this is a part II of a two part series on building your brand via social media. part I can be accessed here.
social media is one way to develop your professional brand. social media can help build your reputation as a thought leader in your research area. social media’s prevalence in today’s society, along with your intentional brand development, can open you up to mainstream media interviews and opportunities and networking and new research collaboration opportunities. it can also help with career trajectory and improve your citation count…making it a potentially valuable asset in your public scholarship journey.
which platforms should you use?
there are two key points to highlight here. first, is your comfort level with the platform. second, you should be where your audience is.
don’t force it.
part of the longevity and success that comes with public scholarship is not making it feel like work. first thing is first, you do not need to be active on every social media platform, or any at all! and there are so many platform options. just take a look at this repository of social media platform options for scholars. so many options.
opting to use social media as a part of your brand development strategy should not feel laborious or uncomfortable. if anything, it may require some trial and error in figuring out what works for you.
you want to be honest with yourself and your comfort level with being more public. also consider the time you have to commit to this venture. most importantly, you should consider the audience you are trying to reach.
where is your audience?
where you audience is may be one of the most important questions to consider. who are your potential followers/readers and which platform(s) are they using? and adding to the complexity of this approach…every platform has a different audience.
if you are trying to inform Gen Z, chances are you should be utilizing video platform like TikTok or Instagram. if your audience is boomers, then writing on the internet may miss them. facebook may be the best outlet to reach Gen X. know who your audience is and where they gather information and go there! meet your audience where they are.
it is not just about finding your audience. you have to be able to effectively communicate with them.
selecting a social media platform to utilize on your public scholar journey requires self reflection and an understanding of who and where your audience is. recognize and appreciate your personal comfort levels with communicating that align with the audience you are trying to reach. otherwise, this process may feel laborious and uncomfortable, making it more difficult to sustain in your workflow.
what do you say?
post about interesting research you are reading or conducting. curate content. comment on current topics related to your research. post interesting stats you come across. tease out findings in your current research projects. data visualizations and video abstracts are a great way to garner engagement. the goal is to trigger engagement and emotion through sharing interesting information about a topic the audience cares about.
follow trending topics of your research topic and jump into various random conversations (use your judgement). follow relevant journalists and media personalities and exchange ideas and thoughts with them.
of course, this all depends on which platform you are using. if you are unsure, look to see what others on the site are doing (and how their followers are responding).
if you are one of the brave souls who maintains multiple social media pages, ensure you are consistent across them. images, tone, content….should be consistent but also personalized to the platform. adam grant is a good example of what i would not recommend. many times he’ll screenshot his tweets and throw them on instagram and linkedin. not the epitome of personalization or engagement, tbh. but at least he is consistent. and he still gets loads of engagement!
build a community.
part of building a brand is building a following, a community. understand what your audience is interested in. what triggers them to engage. be able to answer the question as you post: why would my audience care to read this? create a community your audience by following people and groups who are interested to your research area.
other ways you can create a community is using hashtags to help people interested in a specific topic find you. you can retweet/repost others and add your own commentary as a way to gain followers and insert yourself into the conversation. and don’t forget to show some personality.
ultimately, you want to be and feel authentic while remaining professional. i remain cautious and avoidant of posting about politics or controversial topics, especially in this divisive time. its just too much of a hot button (unless your research is adjacent to this area). i do not want my brand to represent this. only you know what is best to represent yourself… just do not forget about your brand perception in relation to your professional profile as a public scholar.
there are a few really great examples of active public scholars who are great at social media. Neil deGrasse Tyson offers a pleasant mixture of cool science and lighthearted tidbits informing pop culture crazes like the impossibility of Tom Cruise surviving ejection from a Mach 10.5. Tressie McMillian Cottom is a constant reminder that it is ok to be your authentic self and be a successful public scholar (though it is less clear what her research area is if you take a quick look at her social media profiles, but i love her nonetheless). Samantha Yammine uses Instagram as her outlet to share interesting science and dispel myths around vaccines.
be conscious of tone and content. rely on accessible, jargon-free language that is to the point.
what happens on the internet, stays on the internet.
everything you post matters in relation to your professional identity and brand. take a few moments to scan over your recent posts to gauge how you would be perceived by someone who doesn’t know you IRL.
ultimately, what you post on the internet, stays on the internet. as a public scholar, everything you post represents you and your work. as you look to build your expertise through social media, keep in mind how your post may reflect your brand. post relevant content related to your research and your work, but don’t forget to humanize yourself with posts that highlight your interests.
select the social media platform that meets your audience where they are but also accentuates your personality and feels natural. promote your research. use jargon-free language. post for engagement, not just for sharing your research. ask questions, use graphics. follow relevant people and groups and engage with them.
social media thrives on two-way communication, and your public profile will grow as you engage more with the platform and with others.