The cycle of new academics joining social media is similar no matter your age or rank. People tell you to join Twitter for the conversation, or connect on Facebook. People say, you’re missing out.
Once you get there, what’s the best way to ensure you have a good time?
I’m Jennifer, The Academic Designer. Welcome to The Social Academic, my blog about academic life, social media, and design in the HigherEd world.
Social media is a two-way street
It’s important that you follow the right people to have a curated feed.
It’s also important so that you actually want to engage with the people you follow.
You can take control of the types of content you are regularly exposed to. This is true for every platform.
Last week, Nick Corriveau-Lecavalier tweeted about connecting with scientists on Twitter.
After approximately a week on Twitter, I have to admit that I find myself really amused but also quite scared by how active young and senior scientists are on this app. I feel like I have been missing out on this for a very long time. #phdchat #research #socialmedia
— Nick Corriveau-Lecavalier (@CorriveauNick) January 21, 2019
I responded because, while the science community on Twitter is awesome, nothing compares to the engagement of science communicators on Instagram.
Check out their profiles to see what a real engaged audience can look like.
Like many of you, Nick wanted to know, is there ever an end?
The answer is no, not really. But that’s a good thing.
No, there isn't.
That's why it's so important to know what works best for each of us individually with social media 👍
Knowing what's out there just gives you options. Instagram has better engagement rates than Twitter, so #scientists get more interaction with good posts 🙂
— The Academic Designer (@HigherEdPR) January 21, 2019
Know your options
Social media is so expansive, there are always new people to engage with.
New researchers and thinkers pop up each day. The better you are at communicating your work, the greater the potential reach.
Join groups to network on Facebook
Facebook for academics is all about groups. There are likely specific groups and pages for your field.
They are generally sponsored by scholarly groups and organizations, rather than institutions.
Most Facebook groups have a short questionnaire, in order to make sure you’re a good fit and agree to any terms and conditions. For instance, many groups have rules for what types of content can be posted.
Once you join a group, take a moment to introduce yourself.
Twitter is kind of like a cafe
Lots of people come to the same place for short periods of time. Twitter is all about jumping into conversations (or threads).
When you first start looking for your network on Twitter, there are a few things to keep in mind.
I suggest starting with the top organization in your field. If they have a Twitter, head to their “Following” list and check out the profiles.
Write down any hashtags associated with your field.
Follow people you actually want to engage with.
If there are people you think you should keep track of but don’t want to see every day, try out Twitter lists.
When in doubt, ask! Twitter is full of people who want to help you make connections.
Instagram, for long-term engagement
Without an equivalent of a retweet, some people think Instagram makes it harder to build community.
But the reality is, engagement is higher on Instagram than anywhere else.
Instagram is a platform where if you post good content on a regular basis, an audience will come.
There is freedom in how much you can write per post.
While Instagram is an image-based platform, you don’t have to be a photographer. With stock image sites and Instagram filters, Instagram is a platform academics should take advantage of.
To follow, or not to follow?
Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and public relations consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help academics, researchers, and writers control their online presence and share their work with the world.
She holds a B.A. from Monmouth University in English, and an M.F.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Poetics where she was the Jack Kerouac Fellow. Jennifer also holds an M.A. from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Literature and Cultural Studies where she was one of four master’s fellows and a finalist for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award.