By Teresa Corbett and Lisa Hynes
This time last year, we returned home from the European health psychology conference in Innsbruck. At that conference we learned about social media and how it can facilitate academic discussion and dissemination. That workshop had an impact on us that we could have hardly imagined at the time. Since then we have delivered two workshops on how social media can be used in Health Psychology. In addition to our personal social media accounts, we set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for our Health psychology group at NUI,Galway, which have amassed 408 followers on Twitter and 249 “ likes” on Facebook.
Why social media?
So what are the benefits of social media for researchers, students, and for academic departments? This year has taught us that social media can facilitate activities as diverse as getting to know other researchers, finding about professional organisations and events, marketing and actually conducting research. Our engagement with social media has enabled us to find out about conferences and workshops and who is attending, and to access information about events that we were unable to attend. Social media has facilitated our remote learning by allowing us to engage with conferences or talks that our peers were attending. They can share soundbites and take-home messages, pictures of important slides and even share links to recommended articles.
Social media allows us to take charge of our own public relations, by giving us access to an international forum through which we can tell our colleagues, stakeholders and participants about our upcoming research and publications. Within seconds of a paper being published by the journal we can share with thousands of people, thus ensuring increased citations and recognition of our work. We have used social media to advertise conferences and events taking place in our own department, or share information about events we think might be of interest to others. We can recruit participants with little cost and effort by sharing information about our research on these sites.
People often ask when we get the time to get on social media or to write a blog, and question the worth of this extra task. The benefits of investing time is social media engagement is concrete, rapid and totally reinforcing. In fact, we’ve met people at conferences who have opened conversations by saying “oh yes, you’re the girl who tweets!”… Our social media presence has become an ice-breaker, a networking tool and a way to engage with others in our field.
A blog is born!!
However, the jewel in our social media crown has undoubtedly been our blog. This started as a pilot to see if we could put together some interesting content and generate interest locally and farther afield. Blogs are a great way to communicate ideas, opinions, and information in an informal and even entertaining way. Blogging has exploded as a means of communication and enables all walks of life to get writing!
We took the lead with the initial blog posts to gain momentum at the launch of the blog. Before long, people were offering to write pieces for us and asking if we could post about certain topics. We have varied our posts from the personal to the professional; from having an NUI, Galway focus to being relevant more broadly. Our blogs have been tweeted about and shared widely, with esteemed individuals in our field commenting and sharing our insights. Not bad for a group of PhD students looking for a means of productive procrastination!
The potential reach of blogging and social media became very clear to us at the European Health Psychology Society conference in Cyprus last week, when (to our pleasant surprise) people from across the UK and the rest of Europe brought our blog and other social media activities up in conversation, remarking on the buzz and activity around Health Psychology in Galway. That was so exciting for us! We really love health psychology and we want to do more to contribute to the development of this field, here and where ever else we can!
So what does to future hold?
As with the best trials, the feasibility and pilot phase has allowed us to learn more about what works and what doesn’t in relation to our blog. We have rallied some eager recruits and established a committee that will take the blog forward in the coming months and beyond. The staff in our department have encouraged us and engaged with our efforts, taking the blog from a student-led initiative towards a more cohesive means of sharing information about the work we do. Our friends and colleagues at the universities in Ireland and beyond have kindly offered to write special guest posts for us, ensuring a broad range of topics and views in our future posts. (Hint hint readers! Your first blog is just an email away!)
We thank you all for your support in the last year and are very proud of all that our simple little blog idea has achieved. We look forward to taking a step back now and watching how it develops in future iterations with new editorial insights and innovative ideas. While in some ways, we find it scary to start to let go and share the running of blog with others, we are reminded that even the best of ideas cannot survive by individual efforts alone. We want the blog to last beyond our time here in Galway and know that it is safe in the hands of those who will follow us with new input, novel ideas and creative discussions about our field.
Thank you to all who have contributed their time to our blog this year!
Teresa and Lisa