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CamGuides: Managing your Digital Presence

Social media for academic purposes

a person uses their phone near a book and some coffeeThe practice of using social media as part of academic research or in terms of joining an academic community related to your subject or research interest is becoming more common. Some reasons why this might be useful to you include:

  • connecting with other academics and graduate students in your research area outside the University of Cambridge and the UK
  • connecting with people outside the academic environment
  • discussing your research online is a means of getting more exposure for it
  • learning about new research and new ideas
  • finding out about conferences, special journal issues, new papers
  • sharing experiences of working in and engaging with a higher education institution

Which social media?

Social media can be very useful. I'd particularly recommend LinkedIn for job-hunting - definitely put that you're a University of Cambridge student in your description.

- MPhil Linguistics student, 2017-18


Using social media platforms takes time, especially when building up connections to an academic community, and you should bear this in mind when making decisions about what to use. There is plenty of choice available, but here we're just going to mention two platforms in particular. See the resources at the bottom for more ideas of platforms.

the twitter logo

Twitter is particularly popular for academic networking. You'll find plenty of advice online about the 'best way' to use Twitter effectively and while some parts of this might be helpful, you should also think critically about some of this advice. The 'best way' will often be connected to your research interests, the kind of community on Twitter, and how much time you have, so it's worth spending some time seeking out relevant people and accounts to follow. If you're not sure where to begin, try talking about an interesting paper you've read (and if it's open access, include a link).

Blogging is an effective way of making your research and your ideas more visible, raising your profile within the academic community, practise your writing, practise your non-academic writing, creating an archive of your ideas, and more. It is, however, time-consuming to blog regularly, so consider this before taking the plunge and setting up an academic blog. There are several platforms available, including Wordpress, BloggerWix, and you can even use sites like Medium for the same purposes. 

A short presentation on academic blogging by Dr Inger Newburn, the author of the Thesis Whisperer, is worth watching.

Writing a bio

If you are planning to use social media for academic purposes, for networking, building a community, sharing research and ideas, what you write in your bio might be useful in starting to build this network. For example, you might want to include:

  • your affiliation to Cambridge (and/or other institutions)
  • your academic and research interests or what you're focusing on at present
  • any hashtags with which you're particularly involved
  • links to your presence online in other places - your blog, for example
  • an institutional disclaimer, especially if you 'work' for the University of Cambridge in some way

One of the early decisions you might want to take is whether to keep your professional and personal life separate on social media, or to use some platforms only in a personal sense. The University of Cambridge, which strongly encourages the use of social media for academic reasons, has produced some guidelines on using social media. It's directed mainly at academic and professional staff within the University, but there are some useful hints here.

More advice and resources

A Bluffer’s Guide To Being Useful At Conferences (2015).
An excellent guide to lots of social media types, and how to use them well, from the Judge Business School library team.
Posts on blogging from The Thesis Whisperer.
Mark Carrigan. my tips on social media for academics in the times higher.

Image credits

CC0 by Maliha Mannan via Unsplash