Dr Caitlin Kight (Academic Development) led a session on Social Media for Scholars at the Academic Practice Network on Tuesday 20th March 2018.
Social media is a topic that generates a lot of questions, with many academics keen to establish an online presence yet uncertain of precisely how go to go about doing so. This session began by identifying the big questions that this topic tends to provoke: “How do I do social media?” “Which media should I use?” “How do I balance a personal presence with a work one” and the perennial, “I am doing it right?” Drawing on her experience as a writer, marketer and science communicator, Caitlin demonstrated the basic principles of marketing and communications that can be used to overcome some of these uncertainties. Marketing techniques can help academics establish more firmly precisely what they wish to communicate: their product, their niche and their brand. Communication principles, meanwhile, can help to conceptualise an intended audience, how to connect with them and what this connection is intended to achieve. By working through these kinds of questions, scholars can increase their confidence in selecting and using the social media platform(s) that would best suit their purposes.
The session also provided a welcome opportunity for participants to share tips and best practice and to discuss the wider pros and cons of various platforms – facets which are often closely inter-related. For example, Twitter can provide a supportive community of like-minded individuals but can also function as an echo-chamber where alternative views do not always surface. Issues around privacy and the management of public personae do need careful and platform-specific consideration, but there are many advantages to using social media professionally. Drawing on the work of Mark Carrigan, Caitlin emphasised how targeted use of social media can really help scholars to network and publicise their work while honing a wider range of communication and information management skills along the way.
The University of Exeter offers an array of support for those interested in developing their online presence from support skills training to bespoke project advice. One top tip from Caitlin is the importance of keeping any profiles up to date: “ if you aren’t using it, delete it!”
See the full schedule of forthcoming APN events here.