Social media is a great, free way to network with your academic community
What social media platforms are best for professors and scientists? This is the article for you if you’re an academic who wants to be on social media.
I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, and this is my blog about social media, websites and your online presence.
In this post, I break down the big social media platforms and what they’re used for. Updated July 2023.
What social media platforms are best for me?
Social media has changed significantly over time. But the basics are that people use online platforms to connect with each other and share content.
That content can be text, sound, image, video.
It can be long-form like blogs.
Or short-form like tweets.
You can connect in real time with people through these networks.
With many social media platforms to choose from, where you spend your time is up to you. I wrote this article to help you choose.
General social media platforms
I’ve selected these social media platforms to detail because they are the best for connecting with the public and your scholarly community.
This is not an exhaustive list. Here’s Wikipedia’s list of social networking services.
Academic and research social media
Some social media platforms and tools are more geared towards academics.
These are social networks for scientists and researchers.
Social media is great for academics to connect with each other and the public
With 2.7 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social media network. On Facebook, you can connect with people as friends, or network with them in groups. You can post
- and links.
You can also share time-limited content through stories, which last 24 hours.
With your personal Facebook profile, you can
- create a page or start a group
- make events and invite people to them
- save posts to read them later
- host a fundraiser for your favorite nonprofit
- go live on video, to talk about your research or interests
Most people I interview use Facebook to connect with their family and friends.
Many academics on Facebook, have joined groups or liked pages from the associations and societies they are members of. This can help you stay connected to your field in real time.
I used to think Facebook wasn’t my favorite platform. My Digital Well-Being stats tell me otherwise. I spend more time on Facebook than other social media platforms. Between my friends, family, and the groups I’m a member of, I do enjoy my time on Facebook quite a bit.
For academics, Facebook can be a good to find community. Search for the organizations you care about. See if they have a group or page, and if conversations are going on.
When faculty and researchers share their work in meaningful ways with their Facebook audience, it can have amazing impact. Not just for your professional life. When your friends and family get what you are up to, and why, it helps your personal relationships too.
Meta also owns Instagram, which is also on this list, as well as the messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp.
Instagram is a visual social media platform you might consider. It’s a platform with higher engagement. That means, when you post something, you tend to get a higher percentage of people interacting with that post than you would on other platforms.
Instagram is a visual-based social media platform. While it used to be based around photos, Instagram now allows video too. With over 1 billion monthly active users of the platform, Instagram is highly popular. Over 500 million people view Instagram stories, their 24 hour time-limited post.
You can share images and video as a post or story. And longer videos can be shared on IGTV, the section of Instagram now dedicated to longer videos. Recently, Instagram rolled out Reels, a new short video feature often compared to TikTok. Reels are the most effective type of content right now on Instagram.
On Instagram, you can follow people to see their content regularly in your home feed. You can bookmark or share your favorite posts.
People tell me they’re not on Instagram tell me it’s because their “not good at photography.” Instagram’s trends have moved towards authenticity. Your ‘not good’ photos are totally welcome there. So are your
- short unedited videos
I love stories because I can hop on and say hi to people. I can ask them a question using a poll or quiz. And posts? They’re not just for your photos. Instagram post captions can actually be quite long. Many people are starting to use the platform for micro-blogging.
Instagram is my favorite platform for academics to find people with similar interests. And, it’s a great place for graduate students to connect and find community.
LinkedIn is the most powerful platform academics are on but don’t use well. Because so many of you are on it already, it’s a social network you should be taking advantage of.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. But it’s more social than you might think. With more than 930 million users, the platform is about more than getting a job. Yes, businesses do recruit and hire talent through LinkedIn. It’s also a great place to learn and connect.
On LinkedIn, you get a professional profile that acts as a CV or resume. But it’s actually a bit better than that.
LinkedIn has a dedicated space for your bio, and the ability to add multimedia, links, and recommendations. You can let people know about your publications. And your Awards and Honors. LinkedIn profiles and articles are mapped by Google regularly. So it’s a great alternative for making an impact.
On LinkedIn you can connect with your network. And you can follow people who share content you like. You can join groups. You can send messages to people you’ve connected with. And send inMail to people you haven’t. Faculty tell me LinkedIn is an effective way to keep up with past students.
You can share posts
- and video
For academics who want to blog, but aren’t prepared to host and manage a website, I recommend LinkedIn most. You can share long-form content as articles.
If you haven’t taken a look at your profile in a while, it’s time for an update. My biggest tip for your profile is to use keywords in your headline.
