How to Best Build your Academic Profile Online
Living in a hyperconnected world can make social media use in your personal life tiring enough, but utilising these digital platforms strategically and mindfully can seriously contribute to your academic and research prospects.
Evaluating the Best Platforms for You
A research study from the HICSS found three broad clusters for why academic researchers are using social media: “collaboration, social dissemination, and information gathering”. In other words, digital platforms help to establish a reputation as an academic researcher, share research, and use this network when in need of guidance, inspiration, or contacts for future career opportunities. The study also found that scholars who shared their research on social media were far more likely to make valuable connections with other scholars, resulting in clear research benefits. So, whether you want to expand your research networks, be a public scholar, expose your research to large demographics, or simply connect with likeminded students, let me take you through the basics of the 3 main platforms, and some tricks, to cut out the jargon…
LinkedIn: The way to be visible.
Long gone are the days when LinkedIn was just for people looking for jobs! With over 1.9 million academics, many of which using it as a networking site, this site is growing and now used widely by researchers and institutions alike to stay connected and take advantage of visibility in academic communities. In 'LinkedIn as a Tool for Researchers and Academics', you can find out about best practices of building and maintaining your profile and how to best engage and stay active on that platform, but here’s an overview:
1. Maintain your professional profile: Make sure to connect with your institution, always have the education and work experience sections of your profile up to date, and regularly update your network about your recent work, conferences, and post about topics related to your professional life. LinkedIn’s software favours those who regularly update and promote themselves.
2. Be active and engage with others: Don’t just connect with your colleagues, but follow and connect to friends in other professions, alumni from your institution, the types of companies or organisations you’re passionate about, and scholars or researchers you look up to. LinkedIn algorithms recommend profiles to people who are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree connections primarily, so consolidating as many connections as possible is fundamental to broad networking on the platform.
3. Don’t be shy to ask for recommendations: LinkedIn has some social norms which can at times feel complicated, and its strict professionalism can lead you to doubt you’re using it right. Recommendations on LinkedIn are a great way to highlight the personal skills, experiences you have, and reputation from anyone you’ve had a professional relationship with. They are like references for a job, and you can request them from 1st degree connections with the touch of a button.
Instagram: Connecting with the new generation of academics.
When one thinks of Instagram, vibrant photos, catchy captions, and trendy influencers often come to mind. However, beneath its surface lies a treasure trove of opportunities for academic researchers. Instagram is by far the most recent of apps in academic communities to become widely used, and yet has a much larger audience of regular users than Twitter or LinkedIn. It’s highly visual, storytelling format allows for dissemination of information in a most engaging way, often used to share PhD students’ and ECR’s research findings, proposals, or ponderings with their personal connections and beyond. Want to share your cutting-edge research creatively? Or as widely as possible during current events that relate to your work? Instagram could be the site for you! For inspiration on how scholars are successfully using Instagram, visit @andreacarlom, and stay in touch with @uacesgradforum. In order to be taken seriously, we recommend bearing the following in mind when posting on Instagram about your academic research:
1. Finesse the formatting: Always add titles to your posts, avoid posting just dense text, and share images in a high resolution if possible. Use Instagram’s alternative text feature to be inclusive to users with visual impairments. Try to limit spelling mistakes! This can come off as unprofessional, or make readers sceptical of your legitimacy, even on Instagram.
2. Think Multimedia: Regularly using photos, video content, graphics, and links to make the presentation of your research findings and thoughts more digestible for your audience. As Academics in specialised disciplines, we can often forget to explain or justify complex information we think is self-evident.
3. Linktree: Adding a Linktree to your bio is free and allows users to easily access your profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, or even your academic publications. Transplatform connectivity is an easy way to promote visibility online, and Linktree pages allow all your profiles, publications, and any other URL you would like to share with people to be neatly labelled and shown all in the same place.
4. Mobile Madness: You can only post on Instagram on your phone, yet most academics stick to the laptop for communications. Make sure to be mindful of using Instagram on your personal phone with the threat this can pose to healthy work-life boundaries.
Beyond this, Instagram can be a great site for public scholars: scholars who are attempting to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and the public’s desire to better understand current affairs. For these scholars, TikTok may be an appropriate format, and yet for all other purposes, this app lacks many desirable qualities of a social media for academia, and professional use cannot be easily separated from entertainment.
Twitter: Supportive communities and hashtagging
Twitter is known as the most popular social media channel used by academics, and for good reason! All academic specialisms have wonderful communities on Twitter, that can be found using hashtags like #EUstudents #EUacademia. Many active users will be quick to reply to queries and comments or want to exchange views about experiences in academia, not dissimilar to Reddit communities.
1. Use the Hashtags: Outreach within these spaces can take time. Twitter’s algorithm demands patience, consistent (re)tweeting, but especially the use of the #hashtag. Always use hashtags in your posts and the ones which feel most relevant to what you’re discussing. If you’re unsure, hashtags such as #phdlife #euacademia will be a good starting point.
2. Be patient: Engagement from scratch is hard, but the potential reach on this platform is a very exciting thing as a researcher. Think of the connections you could make or positive impact you could have by educating on your research area to a wider audience!
YouTube, podcasting, and blogging
Academic video content, podcasts, and blog publications have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with the shift to online teaching and learning that started during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Depending on how visual, quantitative, or qualitative your research is, or perhaps on which platforms you feel most comfortable, you may want to think about recording podcasts, YouTube video series, or writing blogs on topics related to your research to build your profile.
The best part is that these outputs can easily be linked and incorporated into your LinkedIn profile, CV, Instagram, or Twitter via Linktree, to creatively share your research in a more engaging media format, and simultaneously grow your professional profile online.
Photo: Turned on black and grey laptop computer by Lukas Blazek via unsplash.com