Today, I attended a workshop on Online Networking and Social Media by Floor Drees at the PhD Event 2010. One of the most striking observations was the reluctance of young academics to social media. I was surprised to see that only about half of the audience has a LinkedIn profile, and very few hands were raised when Floor asked about Twitter.
I understand the criticism. In the end, for an academic career, your publications are very important, and to get something out of social media, you need to spend some time on it. You might be wasting your time, you should be researching and publishing.
It took me time to convince myself to explore Twitter, too, and to start writing this blog. I was afraid of writing something unintelligent and losing some academic credit for that. But then I realized that social media is very much me and what I like and stand for. I'm the kind of nerdy kid that was building websites as a teenager. I'm the kind of kid that as a child, rejoiced over having Windows 3.1 installed on our home computer. I love new stuff, and I love all that is hot and happening.
But that's just me. What might be in there for a young academic?
Organizations which give you updates on their next conferences, and you can tweet about the conference using the appropriate hashtag.
Personal leadership advice : Doing a PhD is all about managing a giant project, and you need a good set of soft skills to reach your goals. On Twitter, a lot of young entrepreneurs with a small business like to share their ideas and advice with you. Even though my university stimulates me to attend trainings and workshops, a few encouraging words per day are always welcome.
Be visible If you're on the internet, participating in discussions on your topic (for example in the LinkedIn groups), you can show to peers further away where your expertise lies. And since you do a PhD in a specific topic, you will be one of the experts in that topic.
It doesn't take that much time. Some people have the idea that social media, and especially Twitter, are a waste of your time since you might end up tweeting your every move from your office and not getting work done. I love social media, but my priority is obviously my research. Therefore, I don't touch any social media website during my workday. When I come home, I check what is going on. In total, I spend about 20 minutes per day, which seems to be enough for me to get the benefits out of it.