallize and articulate their
thoughts very succinctly - making it a good entrance point to social media.
Equally, Twitter is a fantastic platform for academics, with huge potential for
promoting, curating and researching. Twitter especially lends itself to quickly evolving
research, whereas more traditional publications can take a while to catch up.
By your academics sharing, commenting and networking online, an audience quickly
gathers around you and your institution - but it must be a two-way street, far too
often social is just seen as a broadcasting tool, with too little time dedicated to
proactively reaching out and engaging.
A Springboard for their Work
Do it yourself…
Find examples of people who are blogging, preferably within the same
subject as your academics and see how they approach it.
Set up workshops to demystify blogs with your academics - bring the
initial information to them and point out why they are good examples -
answering any questions they have along the way.
There’s nothing wrong with your academics taking inspiration from
established bloggers before they grow in confidence and develop their
For those unable or unwilling to blog regularly, try to encourage them to
guest blog for more established sites such as Times Higher Education.
If all else fails, one simple technique for profile-raising is to put the
PowerPoint slides of your academics on a service such as SlideShare,
these can then be quickly and simply shared across LinkedIn and within
specific LinkedIn groups.
Potential Pitfalls and
Best Practices (1/2)
D it y urself…
Posting too much / not enough - People follow you because they like you,
what you do, or what you say. Use restraint when posting, ensuring that
content adds value, is timely and relevant.
Only using social media to “broadcast” - This can quickly dull engagement
and audience trust, make sure you proactively reach out and interact with
the content shared by your connections.
Deleting negative comments - To those new to social media it would seem
counterintuitive to let negative comments be seen by all, but it represents
an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and create good PR.
Not having a strategy - As social media is no longer optional for
organisations, it’s imperative to help your academics identify what they
want to achieve and their strategy for doing so.
While those of us that mix in marketing
circles know enough about social
media to avoid (most) faux pas, some
of these potential mistakes will not be
so obvious to our academic colleagues.
However, there is also a new breed of
more subtle faux pas sweeping the social
media scene that could restrict the impact
of the activity by your recently converted,
socially-savvy academics - potentially
discouraging them from continuing with
this new channel.
So we’ve compiled a list of social setbacks
to avoid and best practices to follow
that you can use when delivering training, support and advice to your
Potential Pitfalls and
Best Practices (2/2)
D it y urself…
A distinctive voice - By offering an original perspective on new or existing
research, your academics can become a breath of fresh air and quickly
grow their following.
Don’t start a tweet with an @mention - Be sure to let you academics know
the difference between a mention and a reply. If they start their tweets with
@SocialSignInApp, it will only be seen by them, SocialSignIn and their
Don’t go #hashtag crazy - Explain to your colleagues that carefully-selected
hashtags will help get their content in front of the desired audience - but
include too many and it just looks spammy.
Mixing business and pleasure - It’s good to show a bit of personality
beyond your professional tweets - it is social media after all, but advise
your academics to just sense-check what they share.
Success Story (1/2)
How the “Lab in a briefcase” story unfolded...
Kate Russell, presenter of BBC Click, the broadcaster’s flagship tech show, put out a
tweet asking for ideas for things you can do with an old smartphone, for a forthcoming
In reply, Loughborough University shared a study by Dr Nuno Reis, Lecturer in Chemical
Engineering, with Kate via Twitter. Dr Reis’s portable ‘Lab in a Briefcase’, believed to be the first
kit of its kind, aims to boost early detection rates of cancer in developing countries.
Kate’s team contacted Dr Reis the same day. Dr Reis was invited to Broadcasting House in
London to be filmed alongside presenter Spencer Kelly and the programme was broadcast on
7 May 2016 on the BBC News channel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b079z98r/click-
This is the resulting social media
impact from that original tweet
Success Story (2/2)
So, to Sign In?
Academia is an all-consuming profession and those who choose it are constantly required to
weigh up and balance a number of competing desires and demands. However, the adoption of
social media can undoubtedly contribute both to the speed of communication, personal brand
building and networking.
This “connecting” and “sharing” really is no different to older-style methods of scholarly community
and exchange of ideas - it just uses modern channels and approaches. Indeed, these new channels
are well placed to serve the speed and rapid churn of ideas in current Academia.
University marketing departments are now fully-aware of the benefits associated with their faculty
members using social media as part of their work, and in encouraging this adoption of new media
have a responsibility to ensure that their colleagues have the social management tools and best
practice techniques to make it a success.
Help your academics master social media and they will soon start receiving even more invitations
to speak and collaborate via Facebook and LinkedIn, than by email. They will soon be finding even
better research resources through Pinterest and Google Scholar, than in the library. They will meet
even more people with common research interests through Twitter than they could ever hope to
network with at academic conferences.
The complete Social Media Management Platform. Our partnership approach
has transformed leading UK universities who now provide engaging student
experiences and leverage effective social media marketing.
To discover more, please call; 020 3322 5557
or visit; www.socialsignin.net