A how-to guide for managing your online presence
There are so many reasons professors, researchers and scientists decide to start managing your online presence.
Are you getting ready for the job market? Maybe you’re up for review.
For most people I’ve spoken with, it’s usually at a point of change. Something happens, and now you need to communicate how and what you do.
Managing your online presence in academia is all about these three things:
- You have to know what’s out there about you for people to find.
- You need to know where people are looking for information about you and your work.
- You need to create or manage content that showcases what you’d like people to know.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about how to do exactly that.
I’ve written about managing your online presence before, but not a general getting started guide. Start with this blog post, then discover my in-depth courses on
- Social media
- Personal websites
1. Know what’s out there about you
You need to know what’s already out there about you. For some of you, that’s quite a bit of information.
Start with search engines like Google. If you Google yourself, you may see things like
- Your faculty profile
- Your articles and publications
- Mentions in news articles
- University-related blog posts and website pages
- Society newsletters
- Event listings
You may also see things like your public social media accounts.
And your personal website if you have one.
You may also see none of these things. Some people truly do not have an online presence.
I know, because I’ve Googled everyone I’ve been on a presentation with, who’ve set up meetings with me, friends I need to introduce, etc. And let me tell you some of y’all are hard to find.
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Get started for in this virtual choose your own adventure workshop for professors, researchers, and graduate students.
But here’s the thing. I’m dedicated to learning about the people I meet. Knowing a bit about someone is so helpful for having a meaningful conversation. So I’m willing to do the work to learn more.
But most people aren’t.
Someone Googling your name is looking for info about you. They may be looking for different types of information, but in general people want basic things like a
- short bio
- photo of you
- brief description of what you do
- and, contact info
Colleagues and people in your field may be looking for more specialized information like your
- speaking engagements
But in general, people are looking for a bit about you. And they’re willing to spend time to find it.
Who are those people? Whew, it could be anyone really. Here are a some examples:
- University public relations/communications offices
- Society or organization members
- Others in your field or specialization
- Journal editors
- Book editors and publishers
- Conference and event organizers
- Grant and research funders
- The media
- The public
I started with friends and family because I want you to know that managing your online presence isn’t just for the public. It’s about communicating with all the people who are interested in learning more about you.
So that 1st step is finding out what they can learn about you already.
2. Where are people looking for info about you?
The first place most people will look for info about you is Google. But it’s not the only place.
People like your
may search your university website to learn more.
Some people are looking for you on LinkedIn, or on a research-specific networking site.
Others want to connect with your conversations on Twitter.
Ask yourself these questions to determine where your potential audience is spending time.
- Who in the past 6 months may have needed to look me up?
- Am I anticipating anyone new who needs to learn about me in the near future (i.e. hiring managers)?
- Where do my friends/colleagues spend their time online?
- How do people in my field usually stay up-to-date on new research?
- How are other people in my field managing their online presence? Do they have websites? Social media accounts? Research-based networking profiles?
Thinking through these questions does not mean you need to take action on each of these things. But being aware of the answers does set you up to make a more informed choice.
Afterall, managing your online presence does take time and energy.
That’s why we take this more thought-out approach so you don’t waste your time with something that doesn’t work for and benefit you.
The gold standard for managing your online presence is a personal website. I wrote a guide to help you get started on your website.
But it’s not the only way. For those of you not ready to make a website (or manage one long-term) my best suggestion is a LinkedIn profile.
Social media profiles are a great way to manage your online presence. But social media profiles don’t help unless you use them. So you definitely want to consider your options for social media before you get started.
Online content that helps share who you are and what you do can be dynamic, on like social media where you can have
- and, links
With social media you can post content whenever you want, like when you have a new article or publication.
But it can also be static, more permanent content like an article on LinkedIn, a blog post for your department, or a video on your university’s YouTube account.
There’s lots of options to choose from.
That’s why thinking through these will be helpful
- where your audience is spending time
- and, how they want to learn about you
Updating or creating profile (like on Google Scholar, ORCiD, ResearchGate, etc.) takes time.
Creating posts for social media takes time.
Writing a blog post or article for your university takes time.
And yes, some of you are now saying “I don’t have time, I can’t do this right now,” and that’s okay. Bookmark this page and come back to these questions when you do.
It’s never too early or too late to start this process, start here!
3. Create content to manage your online presence
Once you’ve decided where you’d most like people to be able to learn about you, it’s time to jump in and start creating content.
Make a list of the things you want to do. Here’s what mine looked like:
- Make a personal website (that I can share on any profiles I create)
- Create a LinkedIn profile and connect with people in my field
- Start a Twitter account and learn how to tweet (seriously I just joined Twitter 2 years ago)
- Set-up academic networking accounts: Google Scholar, Academia.edu, ResearchGate
- Edit my profiles on Instagram and Facebook
- Go through existing social media profiles and content to double-check there isn’t anything that shouldn’t be there
- Think about blog/article ideas I can write about that people will actually read
When I Googled myself back then, there was a lot of content that showed up. I’m a poet, so there were links to literary journals and news articles about my poetry. But that wasn’t particularly helpful for my medievalist friends. Or to the ecocritics I networked with.
I needed a centralized place to share who I was and what I was up to. Even if that changed.
Managing your online presence is about creating content that
- informs people who are curious about who you are and what you do
- shares the things people need to know, like details for upcoming events, or where to read your latest article
- invites people to get in touch
If when someone Googles you they are able to find these things, that’s great! For most academics, this takes time. And a bit of work to get it all going.
Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.
Free online presence workshop
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.