Four ways to use social media to get people to your poster (or talk)

Who cares what my dish at a restaurant looks like, or what my cat is doing on a Wednesday evening? Some people are still uncomfortable using social media, but the fact is that our society has evolved around its everyday use. Your food looks delicious and your cat is adorable – post it! Social media is basically just a free self-promotional service. Why not use it more to your own benefit? A huge number of academics use social media every day to connect with colleagues, discuss new publications, and promote their work. Researchers are even starting to use social media to discuss and highlight talks and posters at conferences.

Here is a handy guide on using social media around conferences, specifically to get people to your presentation! I’ll be focusing on the use of Twitter as it seems to be the most popular among STEM scientists, but these principles can be applied to Facebook and Instagram as well. Why not try these techniques for the upcoming ASCB|EMBO Meeting?

  1. Start early and remind often. The first step in getting people to your presentation is letting them know you’re giving one. You can’t just rely on the program and/or poster guide to entice viewers, especially at a large conference with many concurrent events. Start about a month out with a post about how you’ll be at the conference. Always include the date, time, and title of your presentation. Maybe you’re on the job market, or looking for specific advice on a technique? Add that to the post, it will make you more memorable and clarify what you hope to gain from presenting. Over the course of that month, message people you’re specifically interested in talking to, see if they’re going and if they have time to stop by your presentation. Then when you leave for the conference take that airport selfie and use it to remind people that you’re on your way. The most important posts are the day of your presentation. Start the morning with an “I’m excited for my presentation today” type of post and then post again at the start of your session letting people know it’s happening now! 
  1. Be an active participant. Getting people to come to your presentation isn’t just posting about your presentation, it’s also about your network. You need people to follow you and ideally retweet/share your posts for added visibility. Besides being a top-notch researcher, the best way to get followers is by actively participating. Outside of the conference write posts about things that interest you—new papers, academic culture, even your hobbies. Don’t be afraid to reply to discussion threads! You want your name to be recognizable to your peers, so the more often they see it, the more likely they are to remember it. Ramp up your participation during the conference—post which sessions you attend, post your pre-session coffee and croissant, post everything! This is a great way to get new followers, as everyone will be closely following the same hashtag (see below) and happenings.
  1. Use the right terminology. Just like a specific scientific field, social media has its own set of terms, methods, and etiquette. To participate fully, you need to employ these effectively. First and foremost, use the official hashtag in all your posts about the conference: #ascbembo19. Build on this with other common hashtags used by your field or for specific types of events (table below). Tag people or their department/university when posting about their presentation (@greatstudent from @topschool gave an amazing talk about cells!) or tag an organization when posting about their booth (@ASCBiology has great swag!). Ask permission before posting a picture of someone in front of their slides or poster. Use threads (replying in sequence to an original post) if making multiple points about the same topic. If someone follows you, consider following them back. Spread those retweets, shares, and likes around. 
Event/Topic #hashtags or @’s
Academic Social Media General


#sciencetwitter #STEM #AcademicTwitter #phdchat #phdlife #gradstudents #postdoclife #academicchatter



#scicomm #AskAScientist #AcWri @ScicommSwarm
Culture Change



#MeTooSTEM #firstgen #BlackandSTEM #DisabledandSTEM #LGBTinSTEM #TransandSTEM #POCinSTEM #wokeSTEM #marginsci
Publishing / Preprints


#preprints #openaccess @preLights @ASAPbio @PREreview #PublishPeerReview #openscience #opendata #datasharing
Career Development


#PhDchat #ECRchat @GradSlack @FuturePI_Slack @NewPI_Slack @Mid_Career_PI @PhDCareer_Slack #sciencepolicy #entreneurship


  1. Lift up others. Lastly, use your newfound social media power for good. If you find a talk, poster, or panel particularly interesting, post about it! By doing so you will help share impactful work with others and they may be more likely to share your work in return. Even if they don’t, it’s better to be a positive voice in what can seem like an empty void of online social media presence. You are not in direct competition with other voices on social media, you’re all there to build an interacting network together. There are many critical discussions about changes to the general culture of academia that need to happen and that are happening largely on social media. You don’t have to completely refrain from being critical, but critiquing a culture or system is very different from being critical of a particular person. Remember, no one likes a bully and social media can and will amplify your voice, whether it is positive or negative. Also never forget, online is forever. 

About the Author:

Amanda Haage is a newly minted assistant professor at the University of North Dakota. She previously trained as a postdoctoral fellow in Guy Tanentzapf’s Lab at the University of British Columbia and received her PhD in 2014 from Iowa State University in Ian Schneider’s Lab. She is generally interested in how the microenvironment regulates cellular behavior as well as promoting diversity and inclusion in science. Twitter: @mandy_ridd and Email: