Monday, 19 October 2015

"To Tweet or Not To Tweet?" Is Not the Question - Plum Analytics


“To Tweet or Not To Tweet?” Is Not the Question

Polly Allen, Director of Product Management for Plum Analytics, explores the use of Twitter in academia.

Twitter can provide valuable feedback – like how your work is being used

Do academics today have to participate actively in social media to
stay relevant? While some are skeptical of the value of metrics like
blog mentions, tweets and facebook likes being used to measure academic
impact, it’s undeniable that academic conversations are increasingly
moving online.  Are those staying on the social media sidelines missing
out? Must academics tweet or go extinct?

It’s easy to see why micro-blogging tools like Twitter might have
initially struggled for adoption in mainstream academia. As pointed out
by Steven Johnson in his Time article “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live”,
Twitter does make a terrible first impression: “You hear about this new
service that lets you send 140-character updates to your “followers,”
and you think, Why does the world need this, exactly?”  Similarly,
academics may look at any individual tweet about their work and question
the value: in academic circles, many tweets consist simply of a
reference to some newly-published article, with at most the work’s title
or a one-line synopsis.

Tweets can highlight interest in open research questions

But after participating in a live-tweeted conference, Johnson could
see the value the platform adds by crowdsourcing a conference synopsis
in real time. The value isn’t in a single tweet, but in communities and
conversations. Savvy researchers realize that the sum of the attention
they get online can be a valuable feedback channel, like a crowdsourced
review process. They can see who is listening, from potential
collaborators to funders; what pieces of the work resonated loudest with
the academic audience; how their work is being used; and even which
open questions for further research are driving the most interest.  Of
course Twitter and blog sites can also be used to question or even
disparage research. Academics who ignore the online conversations going
on about their works risk letting their critics speak for them. They’re
potentially missing valuable opportunities to defend their research in a
public forum and to gain credibility.

Researchers who ignore online commentary risk letting their critics speak for them

At PlumX, we have always resisted scoring individual contributions
like tweets or blog mentions beyond counting them; this is because the
value of these contributions isn’t so much the individual digital
artifacts themselves, but the stories behind them, the picture they
paint in tandem with other metrics of how research is being perceived,
consumed, used, shared and commented upon and the conversations enabled
by that understanding. The stories you’ll find in PlumX are more
comprehensive than academics can easily see on their own for two main

  •  While Twitter is a public platform, only a
    fraction of its data, or 1% of the Twitter stream, is free and
    accessible to the public via their on-site search or their free API. We
    license our data directly from Gnip, now the only comprehensive provider
    for Twitter data, to search for references to works on scholarly
  • PlumX Suite tools can find multiple references to the same work,
    whether pre-print versions of an article, versions uploaded to
    an institutional repository, or those found on publisher’s website. We
    also find and group references even if a URL shorterner like or was used in a tweet.
In our newly-released layout for blog posts and tweets,
it’s easier than ever to clearly understand the entire narrative of the
conversation going on about an article. We make it our mission to
uncover these stories to enable person-to-person interactions, whether
digital and real-world,  that advance the state of research.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 12.36.10 PM

Depending on a researcher’s domain, expertise and even temperament,
becoming an active Twitter poster may or may not be for them. They may
choose other mechanisms to engage with their communities of research or
practice; to each their own, and vive la difference! With blogging and
micro-blogging coming of age, the question has shifted: it is no longer
“To Tweet or Not To Tweet?”  Instead, researchers should ask themselves:
as the digital stories around your work and research are being written
online, are you listening?

"To Tweet or Not To Tweet?" Is Not the Question - Plum Analytics

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