The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

SoTL Advocacy Via Social Media: Reflections and Suggestions

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Written by: Jen Friberg, SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State University


Over the last two years, I have (sometimes grudgingly) endeavored to use social media to learn about SoTL and share my thoughts and interests related to SoTL with others. As a SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State, I have regularly used Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress to share the SoTL work happening at ISU and beyond. That said, I initially resisted the siren’s song of social media for professional use, preferring to use social media for personal communications and connections. Over time, my thoughts on this topic evolved as it became evident that others were harnessing social media effectively, sharing their professional work and ideas more widely with social media than without. Further, I realized that SoTL, a movement that is growing, global, and appealing to people of many ages, has natural synergy with social media as users can capture current research, ideas, applications, and events central to SoTL and publicly share them with large (and varied) networks of users. I am now a happy convert, and access social media often to learn about and to promote SoTL.

At the SoTL Commons conference in March, I attended a presentation by Josephine Csete and Janice Chia of Hong Kong Polytechnic University titled: Using social media to build your SoTL research & profile: The “what,”why,” and “how.” This presentation underscored  the vast influence social media has in society with billions of people using social media in a variety of ways to share thoughts and ideas with others. Csete and Chia did an excellent job of citing data to support the use of social media in SoTL, sharing the following:

  • There is evidence to suggest that an active online presence may directly impact a researcher’s credentials as measured though traditional metrics (Bik & Goldstein, 2013).
  • Sharing publications on Twitter is statistically correlated with increases in downloads and early citations of work (Shuai, Pepe, & Bollen, 2012).
  • Articles that are “highly tweeted” were 11 times more likely to be cited in subsequent publications than those were not shared via social media (Eysenbach, 2011).

I mentioned above that I am a social media convert. That said, having prior experience using social media for personal use didn’t make me an expert in using social media to advocate for SoTL. I learned a few lessons (some more easily than others!) along the way:

  1. Harness social media to the extent of your comfort. There is no reason to put yourself in a position where you are doing something that you are uncomfortable with or overwhelmed by. Start slowly with using social media and build your involvement over time to create a sustainable routine and purpose.
  2. Select social media platforms purposefully. There are numerous social media platforms — I won’t list them all here. Wikipedia provides a list of the top 15 social media apps with links to explain each, which provides a good start to understanding the diversity of options available to those interested in using social media. Select the platform most aligned with the reason you’re choosing to use social media. I started a blog to share SoTL resources and feature the work of a variety of SoTL contributors and researchers. That would have been more difficult to accomplish via a different type of social media.
  3. Don’t be afraid to share. Use social media to share your SoTL work, your favorite SoTL articles, and the SoTL work (properly cited) of others. Share images that reflect SoTL. Contribute to the Commons. We acknowledge that SoTL represents a big tent, with many diverse ideas and disciplines represented within — and having diversity in contributions focused on SoTL via social media is essential.
  4. Be patient. It may take a while to develop a following on social media, but keep contributing. A lack of followers does not mean that you don’t have thoughts worth sharing…it may simply mean that you haven’t yet been “found” by like-minded SoTL folks. Alternately, a lack of followers over time could mean that you have selected a platform that is incongruous to your goals for using social media.
  5. Develop a personality via social media that promotes authenticity. There is no “one way” to use social media to advocate for SoTL. Represent yourself on social media in a way that is unique to you. Develop a voice, a style, and a manner that is personal, authentic, and genuine. Anything else will be hard to sustain!


Blog References:

Bik, H. M. & Goldstein, M. C. (2013). An introduction to social media for scientists. PLoS Biology, 11(4): e1001535.

Csete, J. M. & Chia, J. (2016). Using social media to build your SoTL research & profile: The what, why, and how. Presentation at the SoTL Commons conference in Savannah, GA. Retrieved from:

Eysenbach, G. (2011). Can tweets predict citations? Metrics pf social impact based on twitter and correclation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. Journal of Medical Internet Resources, 12: e123.

Shuai, X., Pepe, A., & Bollen, J. (2012). How the scientific community reacts to newly submitted pre-prints: Article downloads, Twitter mentions, and citations. PLoS ONE, 7: e47523.

One thought on “SoTL Advocacy Via Social Media: Reflections and Suggestions

  1. Thanks for sharing some tips! There are struggles on many levels for many of us. Always a learning process.

    Did you see the recent article about the Mayo Clinic promotions committee decision about the use of social media as part of the tenure/promotion process?

    Interesting implications for many of us as we talk about how to best use social media in our academic roles.


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