The Art of Digital Communication: A Brief Guide to Navigating Social Media as a Graduate Student
April 18, 2023
Reflections from the Interfaces of Global Change Graduate Seminar
As graduate students, social media can be a powerful networking tool to get our names and research known by others in the field early on in our careers, before we have an established working group or lab. With each new generation of scientists, the use of social media to network and share our lives becomes ever more prominent. If you are new to cultivating your social media presence, this blogpost is for you! Here’s a few tips from GCC members and things to consider when you’re just starting out.
GCC faculty affiliate Erin Hotchkiss advised, "Consider what you hope to gain from your online presence and how often you will share new content. There's no one ‘right way’ to have an online presence, but it is advantageous to ensure that what folks see first if they search for you online is professional, and I recommend starting out with something relatively passive that is updated for you (e.g., google scholar) if you don't plan to make frequent updates to a personal website or social media profile." You have to decide the level of interaction with these platforms that align with your goals. For some, posting to Twitter every day is a realistic goal. For myself, I know that I will not post that often, but having my own website which I can update once a month that links to my Google Scholar and GitHub is much more realistic, and it still ensures that people can find me if they’re on the lookout. Passive sites like these don’t give much insight into who you are personally, but they can be a great tool for networking.
Having a popular social media profile where you share your research can help you find opportunities. It is not uncommon for people to post the positions for which they are seeking applicants or to establish collaborations. LinkedIn is a great site to help you make the transition from an academic job to a non-academic job and having a fully fleshed out profile can make this 10x easier. In academic jobs, having a Twitter account where you share paper updates, research progress, and discussion of hot topics in the field can get you recognized at conferences by people you have never met in person (indeed, a new type of introductions now occurs among folks at conferences with openings like “I know you from Twitter!”). On some platforms, you have to post frequent updates to make an impact, but others are more static or can automatically update for you, such as Google Scholar and ORCID.
To some the networking aspect of social media can make more active professional accounts seem a bit disingenuous, but if you let it, your social network can help you feel connected to your peers and greatly improve your graduate experience. It is becoming more common (for those willing to invest a bit more into social media) to integrate personal and professional profiles into one. Grace O’Malley, an IGC fellow said, "I use different social media platforms to engage with different groups of people in my life.” Her use of social media to share her science with friends and family displays how we can use it as an easy introduction to science communication (you can follow Grace on Twitter @gracmalley_12). Sharing photos and stories of our science in simple and easy to understand ways is a low stakes form of science communication, without the additional pressure of writing a blog or giving a practiced talk, although those are also great ways to enhance your presence online.
At the end of the day, you control how engaged you would like to be on social media and what parts of your life and work you want to share. Chances are that people would be and are interested in you and what you are doing, but you have to make it easy for them to find. Hopefully this post gives you some hope that doing that is less daunting than you may have felt before.