11 April 2011
By David Alexander Ellis
What do Facebook, Academia.edu and Twitter have in common ?
Apart from being free, they can also help you publicise your research. On the other hand intelligent, hard working people can be made to appear lazy, disorganised and unreliable to thousands of academics and recruitment agencies!
In my quest to avoid looking like an idiot online, I try to remember some basic rules, which have served me well (most of the time).
Before engaging with any social media that is in the public domain make sure that you understand fully what it actually does and what will happen to any information you place online. Googling the phrase ‘what is Twitter’ might be a good start, but understanding Facebook’s privacy settings should also be high on your agenda.
Let’s assume that someone has enjoyed your conference talk, gets home and proceeds to Google your name. They initially stumble across your Twitter feed because your recent tweets seem interesting, relevant and in keeping with your professional presentation. You gain a new follower. Great! Then they hit your Facebook page and learn about your recent iron stomach award. They proceed to view several blurry photos that appear to show you lying unconscious. You immediately lose that new follower and possibly any future contact. While sounding a little egotistical, it is worth occasionally Googling your own name to check that you are represented in a way that fits in with your work ethic.
You will only build up a useful online presence by actively engaging with the community that already exists. Setting up an academic.edu profile and leaving it to vegetate for the next 3 years will not give the best impression to someone who arrives at the page only to find it was last accessed in 2008. Similarly, having a Twitter account and following a few hundred people is unlikely to get you noticed or integrated in what can often be a very helpful community of postgraduate researchers.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list so feel free to add more….