Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Impact of Social Sciences – I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?


I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?


Salma Patel has
been on a whistle-stop tour of academic social media channels. Here she
shares her simple, practical tips for academics who want to start
engaging with the wider world through social media.


I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence
because I want to start engaging with the public and disseminate my
research online  - where do I start?


1. LinkedIn: Create a LinkedIn profile. This is really easy to do and doesn’t require you to talk to anyone.

  • Register an account and fill in your details.
  • LinkedIn allows you to search through your mail to find any if your contacts on LinkedIn. Connect to all those that come up.

2. Academia: Create an profile. This again is very straight forward to do, and doesn’t require any specialist skills.

3. Twitter: Once you’ve created a LinkedIn and profile, let’s move to Twitter.
Twitter will require more work, patience and a sense of humour. You can
start off by either attending a twitter workshop/social network
surgery, asking a friend/colleague to quickly show you how twitter works
or you can read this LSE guide to twitter.

  • Create a twitter account using your real name.
  • Twitter will ask you to place a very short profile of
    yourself. You can either keep it really simple [Job Title at Uni of X]
    or make it more quirky. Don’t worry too much about this at this stage
    (you can change it later), but what will really help is to have a nosey
    around other academics on twitter.
  • Start following people on twitter. Again you can
    find followers using your email address. Another really good way to find
    followers is to find someone on twitter who has very similar academic
    interests to you. Now look through who that person is
    following, and follow those people.
  • Once you start following people, they are normally alerted and they
    may start following you back if your profile looks interesting to them
    (so make it interesting). Also place a few interesting tweets out before
    you start following people that don’t know you personally.
  • The key to getting followers on twitter is to Engage! Start
    talking to people, if you see a tweet of interest reply to it. If you
    see a conversation going in between two people, butt in and join in (as
    far as I know it isn’t rude in the twitter world to do that). When you
    are starting off this may be difficult to do, but it is not difficult to
    help people. If someone asks something, take those extra few minutes
    out from your busy schedule and help them. Trust me, you will see a
  • Another really quick way to get followers is to take part in twitter chats (twitter chat schedule).
    There may not be twitter chats in your area of research (not to worry,
    you can always consider starting off your own chat in the future), but
    you can always take part in #phdchat which runs every Wednesday evening at 7pm
  • What shall I tweet about? Have a look at this prezi or article which
    looks at 1o ways researchers use twitter. Then have a look at what
    other academics are tweeting about on twitter, and if you are really
    stuck put your name down for this online webcast.
4. Blogging: Once you have familiarised yourself with Twitter and have plenty more to talk about, you can think about blogging. With blogging there are a few practical things to consider:

1. Blog name:  The name of the blog depends on what
you plan to blog about. If you plan to blog about a specific area, then
you could keep your blog’s name related to that. If you plan to blog
about a multitude of themes, you could have a made up name or you could
name your blog/website by your own name, and as well placing your
profile on there, you could place your blog on there too.  I have seen
academics do both.

Please note: If you have a very common name, and really want to be at
the top of Google ranking (number one) when someone searchers your
name, you may want to consider keeping your blog name your own name. If
you have name that isn’t as common and you blog regularly on a theme
based blog, you may still come at the top of Google when searched by
your name.

2. Where do I blog? You could blog on an already existing blog (such as at your university or a research group) or you could start your own blog.

For your own blog, if you want to set it up yourself then you have
two options. You can blog on wordpress/blogspot or any other blog
provider (maybe even an internal university blog provider). For
WordPress (the most popular), register an account on and start blogging. Your blog website will be: [name selected]

The disadvantage of using this is there is a limit to how far you can
customize and there are also a limited amount of themes you can use. If
you have some time I would recommend using wordpress to power your own
website, and very simply this is how you would do it:

  • Purchase your own website name and hosting. This will cost between
    £10-£20 a year if you have a good look around. You can check here
    whether the domain name you are thinking of is available here.
    After you have found your domain name purchase your domain name and
    hosting from a hosting provider, but please ensure they support
    wordpress as it will make your life easier.
  • Install wordpress on your website.
  • Find a wordpress theme that you like. You can either buy one or find a free one. Use Google to find one.
  • Setup an about page for your own profile and meanwhile have a good look around other academic’s blog/websites.
  • Once it is all setup start blogging and spreading your posts through Twitter and LinkedIn!
5. Other Engagement Tools

There are other platforms you can use to help you engage, such as
curation tools. I would recommend you start using them once you have at
least 1-3 setup. To quote from a recently published article on this blog:

Curation and sharing of content

Curation and sharing platforms such as Delicious, SlideSharePinterest,, Pearltrees, Bundlr, and Storify,
as well as referencing tools such as Mendeley, Citeulike and Zotero,
allow academics to easily gather and present information and,
importantly, to then make the information public and share it with
others online. On SlideShare you can share your Powerpoint presentations
and the referencing tools allow you to gather lists of references on
specific topics and then share these with others. Several of these
tools, including Pinterest, Bundlr and Storify, allow you to insert your
own comments or analysis on the material you have gathered.
Don’t be afraid to try out new platforms and ditch them if they don’t work for you.

6. A few other specific things you could do to get a stronger online presence and get some followers.

1. Contribute to an existing blog in your field. An example is this Impact of Social Sciences BlogThe Guardian Higher Education Network,
or if those seem too time consuming or you feel you can’t contribute
much to those areas, you can write your quick viva story for PhD Viva and other such websites.

2. Take part in #phdchat.
You’ll definitely get some followers and plus as a
supervisor/academic/ex-PhD student, PhD students will really appreciate
your presence, advice and contribution.

3. Contribute as a panelist to the Guardian Higher Education Live Chats (they normally run on a Friday afternoon). They normally recruit through their twitter account or drop them an email.

Note: This article gives the views of the author(s), and not the position of the Impact of Social Sciences blog, nor of the London School of Economics.

Impact of Social Sciences – I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?

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