We love sharing good stuff. It’s something we’ve tried to do consistently. Most often, we share and talk about topics relevant to researcher life, funding culture, and academic track-record building.
We know how much work it is to create and provide a quality resource that’s supportive and generates a positive community dynamic. We know we don’t know everything, and appreciate the companionship of those who are fellow travellers on the pathway of the endlessly curious and learning.
Given our profile, we are regularly approached to share stuff through social media or the blog itself.
When this happens well, it’s usually a cause for glee because we are always thrilled to share good stuff that we think our community would appreciate and enjoy (or at least be provoked by in interesting ways!).
When we’re approached in not-so-good ways to share stuff, the outcome may not be what you want.
My excellent colleagues have written recent posts addressing how to approach busy people (Helen Kara) and what works when you’re cold-call emailing (Inger Mewburn). As they both point out, there’s nothing wrong with approaching folks with requests or invitations. We believe that it’s a good idea to do it in a way that will give you an outcome you’d appreciate.
In this vein, I thought it might be helpful to outline good ways to approach folks like us on social media if you have something you’d like to share. For Research Whisperer, people often drop us direct messages (DMs) on Twitter. Our DMs get erratic attention so don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response straight away.
Most of the dynamics I discuss below are not specific to Research Whisperer and all of it is useful to understand if you’re approaching others about sharing things on their platform.
KNOW THE COMMUNITY.
Knowing who you’re sharing with and why they might find it useful is a crucial part of any communication strategy. Tagging people in on irrelevant stuff just because they have a big following is annoying. Inger wrote about social media tagging etiquette in her post.
Here’s a bit of case-study detail about the Research Whisperer community: it’s an international mix of researchers, those who support researchers, and those who work with researchers. Research Whisperer is not primarily interested in teaching or undergraduates.
The range of topics we’d cover is fairly broad but it’s not open slather. For example, Research Whisperer doesn’t focus on content about writing dissertations or doing a PhD – that’s squarely the territory of our good friend The Thesis Whisperer. So, if you ping us to share content about doing vivas, structuring a thesis, or reasons to do a PhD, chances are we’ll pass. That said, there is a blurred zone of content that’s relevant to emerging researchers (i.e. PhD students and postdoctoral scholars) and we’d be making that call on a case-by-case basis.
Our community has folks from any and all academic disciplines and what we share needs to be broadly engaging and relevant. This means highly specific information that’s only relevant to a boutique slice of the scholarly population is probably not the go. Similarly, we are not interested in generic content (as blog posts or social media links) that provide no new insight or perspective on things related to research life. There’s already a lot of material out there and we’d prefer stuff that’s fresh or engaging rather than hackneyed.
UNDERSTAND THE GUIDELINES.
Some folks have specific guidelines about what they like to see. If your thing doesn’t fall within the guidelines then it’s unlikely to be shared.
We provide guidelines about what we want to see in submissions for the blog. You can easily extrapolate from these what our take might be on the range of things we’d share. For example, we say that we do not accept sponsored posts on the blog so you can assume that we won’t take sponsored posts on social media either (that is, we do not accept payment to publish certain things).
KNOW THE CONTEXT AND APPROACH.
It helps to know the values of the organisation or person and how they manage their platform. Have you seen what they normally post on social media? Do you know who runs the account? What’s the tone of their accounts and how do they engage with their community?
For example, if you’d like us to share your thing, here are a few elements that may be helpful to know: We run Research Whisperer voluntarily and as a non-profit initiative. It is not a for-profit business. We have full-time jobs that are not Research Whisperer. We work to cultivate a welcoming, inclusive community that focuses on mutual support, sharing, and integrity. Our preference is always for quality resources and links that provide considered, expert, inclusive, and non-exploitative content. We would not share content that we think contravenes these values. We like content that’s realistic, constructive, and doesn’t look, smell, or sound like snake-oil.
It’s lovely when people think to share things with us and genuinely want to engage because they understand and appreciate the work we do. What’s not so lovely is when people DM us with links and resources and presume that we’ll share them because we are somehow at their service. If we say ‘no’, then please accept that decision. See all the points above.