What can you do to make your research stand out from the crowd? As science communicators in an online world, we have compiled the five most efficient ways to become more visible to journalists, colleagues, conference organizers and funding agencies.
Have you ever Googled yourself, only to find an outdated article or forum comment from your time as a student on the first page? It can be painful, embarrassing or at least not representative of your academic progress. There are ways to control your online identity and prevent embarrassing search results. And they make sure that when other people look for you online, your desired and up-to-date social media accounts and website show up.
1 Get a personal website
The first rule of standing out is that you shouldn’t be like everyone else. So while online networking tools for scientists, such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Google Scholar have their place (more on that later), you’ll still be just one of many colleagues. This doesn’t help your visibility. But there is another reason to want to get out of these ‘gated communities’ of science, because, for better or worse, there is a growing requirement for researchers to engage with the general public and to ensure that your research has an impact in society as a whole.
A website is a great way to overcome both these challenges. But you’ll have to go beyond that online profile that your institute provides for you on their website; these often convey a bland, generic image and have a design that is inflexible and generally outdated. To have a page with your photo and a list of publications is just not enough to get people excited about your work.
Share your OWN story, vision and opinions on a personal website and get more attention for your research.
That’s why the best way to tell your story and create impact is to create your own professional website. On your own website you can show your work (with images and video!) but also share your vision and vent your opinions. It’s also the best way to be found by search engines, and as a bonus you’ll get to keep this website when you change employer.
2 Start a conversation
Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, a great way to get your audience to know you is to go on social media. Pick one (or more) that fit your personality and work, and be active. For example: if you can make concise statements and enjoy discussions, try Twitter. If you’re lucky enough to generate good visual content with your research or do a lot of fieldwork, go on Instagram. For more intimate and nuanced conversation, you can make a professional Facebook profile (or even page). It will allow you to build a community of followers, and influencing public opinion this way is bound to be noticed by your professional peers as well. Just remember to keep anything private out of these profiles!
Influence public opinion or build a community on Twitter and Facebook.
These conversations will connect you to other people, inform you about other perspectives and keep you sharp and inspired. If you have (or, rather, take) the time to post a few times every week, you’ll be more visible to the world. But don’t underestimate what it can do for you too: interacting on social media lets you practice how you engage people who don’t agree or lack the scientific background. It’s a great preparation for when you get those tough questions at a conference.
3 Grow your professional network
Although we encourage every scientist to come down from the ivory tower, there is one social network that is sort of in between an exclusively scientific crowd, and the general public: LinkedIn. It deserves a special mention, because it’s the best free alternative to a personal website, and broader and more flexible than scientist-only networks like ResearchGate. So while Facebook and Twitter are great to connect with the general public, LinkedIn is better to connect with people on a pure professional level and to share thoughts and start communities. With your resume within reach it’s easy to make a profile, and then it’s only a small step to showcasing your work by writing articles and posts.
LinkedIn: an easy way to showcase your work, grow your network and write articles.
Many people don’t realize this, but LinkedIn is great for blogging and sharing articles. We’re very impressed, for instance, by the way David Katz is using LinkedIn to write opinion pieces. Check out David Katz profile in LinkedIn and get inspired.
4 Share your presentations on YouTube or SlideShare
You are putting so much effort into making great presentations for conferences and lectures, so why not take advantage of all this hard work? Sharing your well-prepared presentations will increase the chance of more people knowing your name. Obviously, this provides a much deeper and more detailed view of your work, and is a good idea if you are an excellent presenter. On SlideShare you can easily share the slides from your presentations, which might also be useful if you want to share handouts.
What you need to realize with SlideShare, is that it will be just the slides, and not your talk that accompanied them. Because a good slide deck complements this talk, it’s likely that you’ll need to modify your slides to provide the full information on SlideDeck. Alternatively, you can record your presentation and put it on YouTube – a much more complete experience.
Sharing your amazing presentations online increases your chances of being asked as a (keynote) speaker!
In addition to being a good way to achieve your goal of increased visibility online and more followers of your research, sharing your presentations is a showcase of you as a speaker. It allows organizers of conferences to assess your skills and may convince them to invite you to future opportunities to present your work. To better your chances, use keywords in your descriptions to ensure that your slides pop up in the relevant searches.
Since you’ve just updated your LinkedIn profile and already have a Google Scholar account, setting this up is a piece of cake: SlideShare is part of LinkedIn and YouTube is owned by Google. You only need to fill out some new account details.
5 Join some scientific networking websites
Even though we encourage all scientists to leave the ivory tower and engage with the public, there are reasons to increase your online presence in the scientific community as well. Having an account on one or more of the aforementioned academic networking sites, like ResearcherID, ORCID, Researchgate, Academia.edu, Google Scholar might be good for your credits. They can also help you track your publications easier than in PubMed, for example. Just don’t count on these sites to help you have an impact in the broader online community.
Out of examples mentioned, only Google Scholar doesn’t put up a wall, and is an easy way to showcase your publications publicly as well. It finds them for you, and you only need to check them (don’t forget to set your profile to public: click “Edit” next to “My profile is private” and then select “My profile is public”.)