This guest blog is written by Zulfa Sakhiyya, doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Zulfa is one of two recipients of the University of Auckland’s U21 FINE Awards that supports postgraduate students to attend international conferences and participate in FINE networking events.
Strategising social media for researchers
Who doesn’t know The Thesis Whisperer? Those doing a PhD are likely familiar with the blog and Twitter handle, and Associate Professor Inger Mewburn, its author.
At the U21 FINE networking session of the 2017 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference in Canberra, Professor Mewburn led a workshop on “Social Media Strategy for Researchers”. During this, she highlighted that academics and researchers need to expand their impact and influence through the use of social media.
Due to the precariousness of social media, The Thesis Whisperer revealed some tactics for audience building. Firstly, by drawing on Erving Goffman, she emphasised that it is important to choose our digital presentation carefully. Like a waiter in a restaurant, the swinging door that separates the dining area (front) and kitchen area (back) defines two different types of personality. In the ‘front’ area, waiters always put on a smile and ask questions politely. As they move through the swinging door into the ‘back’ area, the smile may change into something different: scowling at customers, throwing dishes, etc. In a similar way, social media can present either the positive and negative sides of us so we have to be careful.
Secondly, we need to know our niche. “What’s your value?” That is the question The Thesis Whisperer posed to all of us. Our research and academic work might be part of that, but it is a starting point to strategise what and how we want to present ourselves in social media.
Thirdly, mind the language. Unlike journal articles and textbooks which must conform to academic standards and, thus, a certain register of language, social media need to have ‘beats’ in their stories. The idea might be the same as that in academic texts, but the delivery and presentation need to be simplified and packaged. The purpose is not to be reductive, but to reach a wider audience whose research area and background might be different from our own.
In addition to these insights from The Thesis Whisperer, the FINE networking breakfast truly provided the opportunity to get to know other attendees before diving into the ocean of approximately 600 unknown conference delegates.