Let’s Bust 3 Myths About Social Media for Academics

Social media use is expanding so faculty and researchers should take note

According to Pew, in 2005 just 5% of adults had one or more social media accounts. Today, it’s a whopping 69%. Of adults age 18-29, that number is even higher at 88%. That’s almost 9 out of 10 of your students, and the majority of your friends and colleagues.

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Hey there, I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, The Academic Designer. Welcome to The Social Academic where I bring you tips and tricks to own your online persona as a researcher or academic.

This time, I’m breaking 3 myths about social media academics like you need to know.

  • I need thousands of followers on social media
  • I have to post about my work all the time
  • I won’t have any control over my privacy

Have you heard any of these social media myths?

Have you been avoiding social media?

A bald man with a beard and moustache wears glasses, a suit, and overcoat outside. He holds his hand to his chin in contemplation.

Researchers and academics have been reluctant to jump on the social media train. Your audience is waiting to connect with you about your

  • research
  • favorite teaching practice
  • or, talk about a shared interest

So why are so many academics like you staying off social media? A few years ago, an anonymous PhD student shared the sentiment of many academics with The Guardian, “We are in the midst of a selfie epidemic. We document every moment of our lives…and now this culture has infiltrated the world of academia.” They have specific issues like live tweeting events, cell phone use at lectures and conferences, and a worry over the correlation between the number of likes you get and your employability. These are all valid concerns.

But the reality is at minimum, 69% of people use types of communication that promote the sharing of information like your work, and academics should use that to their advantage.

There are ways to use social media where you

  • share just what you want to share
  • use it professionally, personally (or both)
  • are on just the platforms you want
  • can connect with your scholarly network

You have more control than you might think over things like what, how much, and how often you share.

7 out of 10 people using social media is enough to stop and say wait a second, maybe this is something I need to consider.

Emily Willingham notes in Forbes that social media pros like being able to connect with research funders, that academics are less bound by geography, and that social media creates opportunity for “idea exchange, troubleshooting, problem-solving and venting.” Just check out #AcWri #PhDAdvice and #ECRchat on Twitter. There is a mixture of all of these things.

Social media is free. And, it takes less time than you think.

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Let’s break these 3 myths about social media for academics

There are 8 folding chairs with people sitting in them against a white wall. Each person is looking down at their phone or tablet. Above their heads are icons for popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Myth: I need thousands of followers on social media

This isn’t true. You definitely do not need thousands of followers to have an engaged audience. Don’t get me wrong, more followers helps. What’s more important than how many, is who your followers are. If you have 100 or 200 followers, and they’re mostly graduate students, academics your field, and friends/family, it is likely that a high percentage of those people will be interested in your content.

Your goal should be engagement (how people interact with your content), not how many followers you have.

Myth: I have to post about my work all the time

It’s okay if you want your social media content to be an outlet for your favorite hobby, cat photos, or adventures. If you’re an academic I suggest you dedicate a portion of your bio to what you do. If you’re say an astronomer who tweets mostly about baseball, just include that too.

Check out my suggestions for your Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Myth: I won’t have any control over my privacy on social media

It’s fair to say all of us may have been anxious about social media at one point or another, even me. I wrote about how I stayed off social media for years because I was scared.

Social media makes you as visible as you want to be. There are a variety of options to control your privacy. The major platforms academics and researchers can be utilizing allow for some control over who can see what information.

Check your privacy and notification settings regularly.

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Social media is about people

We need to do the work to make our profiles accessible to an unfamiliar audience. People want to engage with real people. That means being able to tell a bit about them. They need to learn a bit about you to know why to connect.

People want to follow people.

People like to learn things about the people they follow.

Want to get individualized training on social media? Set up a 1:1 social media consultation with me.

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at https://theacademicdesigner.com