5 Reasons Journal Authors Should Embrace Social Media

5 Reasons Social Media

Like the universe, the internet continues to expand. According to the most recent Digital 2019 reports from Hootsuite and We Are Social, 11 new users venture online every second. That’s 1 million new users every single day.      

Why do they do it? Quite often to learn. We’re a curious species, and as countries around the world get more and better digital infrastructures up and running, more people from developing and emerging nations are taking seats at the virtual table. And that’s a good thing. In fact, that’s what the internet was made for. Thirty years ago, a scientist at CERN invented the World Wide Web, as it was then called, so that he and other scientists could share information between universities and institutions around the globe.         

So if you’re not already using the internet/social media to share your research with scientists and others, why not? Maybe you’re of the camp that thinks social media is best left to your organization’s communications team, or maybe you’re simply not sure to what end you might use it? Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas:

I. To Help Bridge the Gap Between Research and Practice

The Information Age has created something of a paradox for researchers who, on the one hand, rely on publishing their work in reputable peer-reviewed academic journals, like the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, that uphold the principles of evidence-based science, and who, on the other hand, want and need to get their work into the hands of practitioners who can actually improve the lives of populations with it. After all, information is only helpful when it can be accessed and implemented. This is where the benefits of using social media can help to bridge the gap. Social media is an efficient way to alert practitioners, for example, that a new study has just been released that they are going to want to read. It’s also a good place to highlight key takeaways that health agencies or others may put to use rapidly in times of emergencies or public health outbreaks.     

II. To Add More Evidence-Based Research Into a Fake-News World

An inherent benefit (and danger) of the internet is that, for the most part, it’s still a democratic global community, which means that everyone is entitled to express information, ideas, and opinions without reservation or qualification. A guiding principle of the Web is that all people are entitled to the unencumbered pursuit of intellectual freedom. But with this freedom comes a pervasive problem, the dissemination of misinformation, aka, fake news or cyber propaganda. Literally anyone can say anything online and very likely influence large segments of populations to disregard facts in favor of anecdotes that, in the collective mind, can become “evidence” enough to change public opinion.

[bctt tweet=”For #publichealth #authors not already using the #internet to share #research, consider these five reasons to embrace #socialmedia @JPHMPDirect.” username=”@JPHMPDirect”]

There’s an urgent need for an infusion of hard science to dispel public health myths regarding vaccines, gun violence, the spread of disease, tobacco and e-cigarette use, and other important issues. Equally, there’s an opportunity to educate the general public on what public health is, what it does, and how it affects the lives of ordinary citizens. Understanding the difference between clinical health care and public health may improve access to important and sometimes urgent information when it’s needed. Health agencies are more frequently utilizing social media to dispel misinformation, to alert communities in times of public health emergencies, and to monitor and surveil. Journal authors can play an equally vital role as reliable public health influencers to counter misinformation and help inform the public.    

III. To Step Forward as a Public Health Expert

Research dissemination relies on the availability of experts to verify information picked up by news media. Sure, a good journalist can find reliable sources who aren’t online. But if you’d like to be one of those sources, why not make it easy for reporters to find you? Social media provides the perfect opportunities to show what you know and supply the research to support it. News reporters, health writers and bloggers, podcast hosts and videographers, and others are all out there looking for good, reliable, fact-based, evidence-based stories. Sharing links to your articles, tweeting about public health topics that interest you, and engaging in trending conversations is a good way to be recognized as the expert you are. To be effective, social media doesn’t have to take up more time than you have to devote to it. Best practice recommends posting as little as once or twice a day on some channels. Consistency is the main thing. Keep your name and your research in front of those who can use it.

IV. To Stay Informed of Breaking Public Health Communications

Even though Forbes has debunked the idea that Twitter is faster than the news, the opportunity to share real-time events is an established practice among social media users who customarily live stream videos or live tweet as actions unfold. Health departments are using social media channels as communication tools to provide time-sensitive and critical information before, during, and after events like natural disastersfood borne illness outbreaks, and disease transmission. Researchers on social media may benefit from listening to conversations on public health topics that might not be covered in the mainstream media. For instance, when the Chicago Department of Health launched a Twitter campaign about the use of e-cigarettes a week before a scheduled vote on local regulation of the products, opponents of the proposed legislation targeted the CDPH’s Twitter page with an onslaught of marketing information designed to sway the public’s opinion in favor of e-cigs. Those kinds of conversations may not make news headlines, but they very well may be important for researchers to listen to or engage in.     

V. To Connect with a Larger Public Health Community

The disconnect between academia and practice may extend to the public as well. Researchers working in universities or other institutions may not otherwise have opportunities to engage in dialogue with community members whose lives may be directly affected by their work. Social media brings all the stakeholders together in a way that nothing else ever has. And this takes us back to where this post began. For the first time in history, ordinary citizens from communities all over the world are able to seek information from reliable experts to improve their lives. While Timothy Berners-Lee, the scientist who invented the Web, may have initially only intended to provide a way for scientists to communicate with each other, the internet has become not only a source of information for everyone, everywhere, but it has also become a basic human right. The right to know. The right to ask questions. The right to learn firsthand. Even if you limit your communications to other public health professionals, the information you share may be more readily available and helpful to the public than you may realize. And isn’t that the goal?

To learn how to get started using social media to share your research, stay tuned for upcoming posts in this series, What We Talk About When We Talk About Public Health Communications. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with JPHMP Direct. Check out our author resources, infographics, interviews, podcasts, and videos.  

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