A Guide To Developing Your Online Presence.

The internet is ‘where humanity is doing its stuff’ according to David White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Arts who presented Learning and Teaching in the Post-digital era at Talis Insight 2015.

If the internet is where humanity now resides, that’s as good a reason as any to start developing your digital identity. You don’t want to be a digital wallflower. For many, if you can not be found easily in a quick Google search, you simply don’t exist. Fine for a Buddhist monk, not so good for an academic trying to disseminate their research to a wider audience.

There are stronger arguments for the digitally literate academic. The VITAE Handbook of social media for researchers and supervisors list further benefits to include participation in group discussions, engineering public engagement, demonstrating your digital fluency, in addition to –

  • longevity beyond the PhD
  • enabling mass collaboration
  • combating researcher loneliness
  • bridging the gap between part-time PG researchers
  • bringing dispersed researchers together
  • keeping informed about conferences, developments, funding calls, mailing lists

Getting started

Dedicate 30 minutes each week to digital tasks and you will soon cultivate a digital presence. Some tasks are more demanding than others; you will need to be realistic about what you can and can’t do. For example, blogging will prove a much bigger demand on your time than tweeting.

  • Create and maintain a Twitter account. Set up a Twitter profile and then a Tweetdeck account. TweetDeck allows you to schedule Tweets for the week ahead. Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each week scheduling Tweets relating to your research, your publications, interesting news and upcoming conferences. Read Deevy Bee’s Gentle Guide to Twitter for the apprehensive academic if you are still unsure.See the following academic Twitter lists for your area compiled by the LSE:
  • Create a Piirus profile. Piirus is a platform for academics to collaborate, network and share research papers. Add your CV, share updates and connect with academic colleagues globally. You can link out to all the other websites you are on, find researchers in your field, see when your papers are downloaded and who is following your work. Find out more about Piirus here.
  • Primp your institution web profile. Universities publish staff profiles by default. Log into your staff editing area and complete your publications and research interests. With the volume of traffic your institution attracts, your institution profile is likely to be one of the first returns in any search.
  • Take part in a live Twitter chat such as the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education chat #lthechat every Wednesday between 8pm-9pm. Also see #phdchat and @AcademicsSay.
  • Start a blog. WordPress is a free blogging tool and website content management system. Register at WordPress for your free blog/website and then purchase a domain name and transfer it to your WordPress account. Follow these instructions to map an existing domain for the cheapest option. This means your site will be found at yourname.com rather than yourname.wordpress.com. Try to commit to a regular posting schedule for the best results although you can publish a selection of your best; see Alison Pyke’s The Scientific Parent for inspiration.
  • Create a LinkedIn account. Join LinkedIn and create a profile. You can participate in a form of blogging by using LinkedIn’s ‘Share an update’ function. Note the easy to use resume builder which allows you to create a CV from your LinkedIn profile data.
  • Start a Scoop-it or Paper.li. Curate the web and direct students and fellow colleagues to news, research and conferences of common interest to your community. Curating the web is a lighter commitment to make than regular blogging but still successfully demonstrates your specialist interest and knowledge, as well as your digital literacy. You will expand your Personal Learning Network too. See Educational Developer and Lecturer at Sheffield Hallum, Sue Beckingham’s, recent Paper.li for inspiration @SueBecks.

If you have only time for one platform, choose Twitter. Dr Denise Turner, Lecturer in Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex is a prolific Twitter and here she tells us why:

‘My involvement with social networking as an academic has helped me invite a world of knowledge and social networks into my home. My timeline keeps me abreast of current developments often as they happen, whilst showcasing my own work and leading to exciting new opportunities, including publications and conference speaking.’ Dr Denise Turner

Additional reading: I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?, Salma Patel, LSE Impact Blog, 10/8/2012.

Vitae Innovate Handbook of social media for researchers and supervisors, Open University


About Sally Burr

Sally Burr is a Learning Technologist at the University of Sussex and editor of the Technology Enhanced Learning blog. https://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/tel/ Sally has recently completed the Post Graduate Certificate in Careers Education, Information and Guidance in Higher Education with Warwick University and since written an ebook called 'Graduate Jobs: An Emergency Guide'. You can follow @burrblog for twitter updates on learning technology or visit her blog at www.sallyburr.com.

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