Using social media to support your research
An understanding of the research cycle and of the range of tools available will help researchers select the tools appropriate to their needs.
The benefits of social media to researchers
We are all facing workload and time constraints. Social media tools and applications can help to enhance research capacity. You can use them to harness your network to assist you with both discovery and filtering. If your network includes ten researchers in your discipline, each of whom flags anything that is particularly valuable, you are likely to save a lot of time.
But social media tools are not just about an explosion of information. They also provide users with tools to filter, recommend and comment on content quality. Social bookmarking and social citation tools provide researchers with the opportunity to share recommendations. They can also be useful in helping you to park things in an easily-retrievable way.
Categorisation of social media
With so many tools available, it can be helpful to categorise them by broad purpose. In 2010 UCL identified eight different groups:
- Social networking (Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Bebo, Friendster, Foursquare, Plurk)
- Blogging (Yammer, Xanga, Wordpress)
- Microblogging (Twitter, Tumblr, StockTwits, Plurk)
- Collaborative authoring tools for sharing and editing documents (Google Docs, DropBox)
- Social tagging and bookmarking (Delicious, Pininterest, Flipboard, Paper.li, Storify, Stumbleupon)
- Scheduling and meeting tools (Google+)
- Conferencing (Skype)
- Image or video sharing (You Tube, Slideshare, Boxee, Last FM, SmugMug, Vimeo)
Alternatively, Fred Cavazza (2011) grouped social media around seven primary uses:
- Publish, with blog platforms (WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, Overblog), microblog (Twitter), social stream services (FriendFeed, Tumblr, Posterous) and wikis (Wikipedia, Wikia, WetPaint)
- Share, with services allowing you to share videos (YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo), photos (Flickr, Picasa, Instagram), links (Delicious, Digg), music (Last, iLike, Spotify, Deezer) or documents (SlideShare, Scribb)
- Discuss, with bulletin boards (PhpBB, bbPress, Phorum, 4Chan, Gravity), comments management systems (IntenseDebate, Cocomment, Disqus, JS-Kit, Backtype) and social search tools (Quora, Aardvark, Mahalo)
- Commerce, with customers reviews solutions (BazaarVoice, PowerReviews), collaborative feedbacks tools (UserVoice, GetSatisfaction), recommendation and inspiration communities (Polyvore, StyleHyve, Weardrobe, Hunch), localized coupons (Groupon, LivingSocial), purchase sharing tools (Blippy, Swipely), co-shopping tools (Look'n'Be) and Facebook-shopping tools (ShopTab, Boosket)
- Location, with social location platforms (Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, Facebook Places,Google Places), local social networks (Loopt, Whrrl), mobile social networks (Mig33,MocoSpace) and events sharing (Upcoming, Plancast, Zvents, Eventful, Socializr)
- Network, with personal social networks (MyYearBook, MyLife, CopainsDavant, Badoo), professional social network (LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing, Plaxo), "traditional" social network (Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Tagged, Hi5) and social networks creation tools (Ning, KickApps)
- Games, where you can find traditionnal players from casual gaming (Kongregate, Pogo, PopCap, PlayFirst), but also new comers from social gaming (Zynga, Playfish, Playdom, SGN), as well as mobile gaming (ngmoco, OpenFeint) and virtual worlds for tweens (Habbo, Club Penguin,Poptropica).