The title of this blog has been lifted from an informative, candid and thought-provoking talk delivered by Dr Nadine Muller, Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. Nadine’s talk formed part of a stimulating workshop hosted by jobs.ac.uk and Piirus entitled The Digital Academic: Tools and Tips for Research Impact and ECR Employability, held at the University of Warwick. I have been honoured with the task of encapsulating some nuggets of advice and key take-home messages for you to consider.
Since Nadine culminated her talk with some of those aforementioned nuggets, I will do what I never do when reading a book – I will start at the end:
- Make social media work for you and have a strategy: What do you want from social media, in your professional capacity? It’s not about what you think you ‘should’ be doing or getting ‘sucked in’. You have choices. Choose which platforms (if any) you want to step onto; those you believe ‘fit’ you and will help you better achieve that to which you aspire.
- Create opportunities: Nadine credits social media for many of the opportunities to which she has been presented (she even highlights to her students how her CV would look with versus without social media’s influence). Having a presence online, she attests, puts you in a good position to be found, approached, even to enlist the help of individuals and communities that may assist your research and its dissemination.
How might such opportunities arise?
Showcasing, showcasing, showcasing. This was a buzzword that infiltrated Nadine’s talk. She was clear that showcasing for her was not a passive activity akin to prettying a shop window. She highlighted what and how you might showcase: your writing, networking/communication and how you can tailor these to your audience; your teaching skills, materials and methods; your engagement with current debates and controversies within higher education and current affairs, linking these to your research wherever relevant. Through such showcasing, prospective employers effectively ‘see’ the very things you claim on your CV. Moreover, having a website can provide you with useful data to track the impact of what you present and give some indication of your audience and reach.
What about the pitfalls of social media?
Nadine was clearly aware of ‘common concerns’ when playing on social media platforms, which that she helpfully headlined as followed:
Procrastination – “Social media will not compensate for publication”. If it’s taking time away from more important scholarly activities then it is not working for you.
Strategic workload manager – You are not contracted ‘social media hours’. Many of these hours you will need if you are to take digital academia seriously; learning how to build a website, for example, and keeping updated with the plethora of digital developments.
Training – The reality is that you will mostly be training yourself… What do universities have in place to support their staff to learn and adapt to this digital world of academia?
Image and privacy – Do you keep private and professional social media separate (e.g. having separate Twitter accounts)? Nadine very much espouses that for her it is ‘real’ to highlight her work-life and model this to her students. She is aware others will place importance on keeping the two separate. Remember, people can find anything/everything you have posted, even deleted Twitter posts. We know that good researchers should assimilate their knowledge with new information; in short, we should be open to changing our minds. Social media will document this process of change and development.
Copyright and Plagiarism – Possibly one of the most concerning issues for the aspiring digital academic, yet Nadine believes this needn’t preoccupy academics as much as they think, since a “virtual footprint” is left with every date-stamped blog or Tweet.
Nadine certainly ‘made a mark’ and left me pondering what exactly I want from social media. I was buoyed by the helpful reminder that at the end of the day it is our choice; social media, after all, is a tool that we can use – to showcase what we have to offer and connect and engage in potentially expansive ways.
No doubt we all already ‘make our mark’ in our own unique ways. Social media may accelerate our impact, help us disseminate our research and put our own ‘stamp’ on things. Just tread carefully; unlike footprints in the sand, what we leave won’t be washed away by the next tide.