Since I have the dubious honour of being the most active member of staff (here at Exeter) on social media, I’m periodically asked how students and scholars new to this brave new world should navigate it. Ultimately, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to go about social media engagement; but here are a few rather impressionistic suggestions, drawn largely from my experiences on Twitter over the last three-and-a-half years:
- Post regularly. Active accounts attract far more attention than dormant ones, and it’s by regularly posting thoughts and materials that you’ll gain followers – and find other people to follow – with similar research interests.
- Engage with others’ posts. Twitter, in particular, has a reputation for being a self-promotion site, and not without reason. But no-one wants to follow someone who doesn’t engage with other people. So comment on what other scholars are up to. (Particularly if you’re new to the site, this is how you draw attention to your existence.)
- Avoid arguments. This is the toughest one. You will see many posts that you consider wrong, and often egregiously so. Feel free to call this out, but don’t get dragged into a lengthy argument. It will just detract you from your main purpose – and at worst it can lead to very unpleasant trolling.
- Talk about your work. If you’re using social media professionally, you want to attract followers – and find accounts to follow – with similar interests. The best way to do this is to talk about your work. Recently read a good book? Post and photo and a statement of your approval! Just found something cool in manuscript? Share it!
- Show personality. One of the reasons people follow scholars on social media is to get a sense of them as human beings – so be human. We all set boundaries when it comes to our private lives – my wife and daughter very rarely appear on my account – but do make the odd joke, talk about your hobbies etc.
- Have fun. This is the most important part. Social medial shouldn’t be a chore – and if it is, you’re doing it wrong. Find out how you enjoy using it and stick to the formula. (And if this means entirely ignoring points 1-5, do so!)