Every so often I’ll have a discussion with an academic around “this facebook thing” or “what’s the point of Twitter”. Each time it’s for a different reason or coming from a different perspective or background. But each time it also comes down to two main areas of interest: time and effort. How long will it take or how much effort will they need to put into it for it to become a worthwhile enterprise.
I always say it will come down to what they want to get from the experience. Do they want to get hits or recognition, do they want to build a social profile and/or ‘digital footprint’? Do they want to manage or improve an existing profile or footprint, or eradicate a negative one? Is it to be able to connect with colleagues and peers through LinkedIn or Google+, or to increase conference speaking requests? Is the reason for signing up to Facebook or Twitter for student engagement or because you can only really understand how the students use it if you use it yourself? Is their need to be ‘there’ one of inclusion or monitoring? Often the reason is just one where they see someone else using it, probably successfully, and therefore “want some of that”.
In most cases it is nearly always ‘some of the above’, and in very few cases ‘all of the above’ (even if it’s not acknowledged to be this). I can’t say “you should start here … ” as each person should start where it is more appropriate: LinkedIn for professional reputation, SlideShare for conference and/or learning resources, Google+ or Twitter for networks and Personal Learning Networks (PLN), etc.
In situations where we’re not able to sit and meet, or they want something else to look through to consolidate our conversation, I send them a link to Sidneyeve Matrix’s presentation (below): “Your Digital Impact: Online Professional Branding Tools & Strategies for Academics”.
I also use this resource from the LSE blog – “I’m an academic and desperately need an online presence, where do I start?” – to bring some of the networks and tools into the context of how best to leverage them to their own specific advantage (again, based on the requirement of ‘why’ they want to be online and why they want to use the various networks).