The Researcher's Digital Footprint Using social media to disseminate your research and build collaborative networks

PhD candidates and early career researchers are being advised to get themselves and their work on to social media. This session will explore the benefits and possibilities (as well as the possible pitfalls) of building a scholarly online presence. It will cover how to make your digital footprint work for you, how to curate a stable digital identity, how (and why you’d want) to use twitter, how to disseminate your research and how to use social media tools to build collaborative networks. Bring any questions you have about the scholarly uses of social media.

Researchers and Social Media

There are several dimensions to you digital footprint: Transactional (the information that you need to give out in order to interact with businesses, government departments, etc); Reputational - the social and professional aspect of your digital footprint; and Consumer - you as an internet consumer, your searches, cookies, browsing history. Of these dimensions you can to some extent control the reputational dimension and actively shape your professional digital footprint so that it is an asset rather than a liability for you.

Before you get started, what have you got already?

Scholar, google thyself

Your digital footprint can be an asset for you
Building your digital identity

Have a stable digital identity

Use the same profile picture across all of your academic profiles and in your bios describe your self and/or work in the same terms - Be recognisable! Understand the basics of Search Engine Optimisation and make these work for you (links and key words). You need (at least) one place where you can link to your publications (for access and dissemination of your work), and twitter is important for building networks and getting to know others. While you don't need to be everywhere, you do need to be somewhere. You want a professional profile to come up if you are googled. Don't depend entirely on your institutional profile because if you change institutions you don't want your online presence to disappear (even temporarily). The following are easily available:

  • University profile (keep it up to date, but have your publications available elsewhere as well)
  • LinkedIn
  • Google scholar (Not only shows your work but where it has been cited)
  • Academia.edu (Easy to find people and pub.s, but now has a two tiered model - free and premium)
  • ResearchGate (Not as well organised as Academia.edu but not based on a for-profit model)
  • Twitter (Very good for connecting and building a professional network)
  • Blog (Wordpress or similar)
  • Instagram (for fun!)
  • etc

See: this on crafting an online identity

How to make it work

Have an anchor or a hub that forms the centrepiece of your academic online presence

It may be your blog or website, or Reseachgate but it's kept up to date and has links to your work and current scholarly activity.

For many academics this hub is a blog or a personal professionally focused website. Research into academic blogging shows that it is useful for developing your writing skills and how to communicate with multiple audiences.


Why tweet?

See this post on why you should use twitter during your PhD

Never been on twitter? Here's a handy 5 part guide to Twitter for Academics

This essay describes how academics can use Twitter effectively

From: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2016/10/19/how-academics-can-use-twitter-most-effectively-essay
  • Twitter is a space that can provide ongoing networked professional learning
  • Get to know others in your field, across national borders, time zones
  • Keep abreast of the latest research
  • Hone your writing skills (the art of bevity)
  • Disseminate your work

Tips from the twittersphere

I tweeted this and received the following replies:
  • Check every single new follower, to make sure they are real people with real interest in subject matter.
  • To build it and maintain it.
  • Celebrate other peoples accomplishments!
  • Blog your PhD like this
  • Never feed the trolls & don't swear online!
  • Use a nice, consistent headshot across your networks!
  • Don’t, unless you plan to give time and energy to it. That is, know why you’re doing it, and curate it. No point in just having random retweets without trying to build/be part of a community
  • Think about starting with a new account for Twitter, obviously using your real name and a handle that won't turn out to be a bit embarrassing. Follow people you don't agree with, obviously.
  • Be human. Don't make every tweet about self promotion with four hashtags. Don't use those spammy newsletter apps.
  • It shouldn’t be too forced. It’s nice when others are real and relatable. Can’t be too stiff
  • Consider your different audiences and purpose and how to communicate with them appropriately.
  • Be patient and focus on being people centred not number obsessed. Join conversations Tweetchats are a perfect way to start.
  • follow good hashtags, (for example #edchat #aussieed #edtech #acwriting) and join in some twitter chats to find ppl interested in the same areas so you can get good resources/ideas
  • Use hashtags such as #phdchat to connect with other students & ask for help & support. Follow ppl such as @thesiswhisperer @tarabrabazon @ThomsonPat for the best advice ever😀 plus - If your research focus is #opened then sign up the to best network ever for for PhD students @GOGN_OER 😀
  • Keep your social media audience-focused. Professional Twitter accounts need to stay professional. :-)
  • also no shame in lurking for a while and just reading, following others before you start tweeting willy nilly! good to learn the short cuts and acronyms ppl use too!
Connections in action! I was given all of the above advice, plus I was wished good luck for my presentation by an academic friend in Edinburgh
Twitter teaches

The best way to learn how to use twitter is to learn from those who do it well. Here two academic tweeters give their lessons on how to use twitter as a collaborative tool.

Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega posted a mini-thread on how to build a scholarly community on twitter. Here is his advice:

Dr Mike also provides an excellent thread

Building collaborative networks
  • Be generous and reciprocal in your dealings both on and offline
  • Communicate with your peers (Twitter is very useful with for this)
  • Catch up at conferences ("Are you X on twitter? I follow you! Good to see you face to face!")
  • Send people your work (ask for feedback on how you have used their work)
  • Ask people that you have connected with (nicely!) - advice, references, grant or book peer reviews, endorsements
  • If you have a connection with people, most like to be helpful when they can
  • Have a 1 page CV and an elevator pitch about your work
Open Access

Make your work accessible and build your digital footprint around it

  • Publish in Open Access (where possible)
  • Use your institutional repository to make author copies of your work available
  • Link to your work on your blog
  • Provide summaries and blog about the work that you are doing
  • Use The Conversation
  • Use ResearchGate and/or Academia.edu
Rules of Engagement
  • An online presence takes time to build - so start now!
  • Be professional, be polite, learn from your mistakes
  • Apologise when you need to
  • Be generous
  • Assume that everything is permanently recorded and can be easily tracked down
  • Learn from others
  • If you are going to be controversial be sure that it's in your area of expertise
What could possibly go wrong?

Possible pitfalls and how to avoid them

  • You could get fired (rare) - follow your University's social media policy
  • You get undue attention from Trolls (Don't engage/block/screenshot)

Strategies for avoiding trouble

  • Be polite
  • Don't be inflammatory
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • "Stay in your lane" (Stick to what you know)
  • Watch, listen and learn
  • Follow and learn from those that do a good job at being online

Want to know more?

The University of Edinburgh regularly runs a 3 week MOOC on digital footprints. Click here for more information

Created By
Rachel Buchanan



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