TOOLS: This morning I encouraged public health experts to participate in a Twitter Town Hall Meeting at #StopGunViolence. I think it’s important for public discourse to include perspectives and views backed by evidence, even if the research is only related (e.g., about violence, in general, rather than gun violence, specifically).
In addition to enhancing the quality of public engagement, public health experts’ participation in social media can serve another important purpose. Whether you use social media regularly or hardly ever, putting your ideas and links to your work into popular content trends can be a way to raise the visibility of you and your research…a little bit.
In case you don’t know, the hashtag symbol (#) is a way for users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites to create shorthand. When you put a hashtag in front of the content, other users can find your content using the hashtag and add their own content. In addition, folks interested in content related to the hashtag can easily find all entries that include it and join in.
NOTE: Your social media content will show up in searches without hashtags. Folks can find you based on searching for any word in your posts. Hashtags allow you to convey a message using fewer characters. They are less useful and used in forums that do not have message length restrictions.
Using Popular Hashtags
There are two types of hashtags you can use to gain attention. The first is the most popular.
Most social media sites have some way for you to know which hashtags are trending or are being used the most in that moment or over time. For example, as I type, #YouAreAnEgomaniacIf and #WildCard are two of the top ten hashtags being used in the United States on Twitter.
The advantage of using a popular hashtag in your post is that your content will be included in a stream that could be seen by hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people. One challenge is that many popular hashtags have no direct connection to your research.
There is no rule (…that I know of) that requires a hashtag in a post to connect with the rest of the content. Using a trending hashtag is a popular technique for companies and individuals trying to draw attention to their unrelated posts.
So, go ahead and use that popular and unrelated #hashtag with your content. And, if you are uncomfortable with that approach, you can make creative (if not obvious) connections. Some of the funniest posts link products to seemingly unrelated #hashtags using comedy or a play on words, as an example.
Finally, popular trends mean lots of posts, so don’t expect a huge bump in followers or attention to your work from use of a popular hashtag. On the other hand, you may attract a few unexpected followers (e.g., a journalist or an expert in a related field) who might not otherwise know about your work.
Using Related Hashtags
The second type of hashtag you might use has a direct connection to your interests. To find them, you can search content using key words (without hashtags) or view the content of organizations or leaders in your field . For example, #PublicHealth and #HealthComm (as in communications) are two I use and follow.
Whichever hashtag approach you use, #GoodLuck or Good Luck! with your #Research dissemination.
What hashtags do you use for your public health posts?