So, you've worked long and hard on your research, gone through the process of peer review, corrected your proofs, and now you have a published article! (Or book chapter, or publication in some other format. Disciplinary conventions vary.) It's great, and you're celebrating, as you should. When my lab gets a paper out, our major professor takes us out for lunch, and it seems like the first author gets to choose where we go. It's been Thai food the last two times. Yum.
Definitely do the celebration part – you earned it. Once you've celebrated, there are more things to think about. I don't just mean the next research paper – you may well have started that before you submitted the one that just came out. I mean making sure the people who might use your research find out that it exists and can get at the paper so they can make that choice.
So, how can you share your work?
Post your work to field and topic-related forums. This includes sharing with research networks, but it's not necessarily just about sharing with research networks. If you're analyzing a novel or series that has an active fandom, you can share to fandom spaces. If you're working in a field that has aspects of both research and practice, you can join practice-oriented forums, participate, and share your work once you have it. Nearly half the requests for one augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) paper, which I wrote as a gap-in-the-lit class project, came from a single professionals-only Facebook group focused on the actual provision of communication supports for people with disabilities – ten times as many requests as I got from research-oriented groups and lists. Social media is your friend, here.
Remind people it's OK to ask authors for copies of their papers. Most journals allow authors to send copies of their papers to people who contact them to ask. Not everyone knows this, and people who do know can be reluctant to ask, for a variety of reasons. Telling people that it is, in fact, OK to ask may not lead to someone asking you for your paper – but it might lead to them asking someone for their paper. And someone else's suggestion may similarly lead a stranger to ask for a copy of your work. Attaching this reminder to share your work may also encourage people who would otherwise see the journal paywall and give up to ask you for a copy instead!
Keep track of requests for your papers. This isn't just about tracking impact, though committees might be interested in how many people have asked for copies of your work. This is a list of people who were interested enough in your work to ask you for a copy. If and when you publish a related paper, let them know. They may be interested again! As I'm writing this post, about one fifth of the full-text requests I've gotten for a more recent AAC-relevant paper have been in response to my batch-emailing everyone who gave me an email address when they asked for the last paper. (Keeping track of requests is also the reason I know this.)
Post pre-prints and/or accepted manuscripts. Many publishers let you post pre-prints (the paper you originally submitted) at any time, your accepted manuscript after they publish the final version (possibly with an embargo), or both. Depending on what someone needs your paper for, this may be enough. I try to get versions of record for anything I'm citing, just in case the bit I wanted to cite was changed, and the "official" copy may work better at a disability advocacy meeting, but an accepted manuscript may work as a guide to personal practices or to help you decide if you need the final published version. So, yes, I post my accepted manuscripts (and sometimes final copies, when it's allowed).
I don't actually know if any of these things will increase my "impact" in terms of typical academic measures like citation counts. Posting my accepted manuscripts for free probably will. Sharing my work outside academic networks and tracking requests might not, since my requests have mostly come from parents and professionals, not other academics. (The academics might have institutional access.) Regardless, that's not why I'm sharing my work this way. I'm sharing my work this way because I think research results should be available to anyone who could benefit from them. And doing these things definitely puts my research in more hands.
(How) do you share your research? Why do those methods work for you?