The importance of social media to your academic visibility

     
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As a tool of academic networking, social media has become an almost indispensable feature of academic life.  It is possible that its importance varies according to your standing within the profession.  For older and more established scholars, some remain reluctant to experiment with social media, believing that their status within the profession is sufficient for them not to spend additional effort in promoting their activities and research on a variety of platforms.  Nevertheless, for junior scholars who are still climbing the academic ladder, increasing your visibility in an ever-competitive environment has taken on a renewed importance at a time when competition is increasing for jobs in a shrinking market.  This article will look at how social media can be used as a means of helping your academic career.

Helping you get access to more professional groups

Most of the major scholarly societies in the profession now maintain an active website and blog. Many may also have links to other forms of media such as video channels, where regular updates about their activities are posted. Moreover, many of the larger societies will also have a jobs forum, where you can apply for opportunities and be notified of upcoming jobs in your field.  The access that you can get to this depends on you joining these various groups, sifting through what is likely to be several notification emails on a weekly basis, but by also maintaining a current academic profile.  Indeed, many employers interested in you as a candidate may take the liberty of exploring online to see if there are any major articles or information about your work.  Thus, maintaining an active and professional presence online will help to create a positive first impression.

Increasing the visibility of your work with social media

When you publish a book or an article, the publisher will do their own marketing for your work.  However, the reach of this can be controlled by the access the publisher holds to marketing resources.  The use of social media is particularly useful as a tool to promote your published work, but to also make people aware of your ongoing projects.  In today’s competitive academic world, visibility is one of the major keys to your success. 

Social media is especially useful in helping to increase the visibility of some publications that have the habit of being ‘lost’ within the wider milieu of the publishing world.  One such example is chapters published in edited volumes.  The volume itself may gain attention, but individual chapters get less publicity.  In this respect, it is unfortunate that some very good chapters sometimes get neglected in terms of their wider visibility.  Highlighting your contribution through a variety of social media platforms will ensure that your important chapter in an edited collection will not go unnoticed!

Making a blog

The blog can be a useful place, not only as a way of freely expressing your own opinions, but to also talk at great length about your current work and future plans.  It is also an excellent way to share resources with other scholars, and to appeal for help from others in the field who may have the answer to a question that you have been pondering for some time.  My use of social media has taught me that people, to a great degree, are extraordinarily helpful online.  In essence, academics are all striving towards achieving the same goal, and this means that the vast majority of colleagues engage positively with each other and offer help where possible.

Tracking the success of your scholarly work in social media

The ability for you to track the number of people who are reading and citing your work through using social media is particularly useful.  In an age when the ‘value added’ and ‘impact’ of our research is being closely watched, a variety of services online will instantly alert us to when people have downloaded, read or cited our article.  This helps us to see in what areas our research is having resonance, and also provide us with the opportunity to look for areas of improvement.

Identifying your social media presence on business cards

In an age when some of the most powerful leaders in the world use social media as the main method of communication, it would not seem unwise for academics (who have typically been sticklers for protocol) to put the hashtags and links to their social media accounts on their contact details at the bottom of e-mails, or indeed on their business cards.  In fact, since it is on social media that many of the announcements for publications and conferences are made, this could be a wide choice.  Moreover, since many discussions now also take place in a virtual environment (since academics are spread across the world), this could be the future for academic communication and interaction.

Finally….be aware of social media’s distractions

As useful as social media can be, it also comes with major drawbacks.  Novelty accounts that have pictures of cats doing funny things often link to other humorous accounts, and without realizing it, you have already spent one-hour using social media looking at things that are not related in any way to your work!  Academia is a profession where we are under increasing pressure, and the need to maintain our social media presence needs to be balanced with the use of time in an intelligent way using these platforms. One of the best pieces of advice I received in this area was that I needed to maintain an up-to-date platform through the frequent (but sparing) use of social media, coupled with strict tie control.  While it is becoming an important part of the profession, do not let it take over your life!

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