Today I have the pleasure of inviting Stephanie Echeveste to share her views on social media in academia. Stephanie is the community manager for USC Rossier Online, which offers a
Doctor of Education (EdD) in Change and Leadership program delivered online at the USC Rossier School of Education. Stephanie has taught English abroad, dance in South Central Los Angeles and art in the mission district of San Francisco. She is passionate about providing quality education for all and is a lifelong learner herself.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t just platforms for over sharing personal information. Academics are also using these mediums to share informative content to students and colleagues, connect with other experts in their fields and strengthen their network and teaching techniques. Professors and graduate students can use these popular methods of communication to their advantage, and while the initial jump into the world of social media may be a bit daunting, here are five ways to make the transition much easier.
1. Create a brand base.
What’s a brand base, you say? It’s a central place to base the rest of your online presence. It should have a bio and link to your blog or share links to your writing. If you already have a personal Twitter account or blog, you might want to use that as a brand base. If you don’t already have a Twitter account or blog that is solely for your brand, then make one.
Create a bio that specifies what you do and your area of research. Post content that is tailored to your area of expertise (i.e. English professors re-tweeting character studies or research papers or Doctor of Education students sharing the best study habits). Follow experts in the education field and other faculty members. Post content that properly depicts who you are as a professor, your methods, your interests, things that relate to what’s in your syllabus, etc. Creating or boosting your brand generates more visibility, credibility and accessibility for yourself online and can open the door to academic opportunities.
2. Find research content or relevant teaching material.
One of the more beneficial aspects of an increase in educator traffic on social media is the vast pool of information your colleagues are sharing. A simple hashtag search on Twitter for relevant content to your studies and teachings can help you find research material and other experts in the field. Once you find a fellow thought leaders in your field, follow them on social media and reach out however you feel most comfortable.
3. Assess your Internet footprint.
Google yourself. It’s important to assess where you stand in the world of social media and know what other people see when they type your name in the search bar, because that is the first thing someone will do you if you are speaking at a conference or authoring a paper.
Perhaps a student created a hashtag referencing a topic they felt you taught well. Use your newly crafted professional Twitter account to re-tweet that post, or to contribute to the existing hashtag and conversation. If some of your published works are on the Internet, include links from your brand base. You’ll be able to see what kind of personal and professional networks you are a part of and forge connections with your peers who belong to the same groups.
4. Contribute to areas of expertise.
Mathematics professors may find Instagram accounts virtually useless—an overly edited photo of a list of equations may not garner much interest. Therefore, it’s important to figure out which social media platforms are better for your areas of expertise and commit yourself to them. Keep in mind that having a growing, successful social media presence requires time and effort, so don’t spread yourself too thin. Learn the ins and outs and pros and cons of whatever platform you choose, and use it to your advantage by sharing robust, dynamic content that other experts and students in your field would care about.
5. Encourage your students and colleagues to get involved.
Engaging students and colleagues via social media will enhance communication and could inspire new ideas and self-driven learning. Create hashtags referencing your daily lessons and invite students to add to the conversation or share something they’ve written for the class. Invite them to join relevant or self-generated Facebook groups or to follow industry thought leaders. Connecting your classroom on social media also allows students to easily share information with one another, which may result in a more collaborative, engaging learning environment.
For more information regarding the educational world’s take on social media, see this Pearson study regarding social media and teaching.