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VIII. Promoting Your Academic Brand on Social Media

Sep 03, 2017 by Dr Sally

Just as the purpose of your own website is to control your academic brand online, your activity on social media should convey your academic brand consistently. This blog discusses how to adapt your academic brand to social media platforms. Keep in mind, though, that the basic tenants described in the previous post regarding creating your own website hold fast.

There is much to be gained by engaging with others in your field on social media. There is also a great deal to be lost. You and your views are more at risk online in which a single tweet can trigger those who read them to react in ways you may never have predicted or intended. If you are attacked on social media, do not expect your department or university to protect you. It is probably better to have no social media presence than one that is not well thought out and may cause your readers to react poorly.

Which Platform?  

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are only some of the social media platforms available to academics today. Facebook has the most users, but that does not necessarily mean it is the platform that would be most useful for you as an academic. Talk to others in your field. What sites do they find most useful and engaging? Are they live tweeting at conferences to find like-minded people? Are your colleagues using Instagram to share data in creative ways with their students? Are your colleagues checking LinkedIn to find others whose research fields overlap?

Choose one platform and ease your way in. There is no good reason to be on all of the platforms all of the time. Follow others strategically. At first, listen more than you post. Engage in conversation authentically and respectfully. Choose your visuals very carefully and if you are not using your own photographs and visuals, make sure you have the right to post these images. Do not assume anonymity. The pithy tweet you send off at 2:00 am to be funny may very well be the way a well-known potential collaborator is first introduced to you. This most likely is not what you want.

Whichever platform you choose, your brand statement, your profile, and your photograph should be consistent with both your job application documents and wherever you appear online. You may choose to use a more personal, less formal tone, but the overall branded message should stay the same so that there is no confusion about what you do, why you do it, and where you are headed as an academic in your field.

Audience and Purpose Matters

As we have emphasized, audience awareness and your overall purpose matter a great deal when crafting job materials. You need to identify and understand your intended audience and purpose on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Below are questions to help you identify why and how to position yourself professionally on social media platforms:

  • What outcome would you like from your social media engagement?
  • Do you want to become better connected with peers?
  • Do want to get to know journalists and engage with the media?
  • Do you want to speak with other experts in your field?
  • Are you speaking to a slice of the public, translating your field to them as nonspecialists?
  • Are you targeting politicians, lobbyists, or policymakers, to find opportunities to speak with them about the implications of your research?
  • What tone will be most effective to reach your intended audience?

Private Versus Public

If you already have social media accounts that you use for personal engagement, expect that a job search committee will look at your posts even if you do not intend the posts to represent you as a professional looking for an academic position. To keep your academic brand clean, make your personal social media accounts private. If you do not know how, take the time to figure out how privacy settings work.

In Closing

If this seems like a great deal of effort, you are right. Social media can be a great way to augment networking, build relationships, engage in conversations, and create a more visible academic brand. Weigh the time needed against the benefits before making the commitment.

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