Twitter, for most academics, is the best way to share your work. Twitter has about 400 million monthly active users who post 500 million times a day. Twitter is popular for academics and researchers though it has a smaller audience than Facebook or Instagram.
The platform isn’t growing all that much. And young people aren’t very into it, preferring Snapchat and YouTube. Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk in 2023. While he’s stepped down as CEO, he is still Executive Chairman & Chief Technology Officer. Many academics reconsidered their use of Twitter once Elon took control.
While it’s a great platform to share your work and find an academic community, I don’t suggest it be your only platform. (That’s why I’ve placed it 4th on this list. I wanted to be sure you checked out the others too.)
A tweet is a post with a character-limit. 280 characters is the space you get for your message. But you can thread tweets together to start a conversation, or share a longer message.
Tweets can be tagged with location. You can also tag, mention an account, in tweets using the @ symbol, or in photos.
You can use hashtags to mark the content of your tweet, or share it with a specific audience (i.e. #AcademicTwitter).
In tweets, you can share
- and links
You can follow people to see their content in your feed. You can reply to tweets. And, bookmark tweets for later.
One useful way academics can keep track of their community on Twitter is by using lists. Lists are great because you can keep track of people’s tweets without seeing them in your home feed. You can see all the tweets from the people on that list in once space. And, lists can be private (just for you), or public (to share with your academic networks).
Twitter is where I’ve heard the most success stories about social media in terms of reaching the public. And when it comes to networking and collaboration.
Not everyone thinks of YouTube as social media, but it is. And, it’s the fastest growing of the platforms. We’re talking 2.6 billion monthly users, who “every day watch over a billion hours of video…” around the world.
On YouTube, you can search for videos and watch them. You can have a personal channel where you can upload your own videos. YouTube has a social component. You can
- comment on
- and share videos.
And you can subscribe to channels you like to see their content on your home tab. For most academics, YouTube is a great place to find content for your classroom.
If video is your thing, YouTube is a great place for you to build community. Follow us on YouTube! Generate attention for your work with short informational videos. Upload a lecture for your class, and set it to private so just your students can access it once you send them the link. Find inspiration from this group of women Academic YouTubers. You control the rights to your content.
TikTok is a social media platform owned by ByteDance where you can share short-form video. There are over 1 billion global active users on TikTok.
Videos can be anywhere from 3 seconds to 10 minutes. It has a built-in video editor with lots of camera tools. You can add music from their library to your video.
Academics use Instagram to share their research. Some prefer talking-based videos. Others join in with trending dances, exploring creative ways to share their interests and academic life. Here’s a help article on how to create your first video on TikTok. You can also Stitch, to respond to or combine another video on TikTok with the one you’re creating.
Most professors I talk to who use TikTok don’t share videos themselves. They enjoy watching videos though on their “For You” page where the algorithm show them recommended videos. There’s even a feed just for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) videos.
TikTok is banned on some public university campuses in the United States because of privacy concerns, mainly because ByteDance is a Chinese-owned company. TikTok is banned from government-issued devices and some universities block TikTok from campus WiFi networks according to the New York Times. There are TikTok bans on government devices in countries around the world (full list on Wikipedia).
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Professors have sent me direct messages and emails asking, do I need to be on the social media platform, Threads now too? You don’t have to be on any social media platform you don’t want to be. Many academics are happy with just 1 social media platform. Let’s talk about Threads to help you see if it’s right for you.
Threads is a social media platform launched by Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) in July 2023. It now has over 100 million users, which according to TechCrunch is “one-fifth of the weekly active user base of Twitter worldwide and 86 times the weekly active user base of the largest Twitter rival in the U.S.”
On Threads, you can post
And engage with other people on the platform by replying to what they share, reposting, and likes.
To have an account on Threads, you must have an Instagram account. And, once you make your Threads account, the only way you can delete it is by deleting your Instagram account too. This is the main reason I’m not on Threads myself.
Threads is not available in the European Union (EU). Some people were trying to get around that by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to make it appear as though they weren’t in the EU. However, Meta has blocked VPN access to Threads. Professors in the EU, there’s likely to be a long wait before you’ll be able to use Threads because of the EU Digital Markets Act.
Threads will eventually connect to the Fediverse, which you may have heard of if you’re an academic user of Mastodon. Threads is “working to soon make Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the internet,” (Meta).
I went to a Threads training last week. I keep up-to-date with social media so I can give strategic personalized advice to my professor clients. Overall the sentiment was that Threads is around for the long haul. But that right now it’s hard to “be discovered” on Threads by people you’re not already connected with on Instagram. A few people said that Threads feels more conversational to them, “kind of like old Twitter.”
