Social Media workshop
At the "Building your online profile" workshop for researchers at the Ourimbah Campus this morning, the ever-enthusiastic and knowledgeable Jessie Reid covered many of the advantages, how-to's and potential pitfalls of using social media to promote a research profile.
Much of the buzz about using social media at the University of Newcastle has stemmed from the recent introduction of the researcher profile platform that enables uni staff to create and maintain their own biographical page. With the option to now add hyperlinks, links to external social media sites and compose copy that promotes individual interests and current research projects, many staff members that I've spoken with are filled with confusion, if not dread at the new promotional landscape that's opened up before them.
Is Social Media for me?
One of the workshop participants this morning asked if he was missing out by not engaging at all with Facebook or Twitter.
While Jessie's very diplomatic response was to ask him if he believed that he was adequately hearing about the research being conducted in his field, my response is more aligned with this image:
The Learning Commons on the upper level of the Ourimbah Campus Library of the Uni of Newcastle captured on a very rare day when no-one is using it. This space will be buzzing next week when Semester 2 commences.
This image of the upper level of the Ourimbah Library shows the different seating arrangement for different types of library use. Library users have different needs at different times. They may want to use the Library PC's in close proximity to their fellow students and use the pods on the left. They may have group work that doesn't rely on computer access and use the tables and chairs. They may just want to have a casual conversation or chillout on the lounges that are scattered around the library, including the ones at the rear of this Learning Common that overlook the beautiful Ourimbah Campus landscape. They may need to use a computer in a silent lab in order to focus, in which case they'd use the lab just to the right of this photo.
Finding your target audience
I think social media can be utilised the same way. Researchers need to know who's doing research in their field of interest. What types of social media are those other researchers using to highlight, discuss and disseminate their work? If you're only relying on traditional journal articles and published conference papers are you being kept out of the loop of collaboration and discussion with those who may be actively engaging with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc.
Researchers also need to determine who they want their own audience to be. If you want your students or potential postgraduates to be aware of your work, are you promoting it in the social media platforms that they regularly visit? If a researcher makes a great contact at a conference and that contact later tries to locate them online to discuss future collaboration, how difficult are they making that by having a minimal online presence?
Fellow researchers, consumers, grant bodies, research centres and other potential research collaborators all use social media in different ways that change and adapt to suit their particular need at a given time. Just like library staff needed to be aware of the different ways our clients use the library space, researchers would benefit from thinking about how their fellow researchers and collaborators are using the social media space. Can they really afford not to go out there and meet them?