The value of using social media to broaden your academic reach
Tanya Golash-Boza, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. She is widely published, with her academic works including academic and trade books, textbook chapters for edited volumes, and journal articles. Currently she is working on two primary projects, one being a book on the lives of people deported from the United States, and the second being a sociology textbook on race and racism. Golash-Boza has successfully utilized social media in her academic career for the past several years. She is the author of three popular blogs, including her academic blog entitled Get a Life, PhD, Weekly Tips on How to Succeed in Academia and Have a Life Too.
Here Golash-Boza shares her insights on the value of utilizing social media to broaden your academic reach.
TAA: How and why did you get started using social media in your academic life?
Tanya Golash-Boza: “Like many academics who were out of graduate school, once social media gained popularity, I was reticent at first. Nevertheless, I decided to join Facebook at the encouragement of a colleague who wanted members of an association with which I was involved to join a Facebook group. I joined Facebook in 2007. Over the years, I have learned more about how Facebook can be a useful tool. I joined Twitter at the suggestion of a friend who thought I would find it engaging. He was right. I started a blog when I took a year-long sabbatical with my family and wanted to record the experience. When I first began my blog, it took the form of a live journal – I used it to record my reflections and thoughts on whatever was going on in my life. Over time, however, I decided to try and figure out what makes a blog work well. I enjoy a challenge, and it was fun to learn a new writing style. I learned that blogs should have a consistent theme. Thus, I divided up my blog into three blogs, each with a different theme. I was surprised that my blog on academic life quickly became the most popular of my blogs.”
TAA: Do you consider social media a good marketing tool for your books and other academic writings?
TGB: “I think it is. However, for social media to be a good marketing tool, you have to be plugged in to the right networks on social media. This is feasible, but takes time. Because I have many connections on Facebook and Twitter, when I post links to my articles there, hundreds of people who may be interested have access and can download and share the articles. It works well to use a variety of platforms as they work well together. For example, if you are presenting at a conference, you can upload the slides to SlideShare, post your paper on Scribd and Academia.edu and post links to each of these on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. ”
TAA: Which platforms do you consider to be the most productive/worthwhile and why?
TGB: “I think that a blog and a Twitter account are the most useful. However, the user should also have a site where he or she can post articles. Ideally, if you publish an article, you should be able to post a version of the article online on your website, write a brief blog entry about the article, and then tweet a link to the blog post. That strategy has the potential to magnify your audience. Blogging about your work can also help improve your writing as it forces you to try out a new writing voice.”
TAA: Can you share any tips or suggestions on how/where an academic should start in terms of using social media as a tool?
TGB: “One place to start is to post past articles that you have published on a website. Then, create a Blogger and Twitter account. Each week, post a summary of each article you have published and tweet the link to the blog. Check out the article “LSE produces new Twitter guide for academics” (The London School of Economics and Political Science website) and begin to follow other Twitter accounts and post interesting links to create your own following. Once you have summarized your own articles, summarize an article in your field each week and post the link. Use labels in your posts both to direct users to related articles and to keep track of summaries yourself.”
TAA: Do you have any strategies for maintaining a successful networking presence on social media? For example, how often to blog or post a comment on the various platforms?
TGB: “A successful blog usually requires at least one post a week. Blogs should have a consistent theme and each post should include a relevant image. You can get images that are in the public domain from flickr.com. A successful Twitter account usually has a few tweets a day.”
TAA: In terms of your social media activity, do you keep a clear distinction between your personal life and your academic life or do you prefer some overlap?
TGB: “I prefer some overlap. However, it depends on the platform. I keep three blogs – one about my family travels, one about immigration policy, and one about being an academic and having a life too. These blogs are focused on these topics and the blog on immigration policy never mentions my family. On Facebook, I allow for a bit more overlap between family vacation pictures, political posts, and links to academic articles. On Twitter, I post links to news articles on immigration and racism – my primary areas of research interest. However, I occasionally post travel pictures – part of my travel blogging hobby.”