Want Your Research to Go Viral?

So, you're tired of your research languishing in some journal that no one reads anymore? You want your research to go viral. Good luck.

Right off, there is no formula for getting something to go viral. If there was a formula, marketers would be able to do it regularly. There are social media techniques - where and when to post, keywords to use, ways to encourage engagement. And there are ways to get more views that marketers do use that you wouldn't want near your serious research. (see clickbait)

Colleges produce a lot of research and are always hoping to get the information out into the field, but also into the popular press and media. As an article on chronicle.com points out, sharing discoveries with the "everyday citizens who pay the taxes or tuition that help keep them open" can be difficult. How do you engage them with esoteric research?  Researchers are generally not strong, and often not very interested, in media and self-promotion. Most of us are not Neil de Grasse Tyson

"Viral" these days is connected to social media rather than mainstream media. In fact, mainstream media monitors social media for stories on a daily basis.


The aforementioned article looks at how the University of California started a "research feed" on the social-media platform Tumblr as an experiment.They made the research Tumblr-friendly with things like animated GIFs. Visual are important. Keywords (tags) are important to improving search optimization. Following and reposting relevant posts from other research-related Tumblr feeds and media sites like The Washington Post and the Verge is important to build followers and hopefully they will return the follow and repost your research. A repost from The New York Times is great, and if it leads to the paper using the content in an article of their own, even better.

The University of California Research feed now has about 159,000 followers. That is more than double the number of followers of the UC Facebook page and Twitter feed combined, and they picked up followers such as public radio’s Science Friday and the Huffington Post.

I suspect that research might become viral or at least more popular because it is easy to understand, it seems to fit everyday observation and the implications of the theory are easy to implement. Plus, it is "marketed" properly, including by charismatic communicators. 

Should your research be on Tumblr? Yes, and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, maybe even Instagram if it's very visual. Will it go viral? If the posts are engaging and the right people follow and repost your content, it may.



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