Archive for December 15th, 2010

Important social networks for academics

Posted by Laura on Wednesday, 15 December, 2010

I was having a conversation yesterday about training academics in the use of social media.  One of the points that came up was what were the important social networks for academics to use and be trained in.  I believe the person I was talking to thought blogger and wikis were two of the three important sites academics can be using.  Those wouldn’t be my first choice; mine would be Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

A lot of the reasons why people doing training and advising as to what people use probably has to do with what they get out of sites. Personally, I don’t get much out of blogger.  (I use WordPress on its own domain.  I use LiveJournal. I’d chose both over blogger but then again, I haven’t really used blogger.)  I think wikis are awesome.  (Attend RecentChangesCamp!) I just don’t know that academics would get recognition that they might seek.  Rather, they would probably be producing shared content or learning about a tool that might help them with their in classroom teaching.  I know the person I talked to gets a lot of out of them and I think both could give a lot.  They just aren’t ones that come to mind for me.

I’d recommend Twitter as a way of keeping up with colleagues and making new contacts.  (A public version of Yammer.)  The problem with Twitter is that in selling Twitter to academics, you’ve also got to sell certain types of behavior: As some one worth following, you’ve got to provide value to the people you’re following.  This means you’ve got to teach that and get into some of the meta aspects of using social networks that you don’t necessarily need to do with blogger.

I’d recommend Facebook as a way of being aware of what students are up to and how they think.  I’d also recommend it as a way of turfing out the space.  In recommending how to use Facebook, I’d tell academics the same things I’d tell sport clubs and athletes: Set up a personal profile with people you know and trust.  (Do not add students as friends.)  After that, set up a fan page.  Use the fan page to post things you want public like links to research you’re doing, office hours, announcements, links to interesting content, etc.  This type of space is different than Twitter and LinkedIn as there is a different audience and different purpose for using it.

LinkedIn is about networking with professionals.  It is about developing a resume of sorts.  It works as a medium to contact people by setting an expectation that your goals are professionally oriented.  I know of a couple of places that aren’t interested in resumes and CVs.  Rather, they want LinkedIn.  This is why I’d recommend it.  The social aspects of this aren’t necessarily reasons why I’d recommend it.  I don’t think academics would need to update often.  There is some value in LinkedIn groups, if you can find one small enough and you’re interested in having conversations and promoting your work.   I’ve found it useful for those, but I can’t see most people doing that.

There are a lot of networks out there that could be valuable for academics.  It really depends on who is teaching about them, and the teacher’s perspective and experiences.

What networks are on your list for ones you’d recommend for others?

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