Networking Hacks

The most useful academic social networking sites for PhD students

A strong network and meaningful connections allow PhD students to get ahead, in and beyond academia. Social networking sites can play an important role in creating such networks. But which (academic) social networking sites are the most useful ones for PhD students?

1. Twitter to reach a large audience

Everyone knows Twitter. But many PhD students do not know is the power of Twitter to network with academics and to disseminate research.

Academic Twitter can be easily accessed via the hashtag #AcademicTwitter. