Making Twitter work for you

This session, led by Dr Ernesto Priego, Lecturer in Library Science at City University, provided a fascinating insight into the ‘tricks of the Twitter trade’ that researchers might deploy to improve awareness of their research. Ernesto’s talk complemented the excellent teaching session led by Professor Melissa Terras of UCL, which opened participants’ eyes to the value of academic blogging. Ernesto drew attention to his numerous publications on the value of social media, including a prescient 2011 Guardian article, ‘How Twitter will revolutionise academic research and teaching’.

His central point was that social media invites academic participants to engage in an ongoing conversation in which different actors can participate to build up new knowledge, rather than a more traditional model of content creation and passive consumption.

Some key points/tips from his talk:

  • One in 40 scholars are active on Twitter.
  • Learn the lingo to get the most from Twitter: for example, hashtags are an important way to enable others to follow your conversations – a type of categorisation to facilitate searching. This crib sheet is useful.
  • Twitter is free – a big plus at a time of constrained budgets.
  • Twitter can be used to support the research life cycle of new ideas, collaboration, fundraising, research creation and outreach of findings – to publicise new publications, recruit participants to make new knowledge or capture opinions, encourage new conversations, and provide a new tool for wider dissemination of research. Follow this link for more information.
  • Aim to build a community of supporters, not passive followers.
  • Identify your audience and plan your objectives carefully – to promote a project, publicise a book, recruit students etc.
  • Make sure your own profile is complete including images or video.
  • There are optimal times to tweet, to reach the widest audiences and use tools such as bitly to determine the effectiveness of your campaign and kissmetrics to investigate your analytics more closely.
  • Practice live tweeting at conferences.
  • Explore using TweetDeck and the API to create your own apps.
  • Use Twitter to cite – for example Tweet2cite.
  • Link, use images to boost effectiveness.
  • Develop a distinctive identity or Twitter personality.

Ernesto’s slides can be viewed here:







Visualisation workshop

The visualisation workshop led by BL Labs’ Ben O’Steen on 21 March certainly gave us food for thought. Ben recommended adhering to the basic principles of good graphic design to facilitate successful storytelling using pictures to support words: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. He followed with examples of poor design that are best avoided, including swamping the viewer with too much information and making often unconscious but subjective decisions about graphics that misrepresent research.

Clearly, infographics often work best when simplifying large data sets, such as demographics. A useful and accessible tool that shows the potential is the Google Public Data Directory but it is good if all of us can have a go – see Infogram, Visually or Piktochart.

Ben’s slide presentation can be viewed here.

Innovative recent projects which were discussed included ‘Mapping the Republic of Letters‘, which seeks to explore international chains of correspondence between ‘men of letters’, focusing on the Eighteenth Century; and ‘Kindred Britain‘, which maps relationships between 30,000 famous British historical figures. These have a common aspiration of visualising networks by translating text to data to map, timeline or graphic and teasing out perhaps unexpected relationships or connections. Another new and exciting project is ‘Traces through Time‘, which aims to use the potential of Big Data analysis to trace individuals across time. Perhaps the most visually beautiful example of these relationship mapping tools that we reviewed was One Zoom’s ‘Tree of Life‘ explorer,  which allows the viewer to explore the science of Darwin and Evolution.

Developments in timeline technology particularly interested the group, which was already familiar with Simile timeline widgets. One interesting sandbox project which is seeking to represent overlapping or ill-defined events on timelines is called ‘Topotime‘. Useful examples of ‘Do It Yourself’ tools can be found on the Bamboo DIRT site.

Thank you again to Ben for a stimulating talk and I would like to draw attention to BL Labs’ fascinating Mechanical Curator, which combines digitisation, smart algorithms and beautiful pictures, to reveal unexpected treasures.




Ben’s advice was to

Wellcome Library visit, 24 March

Ross MacFarlane and Dr Chris Hilton are our hosts for this visit to the Wellcome Library.

–         9.45am-10am: Arrival at Gibbs Building (, tea and coffee

–         10am-10.15: Introduction – contexts, ‘seeing in context’ and moving from Wellcome’s collection to Wellcome Collection

–         10.15-11.15: Chris (talk + discussion)

Chris is going to talk about the ‘language of access’ in the context of how we only access special collections through the language of the catalogue (unlike open shelf books, we can’t just browse if the catalogue is poor quality); that framing whilst cataloguing makes all sorts of assumptions about what we think is important and therefore what users we think will be when using a catalogue; and that digital issues like remote access make it more important to be aware of those assumptions and not to accept them unquestioningly.  He’ll be picking apart the assumptions of ISAD(G) and MeSH, and entering the waters of Linked Data via photocopies of deeds, an Armenian catalogue and a manuscript produced at a séance

–         11.15-11.30: Break

–         11.30-12.30: Ross (talk + discussion)

Ross will be talking about notions of access and how they overlap with the development of the Library’s audience.  Should certain parts of an archive’s audience be privileged in their access to resources?  He will talk about how the Library fits within both Wellcome Collection and the Wellcome Trust. how access to the collections has expanded through digitisation and what the future may hold.  This talk will probably include mention of a ‘mossy foot’, will certainly feature a recipe for haggis and why explain why you should never second guess someone’s research interests…

–         12.30: End

Beautiful data, 21 March 2014

BL Labs have kindly organised a session on ‘beautiful data’ for the afternoon of 21 March at the BL: 2 pm onwards. Data visualisation is one of the next ‘big things’ and the research councils have published a number of funding calls in this area. The session will round off the work we have done to explore data, publicise it and engage with the public.

The session will comprise

  •  An overview of ‘beautiful data’ and the tools you might use to create such things.
  • A tour of the new Beautiful Science exhibition:
  • A case-study on the ‘Mechanical Curator’ – a new tool to explore data
  • A final case-study on ‘The Sample Generator’ – – a new tool to explore data

Courtauld Visit, 27 February 2014

The visit to the Courtauld Institute is scheduled for 2-30 on Thursday 27th February. I suggest we meet at the reception of the Institute at 2-20.  From the Strand entrance, the Institute’s reception is the second door on the left.

The programme comprises:

Brief history of Courtauld, the collections of the book library and its readers (Antony Hopkins)

Bibliographic information from a librarian’s perspective, with special reference to the new cataloguing rules (RDA) and exhibition catalogues (Deborah Lee)

The visit of course provides an opportunity to ask some searching questions and get a behind the scenes insight into the working of a busy research library.







Next technical training session, 21 January

A reminder that the next digital training session is in the Archives at King’s next Tuesday 21 January, 10-1. Rory will be about in the afternoon for some clinic sessions if required.

The training will focus on the use of maps and timelines.

Can each of you think about your topics with these two presentation methods in mind and have available on your laptops some relevant data that you can deploy using Rory’s super widgets.

Rory has sent some more detailed instructions – essentially prepare and bring your data and we will be all set. Anyone who needs wireless access, please let me know as soon as possible (those without King’s or eduroam) .

Also coming up are visits to the Wellcome and Courtauld and a date (finally) for the final presentation session. I hope to fit in a session on new visualisation engines for data.


Social Media for Research: Making Twitter Work for You.



As promised, another date for your diaries – exploring the potential of Twitter with Dr Ernesto Priego, Lecturer in Library Science and Acting Course Director, MSc/MA Electronic Publishing, City University London, and a Twitter expert.

This will take place on 6 February, 12-2 in Room 305 in the Strand campus, also styled the Liddell Hart Seminar Room. This classroom is to the rear of the Archives, but you need to approach it by walking straight ahead out of the lifts past the toilets, turning right and walking to the end of the corridor and turning right. If you are unsure how to get there, please visit the Archives and someone can help direct you.

The workshop is a hands-on, practical, introduction to Twitter. It is aimed at researchers who are relatively new to Twitter, both complete beginners and occasional uses.

This workshop will cover:

  • Twitter terminology
  • Updating your Twitter Profile & Settings
  • Posting updates (tweets) and the different types of tweets (Replies, mentions, retweets, direct messages)
  • Finding & following other twitter users
  • Searching Twitter
  • Using Hashtags
  • Tweeting links, photos & videos
  • Live-tweeting
  • Twitter Lists
  • The API, widgets and applications
  • Optional Twitter tools
  • Best practice

Please bring your laptops for a hands-on session. If you do not have a Twitter account, now is the time to sign up!

As per usual, those of you without King’s wireless logins, please raise your hands and I will get guest logins ready for the meeting. The session is a working lunch – I will take your orders once you arrive and organise some refreshments. Please let me know if you cannot make the session.

I hope you can make the class, which looks fascinating!


Creating A Social Media Plan

On 19th November, I ran a session on creating and using a social media plan. Although social media is, by it’s very nature, ephemeral and casual in tone, if it is approached in a too casual way, it can generate confusion, chaos and anxiety. A planned approach, on the other hand,  can help to organise thoughts and direct efforts.

The benefits of planning can help with –

  • Raising your personal-professional profile
  • Promoting a specific event
  • Promoting a specific piece of work

The plan itself is built using –

  1. A blog as the foundation and using blog posts for the most comprehensive, detailed and thoughtful writeups of events (more on events, below).
  2. Promoting blog posts via different communication channels which are appropriate for our intended audience, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and remembering not to neglect more traditional channels such as email lists if they are used within your community.
  3. Enriching blog posts linking to or embedding additional media such as slides, videos, full-text articles, research data and podcasts.

What is an event?

For the purposes of promotion, you can work up pretty much anything that is happening, has happened or is going to happen into an event. Opening your fridge can be an event. Although you might want to tie a fridge-opening into your work in some way.

Events can be –

  • Publishing a paper in a journal
  • Presenting a paper at a conference or workshop
  • Attending a conference or workshop
  • Discovering some interesting things in your research
  • Summarising a conversation that helped with your work
  • Reading a good book or article and writing up our thoughts as an informal review/think piece
  • Capturing a conversation on Twitter about your research area

A plan can help you to communicate your highlights – from a published paper to a breakthrough research finding, sharing your ideas will –

  • Keep you visible
  • Help to build up an audience
  • Keep you in the conversation with other people who share your interests
  • Inspire you by sharing your work with others and, in return, seeing what they are working on
  • Improve your communication skills and get you into conversations about your research area

Social Media Planning in 7 Steps…

Step 1 – pre-event preparation

No matter how small the event, pre-event planning is worth doing. I helps you to find a focus and work out not only what you are going to use, but when you are going to use it. Even a short, informal book review can benefit from pre-event planning. Start by alerting people that you have a book you are excited about reading, and let them know ahead of time that you will be blogging your thoughts on that book.

For pre-planning, look at –

  • What do people need to know?
  • Do you need to make your audience aware of time, date, venue?
  • How about maps, pre-event reading links, or any other information in advance?
  • Take time to get the details right here and save them so you can re-use them when needed.

Step 2 – pre-event channels

  1. Identify your media channels – think about where your audience will look for information.
  2. Blog (everything should start with a blog post even if it is a short one as this will provide the link you will send out so people can see what’s going to happen in more detail).
  3. Select the channels you will use to alert people about what is going to happen, such as  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email discussion lists
  4. Make sure any additional resources, such as an abstract of a paper or research data, are available online so you can link and/or embed them into your blog post.


Step 3 – At the event preparation

Plan in advance which channels will be available during the event itself, and if it is sensible to do any sharing live, during the event. Be wary of taking on too much if you are actually speaking or chairing anything at a conference, for example.

