Social Media: Need convincing?

Posted by on Jun 22, 2011 in Academic, Career, PhD | One Comment

Today I’m working with a group of researchers the value of social media to their careers and doctoral training. A short workshop can only scratch the surface, but hopefully in this post I can point to a range of sites and share my thoughts on why it should be part of your life as a research student.

Twitter – not just about celebrity minutiae, this micro-blogging site is a constant source of information, comment and opinion. By selecting the organisations and individuals who are most relevant to your interests, you can personalise the flow of knowledge. I follow funding bodies, individual academics, researcher networks and selected journals. As well as information, twitter connects me with a wide community. Unlike other networking sites, I can follow anyone who posts public information. I don’t need to know them or get their permission (although some people prefer to post privately to approved followers). If you fancy following me, please do. You’ll find my twitter feed reflects my interests and my personality, which I think is a good way of helping people connect with my work.

Each time I scroll through the timeline on Twitter I find something useful. Either a blog posting from a professional in my field, news from a researcher about a conference, a news story which relates to research – I’m hardly ever disappointed.

With time, I’ve also found that I can use twitter as a consulting pool – I posted a question recently about software for research project management and received many suggestions (these will be collated in a future post!). I can also comment on discussions or even take part in brief Tweet-meetings where you happen to coincide on-line with a group commenting on the same topic or idea.

A recent tweet from Professor Dorothy Bishop pointed me to a great blog post aimed at nervous academics – this gentle introduction might convince you if I can’t.

And on the subject of blogging …

Advice on setting up a researcher blog and a list of examples of blogs written by researchers from Tristram Hooley are available on the Vitae website. Rather than try to come up with something as good as this, I shall simply point you towards these and an article from Science Careers on the same topic. 

Networking is one of the most important skills in modern career management and social media is a brilliant tool for keeping your network active and interested in you. I have a number of profiles on different sites – I tend you use Facebook as a personal space and tend to connect with people as friends, although I have set up a company page for Shinton Consulting Ltd. My professional network lives on LinkedIn and although I am regularly tempted by specific sites like, they aren’t really set up for my kind of work. I think they are great for academics though and give you a showcase for work, papers, interests and collaborations.

Content sharing

A range of sites of available to help you disseminate your research to a wider audience. I am pointing you towards large general interest sites rather than research specific ones. Please add any suggestions for more niche sites to the comments below.

Slideshare is for presentations – I post my slides here and find the visual impact and style of some of the materials on this site really inspiring – great for ideas to develop dazzling presentations.

Flickr is for photographs and images. I’ve heard of students putting images of their conference posters on here. I use it for holiday snaps. Which I won’t bore you with…

Delicious is a social bookmarking site which I use to capture great sites as I find them. I can also theme them for specific audiences or interests. A great way to use the cloud as it means I can point people to my bookmarks wherever and whenever they have internet access.

Research specific sites are proliferating. Rather than duplicate the excellent guide that has been written for the Research Information Network I shall simply point you to it : Social Media- A Guide for Researchers is a must read.

In the discussions I’ve had with researchers new to social media, there are also a number of concerns expressed about sharing information in open. I have to say that I remain convinced that the risks are outweighed by the benefits, but my golden rule for any post is ” am I happy for my clients, family and friends to read this?”. I think if you keep the potential employer of the future in your mind as you engage with social media, you shouldn’t do too much harm.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    November 30, -0001

    I’ve stopped using Delicious since it changed hands and all my links were lost (a real problem with any social media is the potential loss of material or control – always bear this in mind).I now use Pearltrees and find the interface far more intuitive.My Pearltrees are at (although I can’t actually see anything at this address on Safari – suspect it is set up to use via the apps or downloads)


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