Welcome to The Social Academic

Welcome to The Social Academic, a blog for professors and researchers

This blog is all about your online presence in academia, where I talk about personal websites and social media.

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, owner of The Academic Designer LLC. My company works with faculty, researchers, scientists and organizations strategizing how to communicate your work online.

Here, I share actionable advice for

  • grad students
  • professors
  • researchers
  • scientists
  • independent scholars

and anyone looking to communicate how and what you do online.

I also interview people like you for the blog. I chat with awesome educators and researchers about their work, and how they use social media.

Good communication is something we need to talk about. You can advantage of the power of the internet to share their work with the world. The Social Academic is here to help.

Thank you to those of you who read my blog in 147+ countries around the world in 2021.

Map of visitors to TheAcademicDesigner.com The Social Academic blog in 2021

Subscribe today to get my advice right to your inbox.

Check out a full listing of articles at the bottom of this post.

What is a social academic?

social academic

A social academic is a grad student, professor, scientist, researcher, or independent scholar who wants to communicate their work with a wider audience.

Urban Dictionary defines “social academic” as

“…what every college girl is looking for. He is the perfect balance between social charisma and academic excellence. It is important to note that a social academic cannot be too social or too academic, but rather a perfect balance between the two. This makes the social academic a rare and desirable breed of male specimen.”

Sydney: “I really like Danny, but he’s just not a social academic.”

Taylor: “That sucks, my boy is a commerce major and can do a keg stand for 3 minutes. He’s a perfect social academic.”

See the full entry here.

This is a sexist and limited definition, but the term itself is appropriate for what we’re trying to do with our online presences in academia: balance our research / writing / teaching with the social aspects of the academy and being ourselves.

Academics can be self-centered. Oftentimes we have to be. Research can sometimes feel isolating, esoteric, internal. Much of our identities are based on the research and work that we do, and that makes sharing personal.

So here’s my definition.

A social academic is a grad student, professor, scientist, researcher, or independent scholar who wants to communicate their work with a wider audience.

It’s simple. You’re a social academic if you want more people to understand what you do. And you know it takes some time and energy to do it well.

That’s who this blog is for.

P.S. I was going to add an updated version of this to Urban Dictionary but it wanted me to make an account.

Many academics struggle with sharing their work publicly

Cat hiding under a blanket

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the phrase “shameless self-promotion” on tweets sharing a new publication or award. Imposter syndrome is real, and it effects how we talk about ourselves.

Here’s the thing, people are gonna look you up whether you want them to or not. Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In, wrote for Chronicle Vitae, “The fact is, you will be Googled.”

But people aren’t looking for photos of you drunk on your last vacation. Okay, well maybe there is a Google-savvy grad student on the search committee, but really almost no one is searching for this.

People want to get to know you.

When you start talking about your work online, especially in ways that help your audience understand, you make some pretty meaningful connections.

Free online presence workshop

Get started for in this virtual choose your own adventure workshop for professors, researchers, and graduate students.

Your online identity is all about balance

Woman smiling

A social academic is anyone who wants to be better at sharing the work they do. When we’re talking about being a good social academic in these online spaces, that means knowing what people will find.

If someone Googles you, you want them to find

  • the basics of who you are and what you do
  • in a language they can understand
  • in just a few minutes

And that’s hard!

Those of you thinking your online faculty profile is enough, let’s just say the majority I come across are not approachable for a general audience. I mean, when’s the last time that was updated?

You need an online presence beyond the static profile on your university’s faculty page.

The Social Academic blog is all about taking control of your presence online

  • social media
  • online portfolios
  • personal websites

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

Free online presence workshop

Thanks for checking out this welcome post

3 photos of Jennifer van Alstyne of The Academic Designer LLC. Jennifer is smiling in each headshot, wearing a black dress with purple flowers on it.

I’m Jennifer van Alstye (@HigherEdPR). It’s great to meet you. I’m so excited you found me. Please feel free to reach out to me on social media! I love hearing from readers like you.

You’ll find a full list of articles, interviews, and YouTube videos below.

Subscribe to The Social Academic blog.

Articles and interviews on The Social Academic blog

General articles

Welcome to The Social Academic

How to manage your online presence in academia

5 ways to showcase your teaching online

How to communicate your life during the holidays (talking with your family and friends)

Resources for graduate students

Gift guides

2022 gift guide for professors, researchers, and grad students

Social media articles

Getting started on social media

A guide to social media platforms for academics

3 myths about social media for professors

Are you new to social media? Start here to find your scholarly network online

How much do academics enjoy social media? I asked Twitter and here’s what you said

Here are 9 ways to engage with posts you like on social media.

Social media tips and how-to’s

How to update your social media profiles in 10 steps.

