Navigating the social media maze for academics

Life for an academic these days seems to be getting more complex. In addition to the traditional tasks – teaching, researching, and publishing – the job has expanded to include endless grant applications and the need to develop a public persona to publicise their work. All of this is in addition to having some kind of personal life and human relationships.

The advent of social media has made life for academics more complex and has opened up new ways of publicising their work.

Earlier today I saw an interesting interchange among some science researchers on Twitter. The conversation was inspired by Cameron Webb, a.k.a. @Mozziebites on Twitter, who posted on his blog about Putting a value on science communication. The conversation then moved onto how challenging it can be to manage multiple social media and media channels and how best to collate and curate these. Here’s a few of the tweets:

Many people working in universities tell me that social media just seems like too much on top of an already busy schedule. They ask me how it is possible to fit more into their limited spare time. The trick is to create content once and reuse it across social media platforms, it is also to share other people’s work to build your online communities and networks.

Some ideas for managing multiple social media platforms with minimal effort

Use tools

Merely using the native Twitter or Facebook apps is neither efficient nor effective. Consider using a tool that enables easy cross posting between social media platforms. There are a number of free or low cost tools that serve this purpose. Examples are Hootsuite which gives a dashboard for sharing context to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; or Buffer which schedules posts to various social media sites.

Find a place to save interesting links and posts

It is worth finding apps that you like to collate the links you find in your travels across the internet. For academic items I tend to use Zotero, for general links I use Pocket, and Feedly to track websites that are worth regular catchups. Both Pocket and Feedly apps enable sharing of the content that is bookmarked across other social media sites.

Collate interesting content from yourself and others for future reference

It is not sufficient to spread your wit and wisdom across the social media universe, you need to collate your own and others’  content for future reference. This is where tools like If This Then That (IFTTT) come in handy. This free site enables you to create simple processes (called recipes) to share information between various applications. There are many pre-built recipes to use or you can create your own recipes. It is a very powerful yet simple tool for curating your own and others’ content. For example it is easy to create a recipe that automatically posts any items you have favourited via Pocket to Buffer for scheduled posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Some handy  IFTTT recipes include:

  • Archive your Instagram photos in an Evernote notebook
  • Save your Tweets in a Google Spreadsheet (which archives your new tweets to Google Drive)
  • Create link notes in Evernote from Feedly articles saved for later
  • Post new SoundCloud tracks to your WordPress Blog

Invest your time parsimoniously on social media

This is a really useful post by Kevan Lee that outlines how you can spend 30 minutes per day on social media to good effect, it’s worth reading:  What’s the Best Way to Spend 30 Minutes of Your Time on Social Media Marketing?

Work out which social media platforms are worth investing time in & which you can simply cross-post to

I spend a lot of time on Twitter because I enjoy the open conversational nature of the platform. However, for academics there are a few other ways to share information and build a public profile you might not have considered:

  • Setup a public profile page on Facebook so you can share professional information separately to your personal profile (it is much less annoying for family and friends)
  • Setup a LinkedIn profile and cross-post interesting articles and information there (I rarely log into LinkedIn and use Buffer to post links there)
  • Don’t forget the emerging academic social media networks, such as Academia or ResearchGate – by posting your published materials to these kind of site you can boost citations and downloads of your work. They can also be handy for asking questions and finding new collaborators.


Disclosure: I am an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in School of Computer Science & Engineering at UNSW Australia and publish in academic journals from time to time

Customer service and student support – QUT gets it

As both an educator and tertiary student I’ve been able to see both sides of the fence. A recent experience with Queensland University of Technology stands out as exemplary in both student support and customer service.

A change in personal circumstances recently meant that I needed to make a decision and act very quickly regarding my studies. And I required speedy access to some information about my options as a student in the QUT Law School.

I tried phoning the Law School and was unable to get through to anyone. Immediately I sent an email outlining my issues to Kaylene Matheson, the Administrative Officer (Student Support) in the Law School.

Kaylene responded within minutes, phoning to give me a run down of the options available. She then emailed me contact details for Student Services, who could fill in the last bit of information so as to finalise my decision within the necessary timeframe.

The next morning I called Student Services and spoke to a really helpful chap, who patiently talked through my options explaining the consequences of each. We had a constructive discussion and I was able to decide on a course of action. He then explained exactly how to finalise my decision & noted what records I should keep for future reference.

Both Kaylene & my unknown helper at Student Services provided support and great customer service. They were patient and helpful, taking the time to help me to understand what I needed to do. They are a credit to QUT & are great brand ambassadors!

The funny thing is that this makes sense; as everyone that I’ve dealt with at QUT has been helpful and supportive. Clearly this is part of their organisational culture. What this all means is that when you put the good customer service together with good academics and good student support systems (like Blackboard and website) it makes a good place to study.

Following are some of my off the cuff responses on Twitter:

“the student services people at totally rock – they are super professional & really helpful!!! = EPIC WIN!!!”
10:02 AM Sep 17th

“some other unis should learn from QUT!”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

“if you are looking for a uni for distance education I cannot recommend QUT more highly – a very professional & positive experience”
10:03 AM Sep 17th