Tips for planning digital dissemination

  • Identify your target audiences. Who are they? What access do they have to digital media? What kinds of media and devices they are likely to use? How much time they will have to engage with your research? Be sure to include your research participants as one potential audience.
  • Decide what quality of outputs you need. For some audiences, a polished, professional product will be most effective (for example, funders, policymakers, some professionals). For other audiences this may not be so important.

  • Brevity helps. In many cases online media work best when content is broken up into short chunks. Editing is crucial for this, and can be time consuming. If you want to create longer outputs, make sure you have a good reason for doing so.
  • Decide what should be public and private. Some data and research outputs will be suitable for public circulation, but others may not be. Making this decision in advance can help to avoid difficulties later on.
  • Don’t over-commit. It can be tempting to be over ambitious. Aim for a small number of well-produced, well-maintained, carefully targeted digital outputs.
  • Make time for maintenance. Online platforms can be easy to set up, but they usually need regular updates to be effective. Identify who will do that, how often, and build this into the project plan.
  • Publicise your outputs. For example, by using your networks, asking other websites to link to your work, short pieces in relevant news feeds, twitter hash tags, adding links to email signatures and improving search engine rankings. Also consider how online and offline dissemination can work together – putting weblinks on flyers, leaflets, or business cards for example.
  • Allow for engagement and exchange. Digital media lend themselves to dialogue with, and feedback from, your audiences, e.g. through comments, ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons, Twitter replies and mentions. Comments may require moderation and spam protection.

  • Think about how young people can be involved in dissemination activities. For some audiences, this can help bring the findings to life. Young people might also want to use research findings for campaigning. All of this may require additional resources and attention to ethics.

  • Consider the ethical implications of dissemination. This might involve: making your dissemination plans clear at the consent stage; inviting participants to contact you to have media removed if they change their minds; restricting access to research outputs where there is potential for harm; involving young people in dissemination only if the experience is likely to be positive and of benefit to them.

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“There are many reasons to use a social platform. The biggest one is to socialise with your friends. Therefore we’ve got to negotiate access if we want to do other things in those spaces.”
Tim Davies, Practical Participation