Are you on the job market? Here are social media tips for job seekers

Do you spend too much time on social media? What to do when you feel like social media is consuming your life.

Tips for taking a break from social media

Social media stories: what are they? And how to use them

Connect through direct messaging on social media

Likes and retweets are endorsements on social media

Sharing your academic life on social media

How to share your conference presentation on social media

How to talk about your academic writing on social media (process writing)

Are you working on a manuscript? Talk about your new book on social media

Platform-specific advice


What to do when tweets go wrong, dealing with negative reactions on Twitter


How to build community on Instagram


8 tips for your LinkedIn Profile for graduate students

10 tips for YouTube from the Academic YouTubers

Personal websites for professors and researchers

Here’s why you need a personal academic website

A step-by-step guide for making your personal website for professors and researchers

8 reasons you’ll benefit from a personal website to share your teaching and research

Pitfalls of personal academic websites (avoid these 3 things)

Inspiration for your personal website (10 things to include on your website)

Want a simple website? Here’s what to include on a 1-page personal website

Feature interviews


Dr. Leigh A. Hall of Teaching Academia talks YouTube

Greg Loring-Albright on crowdfunding and game design

Dr. Echo Rivera talks effective presentations

Jazmine Benjamin found community on Twitter

Dr. Daisy Shu on science communication and Instagram

Dr. Jessica Doble talks managing social media in grad school

Dr. Sophie Arthur of Soph Talks Science talks Instagram

Dr. Walter D. Greason on Twitter and going viral

Journalist Lauren Smart talks about teaching social media

Dr. Norman Eng on self-publishing your book

Dr. Melanie Bruce of The Leveraged PhD talks personal branding


Andrew Paulsen of Agile Mind

Jacklyn Lord of the Society for Scholarly Publishing

Dr. Chris Cloney of GradBlogger on blogging

STEM Website Designer Brittany Trinh on personal websites

Dr. Ruth C. White about YouTube and being on video

Writer Steven Dunn about Facebook and community

Jennifer Adams of @RunwayRedLA talks about being an Instagram influencer

Aaron Shepard talks science communication and video


The Academic YouTubers Susan Heavey, Franziska Sattler, Nichole Lewis, and Erika Romero share advice on getting started!

RJ Thompson, a Director of Digital Marketing at the University of Pittsburgh, shares behind-the-scenes what it’s like to be a professor/marketer + why you should consider collaborating with your university’s communications offices


Jane CoomberSewell, PhD a recent Media Studies PhD and business owner, talks about how her personal website has changed over time

Tullio Rossi, PhD the Director of Animate Your Science talks about how videos and graphical abstracts can share your research online

Chinasa Elue, PhD on how to talk about loss, grief, and trauma

Dan Marrable of 448 Studio on educational technology and virtual events

Walter D. Greason, PhD returns to talk about racism in education

Lisa Munro, PhD on finding your writing community online

Cheyenne Seymour, EdD on her book Successes and Setbacks of Social Media: Impact on Academic Life

Toyin Alli, PhD on succeeding in grad school and YouTube

Jennifer Polk of From PhD to Life discusses informational interviews and how they can help you get a job

Allanté Whitmore, PhD on her podcast Blk + In Grad School

Videos on YouTube

The Social Academic is now on video! Watch the channel trailer below.

Live on YouTube

Live conversations with guests


Dr. Alexandra Mihai on how to use social media in your teaching

Tira Murray on how to start your own IGTV series on Instagram

A social media inspired poetry reading with Heather Sweeney, and editors of The Hunger Journal and Press, Lena Ziegler and Erin Slaughter

The Academic YouTubers record their featured interview live

Learn about search engine optimization (SEO) with Patrick Wareing

The 2021 season is fully booked. To appear on The Social Academic YouTube channel in 2022, email Jennifer@TheAcademicDesigner.com


Dr. Echo Rivera on collaboration, presentations, and connecting as introverts on social media

Dr. Jennifer Polk on networking, some common misconceptions about networking, and why it’s important for you

Dr. Caitlin Faas on procrastination on social media

Dr. Eleni Routoula talks about the dark secrets of academia

Cheryl Lau on fear of judgement on social media

LinkedIn for grad students with Sammie Walker Herrera

Academic Quick Takes

Meet Dr. Caitlin Faas, a tenured professor turned certified life and weight coach

Jazmine Benjamin joins me to talk about her new professional directory for #BlackAndSTEM

Neil Thompson introduces Teach the Geek to Speak, a public speaking course and community for people in STEM

Tips from Jennifer on managing your online presence

Like what you’ve seen? Subscribe to The Social Academic blog today.

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

Free online presence workshop

Guides and Advice Articles Online Presence How To's The Social Academic

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

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