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How to build an academic brand online

Paula Thompson
Paula Thompson
Lee Bessette
Lee Bessette

If you Google your own name, are you happy with what the search results show about you and your work? If not, you may want to take steps to improve your online presence to better reflect your academic brand, which articulates your unique expertise and affects the way you are perceived both online and in the real world.

In a recent TAA webinar entitled, “Designing Your Online Presence to Communicate Your Academic Brand,” veteran higher ed blogger Lee Skallerup Bessette and academic branding coach Paula Thompson, both of Academic Coaching & Writing discussed ways to create or enhance your online presence to promote yourself and your work.

Discover and Design Your Brand

According to Thompson, the first step in promoting yourself is to discover and design your academic brand so that you will know what you want to accomplish with your online presence. Discovering your brand involves clarifying your scholarly identity, your unique strengths, and your contributions to your field. A well-designed academic brand guides the choice of online platforms you will select to articulate the story you want to tell about yourself and your scholarship.

Select Your Online Platforms

Using the internet to communicate your brand to the world is advantageous because it increases visibility for your work and brings all the facets of your career—publishing, teaching, consulting, etc.—together in one place.

Once you decide on your academic brand, explore the various online platforms to find those that will work best for you. To select the best platforms to convey your brand, determine your audience and do some research to determine which platforms will help you reach that target audience.

Skallerup Bessette and Thompson shared the pros and cons of the most commonly used online platforms:

Your own website: Personal websites give you complete control over your content, design, and layout and can increase the visibility of your work by improving search engine optimization (SEO), but there are costs associated with buying a domain name, hosting services, and the professional help that may be needed in setting up the website. In addition, personal websites typically require a big time commitment up front to get the site up and running. A social networking site specifically for the academic world, allows users to share documents such as your articles, abstracts, syllabi, and CV. It is also SEO-friendly and even provides reports so you can see who has searched for your work or profile. A disadvantage is that it is not designed for interaction or dialogue with colleagues.

LinkedIn: This social networking platform is geared towards professionals. A profile on LinkedIn is like a living CV that can include samples of your work, and a LinkedIn presence is especially good for expanding your professional network outside of academia. It also offers moderated interest groups where you can join discussions on various topics. However, it is not geared toward academic dialogue in particular.

Twitter: Twitter is a social networking site that allows short communications of 140 characters or less. An advantage of Twitter is that it connects you to others in your field to promote your research, and Twitter chats can extend into other online platforms or into real life. Twitter is also useful for connecting to people outside of academia. The disadvantage of Twitter is that it can be a big time sink if you aren’t careful. If you choose to use Twitter, keep in mind that the Twitter community tends to value conversation over just broadcasting your work.

Facebook and Google+: These social networking sites are useful for long-term interactions. With these sites you can create closed academic groups for more informal discussions, resource sharing, and support. However, there are some privacy issues based on the display of personal data and many people are concerned about the fact that all social media platforms make money from selling user data and displaying advertisements.

Your own blog: Another option for online academic branding is to start your own blog using software such as Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr. Blogs are advantageous because they can be a more casual space to create a dialogue with other scholars, which may lead to invitations to collaborate. Blogging regularly can also be a way to create a habit of writing to improve productivity, but blog posts usually don’t “count” in academic terms.

Other platforms and tools: Other options include Flickr and Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Storify, SlideShare, and YouTube. The usefulness of these options may depend on your discipline; for example visual artists would find the photography-sharing site Instagram especially helpful for posting their work.

Set Up for Easy Maintenance

The next step in building your academic brand online is doing the work to create profiles and/or your own website or blog. It is important to take the time to set things up exactly the way you want them in the beginning so that ongoing updates and maintenance are streamlined for ease of use and efficiency.

Schedule Time for Brand Maintenance

Once your online presence is up and running, make it a priority to schedule small chunks of time for brand maintenance; for example, updating your CV on your profile or writing a new entry for your blog. Be sure to check with your publishers before posting any copyrighted work, and keep a high level of professionalism by being collegial in your online interactions.

If you need help, consider hiring an academic branding coach to help you articulate your brand, select the best online platforms for your goals, and launch your academic brand online.

Academic Coaching & Writing will be offering their webinar, “Designing Your Online Presence to Communicate Your Academic Brand”, again on March 3, 2016. Register here