How to Build an Academic Online Presence

about-icon-mdTake control of your digital self in 10 (easy) steps. A quick guide for academics who want to understand social media and develop digital literacy skills. You don’t have to follow each step to move ahead, but please consider them all.

Step 1:  Google yourself.

Search Google, Yahoo and Bing to see what results your name brings up. Go beyond the default web search; look at images, and search Google Scholar to see how easily your publications are found. To what extent can others identify you as a scholar? What is missing from the story of you as a teacher, administrator, and researcher?

Step 2:  Figure out your motivations.

Think about why you want to increase your online presence. To get a job? Raise the visibility of your books? Find out about interesting trends in your field? Foster conversations with your students? Who is your audience? What do you hope to learn from and contribute to other communities? Your motivations should dictate how and where you become involved with social media. Decide how you want to be portrayed and be consistent across the platforms you choose.

Step 3:  Don’t skip the easy stuff.

Keep your academic profile on your departmental website up to date. Clean up your existing social networks (i.e.. round out your Facebook profile with work information, get familiar with privacy settings to filter out private posts). Don’t reinvent the wheel — a question to a discipline-specific email list might be a more effective way to find a fellow researcher than fifty blog posts.

Step 4:  Build your virtual CV first.

Make sure you have a polished profile on academic social networking sites (like or LinkedIn) with a picture. Whether you are searching for a job, submitting a conference proposal, or recruiting graduate students, your information will be searched. Plus, you can reuse the profile in other places online, so be thorough.

Step 5:  Get your publications noticed.

Register your publications on Goodreads and Scribd to get the word out. Open up your publications and presentations to the public whenever possible — add materials from talks to SlideShare or consider publishing materials under a Creative Commons license.

Step 6:  Be a blogger.

Blogging is the most time-intensive of all of the social media options, as well as being the most versatile. Use a WordPress site to share up-to-date posts about your research, create static pages, link to other blogs, and invite others to contribute to your site. A Facebook or Google+ page can serve as a blog for a course or a project that allows for easy group communication and content storage.

Step 7:  Be a curator.

Ditch your notebook and curate a list of readings and resources in preparation for your next research project or an upcoming course. Sites like Diigo, Learnist, and Tumblr are social reading platforms that allow you to bookmark webpages, make comments, add sticky notes, plus find and share with other groups. Curated content helps make sense of the web, models good research practices to students, and leads to better organization.

Step 8:  Be a tweeter.

Twitter posts are short bursts of communication about important topics and events. You should also learn about other features like mentions, retweets, and hashtags. If you aren’t ready to say your piece in 140 characters or less, follow twitterati in your field instead to keep on top of trends. To find people or hashtags to follow, use for more robust results than the standard search box. Once you find a contact, browse their contacts to further your connections.

Step 9:  Be a time saver.

If you start your own website, link to it in other platforms so that you only have to update information once. Send out a message to more than one account using an app like HootSuite that allow you to manage more than one social media site at once. Think of your blog, curated digital items, or tweets as stepping-stones toward publication, course materials, etc. rather than a secondary task. Keep your login names and passwords organized and safe. A Google+ profile will automatically increase your visibility in a Google search.

Step 10:  Be social.

It’s not all about you or self-promotion. Join a dialogue with other academics using conference or subject hashtags. Seek out others’ blogs to find out who else cares about your research area and comment and contribute to build your network. Reveal yourself in the ways in which you would like to hear from others. At the same time, respect the privacy of others; for example, encourage students to use pseudonyms if they don’t feel comfortable mixing their private and school identities.

More resources, Diigo, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, HootSuite, Learnist, LinkedIn, Scribd, SlideShare, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress (at Duke), YouTube

Duke’s Twitter page, Twitter Basics