In the first blog in this series, we explored the benefits of using social media for knowledge mobilization (KMb) in the homelessness sector. 

In part two of the series, we will focus on taking you from the conceptual to the practical. We’ll cover the how-tos of amplifying your research using social media, and the (free!) tools you need to do so effectively. 

Things to Know Before Creating Your Social Media Post

Using social media as a tool for KMb may seem daunting, but with these helpful tips you will learn how to transform your research findings into usable social media content.

Before you begin to write your social media post, ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What am I trying to achieve with my research/project?
  2. Who is my research/project for? Who is my audience? 
  3. What is my audiences’ level of understanding of the subject of my research/project? 
  4. What questions might my audience have about my research/project?
  5. What are the key messages from my research/project I want my audience to walk away with?

Social media is a tool that is used to provide bite-sized snippets of information. For example, you could post information about key findings from your research or program, quotes directly from your research or program participants, or updates from your research project or programs, or a combination of all of the above. Importantly, all of these bite-sized snippets should be hyperlinked back to your main research report.

Top 5 Tips for Writing Good Content

  1. Use simple language – Avoid acronyms or industry jargon your audience may not understand in order to broaden the audience who can engage with your content. 
  2. Attach a video or image to all of your posts - Posts with multi-media attached can result in more views and receive more engagement. Make sure that you use imagery that is relevant to the text in your post and that is it the correct size; you don’t want part of your image to get cut off! 
  3. Always include a hashtag – Hashtags help people find your content through keyword searches. You can either embed hashtags within your text or add them to the end of your post. Hashtags work best when you use popular words or phrases related to your topic. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel! You should only use 1-3 hashtags per post because research suggests that the more hashtags you include the less engagement you will receive.
  4. Keep your post short – Discuss one idea per post to ensure your key message isn’t lost. 
  5. Shorten your hyperlinks – You have limited characters and shouldn’t have to waste them on a long link. By using a link shortening tool like bitly, you can shorten your link to just 23 characters. This also makes your content more readable. 

How to Decide Which Platform to Post On

Another key thing to consider is where and how often to post your content.

  • Twitter: Used for bite-sized information sharing.
  • LinkedIn: Used as a professional networking platform. On this platform you can share longer-form content. This may be the best platform to share more detailed updates on your research.
  • Facebook: Used for medium length content (longer than Twitter, but not as long as Linkedin) 
  • Instagram: Used for image driven content. We post explainer graphic series on our Instagram to break down complex research concepts in plain language. 

The key to creating a successful social media presence is consistency. However often you choose to post, stick to a schedule.This builds anticipation amongst your followers, as they know to expect new content from your account on a specific day or time.

How to Mobilize Your Research Through Social Media If You Have a Communications Team  

If you have a communications team in your organization, it is super easy to use social media to amplify your research because typically they will do most of the heavy lifting for you. 

Creating your social media content should be a collaborative process. It is best to go to your communications team early on in your writing process to discuss the communication outputs you would like to see and to develop the story you would like told through social media. It is important to keep in mind that you are the expert on your research. If you don’t communicate with your communications team throughout the process, they may miss some of the nuances of your research or highlight areas you may not want to focus on.

At the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), we hold “discovery meetings” between the research and communications teams to discuss major questions about how best to mobilize knowledge generated from each project we engage in. The earlier this discovery meeting happens, the better. Researchers and organizations can even include insights from these meetings in the project proposal phase in the knowledge mobilization section for funding proposals! Funders like to see that you have a well thought out plan for mobilizing your project. 

Questions covered during a discovery meeting typically include:

  • What is the project?
  • Who will this project support?
  • Who is the end-user and how should they use findings or outcomes from this project? 
  • Is there anything the public should consider when reviewing your findings/outcomes — for example, can the findings/outcomes be extrapolated to all cultures, gender identities, sexual orientation or age groups? If not, what should they consider?

Each of the questions listed above point to information that can be shared about your research or project on social media. The goal is to share information that will either pique your audience’s interest (ex., interesting statistics or quotes), or highlight practical applications for your project’s findings or outcomes (ex., frameworks, program philosophies, implementation procedures).

How to Mobilize Your Research Through Social Media If You DO NOT Have a Communication Team

Just because you don’t have a communications team doesn’t mean that you can’t mobilize your research through social media. Here are some helpful (and free) tools that can assist you in creating your own social media content:

Canva: This easy-to-use tool is great for creating images, infographics and simple videos. Canva has many pre-made templates so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Unsplash: This website contains a library of free stock images. Unsplash is helpful when you want to attach a photo to your content instead of an infographic or designed image.

Hootsuite: This website allows you to schedule up to 50 pieces of social media content in advance. It is useful for time management and is designed to be user-friendly.

Start small and master the basics. It’s OK to work towards creating more complicated content as you start to feel more comfortable with the foundational elements of social media. It’s also important to remember that complex doesn’t always mean “better” or more engagement with your content.

Lastly, when creating content, the #1 thing you need is a clear understanding of your goals and your audience. Knowing these two things will guide you in picking a platform, writing your copy, designing your images and deciding when to post.

Check out the Homelessness Learning Hub for a 3-part training: Knowledge Mobilization for the Homelessness Sector 

HLHub KMb Course - Learning Outcomes