This post lists some of the findings from a recent survey we ran as part of the JISC-funded social media project – SMART. The project is lead by the SAS communications team and engages all 10 institutes of the School. The project commenced in July 2012 and is expected to complete in July 2013. Over the coming weeks we will share a series of reports and insights gathered in the past year.
Key findings from the SAS Survey
We put a fair bit of effort into designing a survey that allowed us to capture a range of opinions without expecting staff to spend more than 15 minutes completing it. As a result the response rate was much higher than we expected.
70.1% of respondents were staff with a mainly administrative role, 20.9% were staff with an academic role, 6% were research fellows and the remaining 3% were research students. The overall staff response rate was around 30%.
One of our goals was to capture existing approaches to using social media. The majority of survey participants are using social networking to engage on-line audiences on the basis of their individual research projects as well as institutional activity.
There were a number of perceived benefits of using social media. These include: reaching young, more socially-networked audiences, following events, supporting and mentoring students, and discovering new developments and trends in their area of research or work.
Many staff members also identified that social media helps them keep up-to-date on research being undertaken outside HE as well as for sharing good practice among their peers. The number of respondents using social media for event organisation was significantly lower.
Discovering best practice
One of the objectives of the SMART project is to introduce relevant best practice that can be used to communicate research more effectively and with greater impact. Therefore, we used the survey as an opportunity for staff to share successful examples of social media activity. Some examples include:
1- Connecting with HE journalists and humanities communicators globally
2- Testing the interest of, and receiving feedback on, research papers
3- Promoting published articles
4- Seeking advice on technical problems
5- Promoting research projects, events and other resources and services
6- Sharing useful tips on services elsewhere
7- Promoting and raising attendance on postgraduate student training
Concerns and barriers
The survey also helped us to identify a number of concerns and perceived barriers to using social media to develop an institutional or individual academic presence.
The majority of respondents feel that finding the time to engage in social media activity is a major deterrent to developing a digital identity. Other concerns include establishing the relevance of social media activity to research (rather than a vanity exercise) and the pathways to building a relevant audience.
There were a number of technical and operational issues raised as well. These include the difficulties of maintaining multiple accounts and the format and syntax of using different platforms.
What do these findings mean for SAS?
The survey results show that, among survey respondents at least, SAS staff are using and benefiting from social networks in different contexts. There is a high level of interest in developing an effective and focussed social media presence.
As the central communications team, we are in the process of developing different engagement methodologies that institutes and staff can use to build and develop a social media presence that is relevant to their objectives.
We are applying these findings in a number of different ways. For example, we ran a focus group with representatives across the 10 institutes to further develop the pool of best-practice examples that were signposted in the survey. We have also conducted a workshop to introduce communication strategies. Most importantly, the survey results and subsequent activities are helping us develop a better understanding of individual and institutional needs.
If you have any questions about the SMART project or would like to find out more about our approach, please do get in touch. You can contact Dee Burn at dee[dot]burn[at]sas[dot]ac[dot]uk.