Social media for research, teaching and collaboration instruction


Instruction statement

This instruction must be followed by RMIT staff using social media for research, teaching or collaboration. The advice here familiarises staff with best-practice collaboration and research techniques, and ensures that learning and student interaction conducted via social media occurs in safe and secure environments.


Staff not engaged in teaching or academic research.

Instruction steps and actions

Instruction (including key points)



1. Planning your social media presence

1.1 Aim
Have a clear aim in mind about what it is you want to achieve, for example, disseminating research ideas, making connections, forming a network, joining an existing network.

1.2 Defining value
Think about the kind of value you will add with your social media presence, such as original research, advice and tips or facilitation of networks and collaborations. If you are in a niche field of research, besides research findings, consider posting reflections on wider issues to expand your readership.

1.3 ResilienceDebate conducted on social media can be robust and often pointed and personal. Think about how to deal with stressful and difficult situations. Consult the Communicating on Social Media Instruction for advice on dealing with inflamed situations.

1.4 Know your audience and channel
Have a clear idea of your audience and its expectations. Choose a social media channel that suits your communication needs. Blogs are valuable for longer digressions on a particular issue or for sharing drafts of works in progress. Twitter is ideal for conversation and immediate responses to current topics. Facebook is good for forming groups, pages and new networks around an issue or strand of research.

1.5 Public broadcast or private collaboration

    1.5.1 Consider whether you really need a public-facing social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook. If you will be mostly sharing presentations and files with departmental colleagues, an internal social network such as Yammer or peer-to-peer collaborative tool such as Google Sites might be more appropriate.

    1.5.2 If your site is public facing, remember that anything written on social media has the potential to be cached and archived indefinitely, even if deleted immediately. Keep in mind the essential tenet of good digital citizenship: do not say anything on social media that you would not say in person and in public.

1.6 Making connections
Make a list of people in your field doing interesting work with social media. Find their online presences and connect with them. When locating like-minded people, try to demonstrate genuine interest in their work by retweeting or reposting their thoughts, with attribution, or linking to their work.

Spokespeople and associates


2. Composing your content

2.1 Finding your voice and listening
Persona, tone and voice are important. Sharing and conversation are cornerstones of social media: add value to your social media presence by circulating ideas, thoughts and research in the spirit of collegiality and collaboration.

2.2 Curate content
Give full and appropriate attribution where due for sources, links and ideas. Try to incorporate a curatorial aspect into your social media persona, commenting on and expanding upon the ideas referenced.

2.3 Writing for social media
Compose tweets and posts in accessible, easily scannable, web-friendly language. Don’t overuse jargon. See RMIT’s Writing for the Web Instruction and the Core Social Media Channelinstructions for Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

2.4 Self-promotion
Audiences tend to switch off when reading excessive self-promotion. For example, with Twitter, a common tactic for people new to the platform is to use it as in a ‘megaphone’ capacity rather than as a ‘two-way radio’ with the potential for conversation, which tends to lose followers and credibility. Balance your posts with conversations or engagement with issues popular on the channel you’re using. See the Core Channel: Twitter Instruction for further advice.

2.5 Finding an audience
Building up a viable, respected social media presence and network takes time. Don’t be discouraged if it does not happen straight away. Like any kind of professional relationship building, perseverance and trust is the key. See the relevant Core Social Media Channelinstructions (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) for further advice.

Spokespeople and associates


3. Social media for research

3.1 A large part of the appeal of social media is its spontaneity and immediacy. While this may present a challenge to traditional research methods, keep in mind that this immediacy is also useful in facilitating research breakthroughs and circulating ideas at a faster pace than tradition might allow.

3.2 Remember that while social media can appear to be a private conversation, it is in fact a public interface. On Twitter especially, there is the potential for others to eavesdrop on the conversation, however, this can be a valuable way to draw in public opinion to your ideas. Try to maintain that interest by not excluding new listeners and followers with exclusive language or jargon.

3.3 Take advantage of social media analytics and metrics tools for understanding the efficacy, reach and audience interest of certain posts on certain topics. Refine and retune future posts accordingly.

3.4 The ‘always on’ nature of social media means that you might feel pressured to answer questions and respond to posts around the clock. To maintain a healthy balance between your personal and professional lives and budget your time accordingly. Plan ahead and give yourself down time by using tools and settings to schedule posts in advance. Communicate in advance if you're going to be offline for extended periods of time and consider letting your followers know when you'll be available by structuring chat times.

3.5 Be aware of commercial-in-confidence research work that could be compromised by inappropriate social media usage.

3.6 Be courteous, collegial and respectful. Do not indulge in flame wars or unnecessary ‘boundary patrolling’ of research areas or topics.

Spokespeople and associates


4. Social media for teaching

4.1 Before you begin, be aware that social media channels should not be employed for assessable student work. Instead, use RMIT’s educational technology suite as described on the University’s Teaching with Technology website ( This presents a range of technology options for engaging with students in effective ways that meets the University’s legal responsibilities for duty of care and privacy management, including:

    i. Google Sites for internal collaboration and project sharing;

    ii. Blackboard for communication of courseware (social media should not be used in place of Blackboard for announcements or assignment information, although it may be used in addition to it, in that announcements etc. posted on social media must also be posted on Blackboard)

    iii. the RMIT website for program information.

4.2 Before using social media in the classroom:

Consult the Communication with Current Onshore Students Policy and Privacy Policy.

Ensure students understand clearly your reasons for introducing social media. Have a defined purpose in mind, for example, using the social media platform as a feedback mechanism.

4.3 Draft ground rules for social media use within classrooms. This might include prohibiting abusive or discriminatory language, and detailing students’ responsibilities regarding ethical behaviour and privacy.

4.4 If you are using social media as a way for students to stay in touch with teachers, make it clear that just because you are connected on social media it does not mean you are on call 24 hours a day. Just as you would schedule face-to-face interactions with students, set times for when you’ll be available on social media outside of class time and establish boundaries for these interactions.

4.5 Make sure students understand your expectations around their social media use and that options for privacy settings have been fully explained.

4.6 Take time to weigh up the pros and cons of making in-classroom social networks public-facing. Canvass student opinion. Some class members may not have, nor want to have, access to specific social media. They might also be uncomfortable with public posting. As an educator you are responsible for their learning experience and need to provide the relevant duty of care and equity of learning and assessment access.

4.7 Consider carefully whether to follow students on Twitter or to ‘friend’ them on Facebook. Maintain a professional, courteous and respectful distance at all times when connecting with students on social media. Maintain safety and privacy by not posting personally identifiable information that can be used to locate any individual without that person’s written permission.

4.8 Regularly check privacy settings for all social media accounts to ensure default settings have not been altered.

Spokespeople and associates


[Next: Supporting documents and information]