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How to use social media as an academic writer

Social media has become an influential force in both our personal and professional lives. According to Mark Carrigan, social media trainer and sociologist at the University of Warwick, social media offers many benefits for academic writers. In a recent TAA webinar entitled, ‘What On Earth Will I Tweet About?’: Feeling Comfortable with Social Media as an Academic, Carrigan shared some of those benefits.

“One advantage of social media for academic writers is that it allows you to have an independent presence online so if you switch institutions, you can still easily be found,” Carrigan said. Since many academics work at multiple educational institutions during their careers, an independent online presence can be an invaluable networking and promotional tool.
Social media platforms can offer many advantages in both the pre- and post-publication stages of textbooks and journal articles.

In the prepublication stage, social media can be used to hash out ideas with colleagues. Carrigan suggests that you can explore your thoughts online with others rather than writing things down in a notebook, a process which has the added bonus of helping you find potential collaborators for writing endeavors. Through social media, you can also find out about conferences relevant to your field and discover new articles to guide your research. Sites like Bundlr and Storify (see sidebar) can be used to gather information, such as journal articles or online chatter about conference presentations, into a single location for easy access during the research and writing stages of your project.

Once your paper or book is published, there are many strategies you can use to publicize your work. You can comment about current events that are relevant to your publications and post about any events that you participate in or conferences that you plan to attend. Sharing calls for papers in your field, reviews of books you have recently read, and news about publications from other authors you admire can also help increase your online following and thereby garner more attention for your publications. “Tweet about your new publications,” Carrigan urged. “When you publish something, share it on Twitter so your followers can see it, and if they’re interested, they can then read your work.”

Using social media to promote your publications can boost sales. Carrigan’s recent book has sold significantly better than his publishers had expected, and he credits the increase to his occasional tweets about his work.

Carrigan also shared a number of tips to help maximize the advantages that social media can offer academic writers:

  • Spread the word. “What gets people enthusiastic about social media in the academy is when they start getting a following and having interesting conversations,” said Carrigan. Let people know that you’re getting involved in social media so you can have an initial follower base comprised of people you already know offline. You can inform people about your online presence by putting your social media information, such as the URL for your blog or your Twitter handle, in your email signature and on your business cards.
  • Make time for social media. Many academic writers worry that they don’t have time to squeeze blogging or tweeting into an already packed schedule, but Carrigan asserts that social media doesn’t have to be a time sink. For example, if you just got back from a conference, post your presentation online to share with others, or tweet about the topic you’re writing about for an article or book chapter. “Integrate social media into your day-to-day workflow,” Carrigan suggested. “Think about what you’re already working on so you’re not creating an additional demand on your time.”
  • Consider collaborating. If you’re worried you just won’t have the time to work with social media on your own, consider contributing to a multi-author blog in your field. That way the site will be more active and it will involve less work for each participant.
  • Don’t worry about being “boring.” Many academic writers may worry that their areas of expertise won’t pique the interest of the general public, but don’t let that deter you from getting involved with social media. “Social media allows people who might be interested to find information easily,” Carrigan explained. “Your blog might be boring to a lot of people, but it probably will be very interesting to some people. Just go ahead and jump into it.”

Due to the numerous advantages social media offers, Carrigan argues that it can have a dramatic positive impact on an academic writer’s professional life. Social media offers a forum for academics to expand networking circles, extend collaborative outreach, self-publicize, and broaden research potential. If you are interested in learning more about how to leverage social media to benefit your career, Carrigan’s full presentation is available in TAA’s podcast library and additional resources can be found on this site.

Types of Social Media

Twitter_buttonTwitter: a microblogging service in which users can read and send messages of up to 140 characters

facebook_buttonFacebook: a social networking website where users create profiles, connect with others, and share comments, pictures, and videos

google_plusGoogle+: a social networking website with an emphasis on information sharing rather than socializing

linkedin-iconLinkedIn: a social networking website with a professional focus where users can post information from their CVs, connect with colleagues, and give and receive recommendations based on previous collaborations a social networking website especially for academics where users can create profiles, share their papers, and connect with others in their field

bundlrBundlr: a website that allows users to collect documents and social media content into one bundle

wordpress-iconWordPress: an open source content management system and tool for creating personalized websites and blogs

Blogger: a tool for creating blogs where users can choose and customize a template for sharing content

edublogsEdublogs: a blogging service specifically for the field of education, where teachers, students, and institutions can create their own blogs

StorifyStorify: a website in which users can gather information posted on social media sites together