  • Preparing for the event – what do you want to share and how?
  • Live tweeting?
  • Live blogging?
  • Live video streaming?
  • Who will do what during the event?
  • No matter what the scale of the event is, it’s worth considering the options.

Also consider if it’s better to miss out this stage and just do pre-event and post-event publicity. This is a sensible option if you will be otherwise engaged at the event itself – for example if you are giving a presentation or running a workshop, or indeed if the ‘live’ event isn’t suitable (actually reading a book isn’t a sharing event, maybe).


Step 4 – At the event additional preparation for ‘official’ events

  • Check what equipment and internet access you will have available during the event.
  • If this is in a controlled area (something happening in your own space or a space you ar familiar with),  you know will be aware of the advantages and shortcomings.
  • If you are going to be in a space that is new and you don’t control, such as a conference or workshop, be sure to speak to both the organisers and the venue about what is available and what is allowed.
  • If the event is public, check if it is OK to take photos, record sound and shoot videos, and if you will need any official agreements with other participants. Remember to respect the rules of the event and the requests of others with regard to their own privacy, even if it means abandoning your initial plans.

If your event is something organised and involving other people (such as a conference, workshop etc), check out what the organisers have planned already. They may, for example, have a photographer or someone making videos, or live tweeting. This could create free enrichment for you! Just remember to include links or embed outputs into your blog, tweets, updates when you write them.

Step 5 – During the event

  • Having planned in the previous stage what you will be doing, this stage should be simple.
  • But it IS live, so be prepared for unexpected things to happen, for last minute changes and to get stuff wrong!
  • Live tweeting and blogging is a skill, and it improves with practice.
  • Remember to any official tags where available, or agree your own where none are available.

**A word of warning** – if you are speaking or chairing a session, try and get someone else to take over any live social media, or even miss out the ‘live’ part completely. It’s better to do a pre and post event coverage well than try and spread yourself too thinly, get stressed and be unable to focus on the main event.

Step 6 – After the event

  • This is all about consolidating the event information.
  • Write a summary blog post, even if you did live coverage of the event. The summary should contain links and/or embedded content created around the event by yourself and others.
  • Share a link to your blog post via Twitter, Facebook – use every channel that  you used when you promoted your pre-event blog post. Handily, you can check on your plan to make sure you don’t miss anything!
  • If you don’t have all the things available online that you want to link to, or you discover additional material later on, you can always add it in. The most important thing is to get your summary post out quickly. You can always edit to include new stuff later, or write an additional post that covers extra content.


Step 7 – Tidying up

  • Make sure all your outputs are available online, and can be linked to easily.
  • Put publications in a repository where possible – always aim to link to your work. Full text is better, but an abstract will do if that is all that is available.
  • Put any presentations in Slideshare or something similar.
  • Upload photos, podcasts and videos (Flickr and YouTube are popular, but other sites are available).
  • If there were other people covering the event as well, check where they have shared content –  link to blog posts, and link up on other social media channels where you can.
  • Join in the general discussion and buzz around an event if others experienced it too.

Throughout it all, remember this is a conversation – you are not broadcasting, you are sharing. So answer tweets at you, respond to comments, reply to emails on lists. You may adapt your own thoughts and techniques and learn new skills – which is, of course, another event you can blog about and share….

Useful Links

On the day, we discussed using TweetDeck for managing Twitter as it gives you separate columns for following hashtags, seeing tweets @ you and handling multiple Twitter accounts. Other options similar to TweetDeck are –

We also discussed general advice on blogging, so the following resources might be useful for more information on blogging in an academic/research context –

We talked briefly about Creative Commons and how CC licenses can help you manage the rights of your content online. More here –

I also mentioned the lists of top academic tweeters by subject, created by the LSE. The lists can be found here –

I’ve tried to cover not only the planning itself but the other things I mentioned both in the presentation and to people I spoke to individually on the day. If there is something you are interested in that I haven’t included here, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add information and links.