Choosing a social media platform

Researchers are increasingly using social media to gather data, disseminate findings and keep up to date on their interests.

Most social media are designed for purposes other than research. Learning the culture of social media platforms can help you to decide whether and how to use them for research.

There can be a temptation to use the most fashionable social media platforms to appeal to children and young people. It’s important to assess whether these platforms actually serve your research aims and needs. Facebook, for example, is not particularly well suited to ensuring privacy.

Consider what features you need for your research – such as discussion, collaboration, moderation or privacy.

Thinking beyond the most obvious social media services can open up other possibilities. For example, Etherpad and Google Drive can enable groups of young people to collaborate remotely; Skype can be used for virtual focus groups; services such as Dropbox and Sendspace can be used to share data.

By the time you are reading this, there will be new products and services available. Other services may have been discontinued.

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“The approach of putting something up on a social media site and expecting the work to be done on dissemination is not realistic. The attention that we’ve always given to how we disseminate our findings should be given as well to using the online world.”
Susan Elsley, University of Edinburgh