There still remains a gap between those who conduct science and those who engage in educating others about health sciences through various forms of social media. Few empirical studies have sought to define useful practices for engaging in social media for academic use in the health professions. Given the increasing importance of these platforms, we sought to define good practices and potential pitfalls with help of those respected for their work in this new field.
We conducted a qualitative study, guided by constructivist grounded theory principles, of 17 emerging experts in the field of academic social media. We engaged in a snowball sampling technique and conducted a series of semi-structured interviews. The analytic team consisted of a diverse group of researchers with a range of experience in social media.
Understanding the strengths of various platforms was deemed to be of critical importance across all the participants. Key to building online engagement were the following: 1) Culture-building strategies; 2) Tailoring the message; 3) Responsiveness; and 4) Heeding rules of online engagement. Several points of caution were noted within our participants’ interviews. These were grouped into caveat emptor and the need for critical appraisal, and common pitfalls when broadcasting one’s self.
Our participants were able to share a number of key practices that are central to developing and sharing educational content via social media. The findings from the study may guide future practitioners seeking to enter the space. These good practices support professionals for effective engagement and knowledge translation without being harmed.