If you try out Threads, let me know what you think! Even though I’m in the United States, I don’t plan to join Threads until things are sorted in the EU.
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Learn about academic and research-based social networks
Academia.edu is the biggest of the academic social networks, with over 114 million accounts. Their website says their platform is “for academics to share research papers.” The website allows you to share your papers, and see their impact.
You should know the company is making money off your research. Don’t let the .edu fool you. It’s a for-profit company. All of these are (except ORCID).
With Academia.edu, you can create an academic profile which shares your bio and affiliation. You can connect with scholars in your field, and follow their work. You can do limited searches for your research interests. Advanced searches are available with a premium subscription.
You can download public papers, and request private ones. And when you share your research, you can track it’s impact in views and downloads. Note that you may not have legal permission to share your work. Read your publication contract and terms.
While I do have an Academia.edu account, I find there are better ways to share your research, like on a personal academic website.
Altmetric is a tool that tracks research impact. While it’s not a social media network, it’s generally included in discussions of academic social media.
Why? Because Altmetric monitors
- Public policy documents
- Mainstream media
- Online reference managers
- Post-publication peer-review platforms
- Open Syllabus Project
- Research highlights
- Social Media, and other online platforms
For anyone publishing articles, this can be a valuable tool for showing the impact of your work (including on social media).
This free bookmarklet helps you see the metrics of published articles with a DOI. You can drag it to your bookmarks bar, and use it when you have an article open to see measured impact.
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Google Scholar is a search engine for “scholarly literature” including
- court opinions
It helps you find the publications you need, but not necessarily access them depending on permissions.
If you are an author of a scholarly publication, it can be helpful to have a Google Scholar profile. It’s sometimes called Google Scholar Citations. Get started here.
You can add your publications. Add keywords that relate to your research interests. You can make it personal with a profile photo and link to your website. The metrics Google Scholar provides can help you see things like where your article has been cited. Learn more about Google Scholar metrics.
Some academics use Google Scholar to search for articles. Google Scholar has more search capability than some people realize. Did you know you can star a paper to save it to your library for later?
You can create alerts for a topic of interest. And alerts for specific events (i.e. when your paper is cited). You can even follow your colleagues to be notified when they have new articles.
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An ORCID iD is a “digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher.” Run by the non-profit ORCID, their vision is to connect research and innovation to its creators. “We enable transparent and trustworthy connections between researchers, their contributions, and affiliations by providing an identifier…” There are more than 6.9 million ORCID iD’s.
When you register for an ORCID iD, you can create a profile and update your record. Not just for publications, but for awards and your affiliations. For some fields, it’s common to include your ORCID iD on grant applications. Some journals require it for manuscript submission. This can be helpful for researchers. But you should also note this isn’t a social a platform. Learn more about how to register for an ORCID identifier.
ResearchGate is another networking site that focuses on sharing papers. A lot like Academia.edu, it’s free to join. And it allows you to share your publications, and see stats and metrics about your work.
With over 15 million members, it’s a place you can create a profile and share your research. ResearchGate is “built for scientists.” You can share your research, background, and CV. Learn more about setting up your ResearchGate profile.
You can follow other researchers. And you can endorse skills. Kind of like on LinkedIn. Hiring managers can find candidates. And you can promote a conference here. You can do a lot of things with ResearchGate.
You may know that Mendeley is a program people use to manage papers and citations. But did you know it’s also a “social network for researchers”? This Elsevier subsidiary has 6 million users.
You can create a research profile which includes your affiliation and publications. Their site says, “Rather than a typical social networking profile, your Mendeley profile focuses on your scholarship.” You can join public or private groups.
Groups is where I’ve heard about people networking because you can share materials and papers. Learn more about how to find groups to join on Mendeley. You can create reading lists. And, collaborate in projects.
There are many types of social media profiles
People ask me all the time: “What social media platform should I be on?” Your scholarly network is already on each of the major general social media networks
You’ve got this! Social media is definitely a skill you can develop. You can definitely learn this. I have lots of free resources about social media here on The Social Academic blog to help you.
And if you want support from me, don’t hesitate to reach out. I have an Online Presence Program for professors where we can work together 1:1 on your social media.
Let’s meet on Zoom to chat about your online presence. I’d love to help you!
Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer LLC to help professors build a strong online presence for their research, teaching, and leadership. Jennifer’s goal is to help people feel confident sharing their work with the world.
Jennifer’s personal website
The Academic Designer LLC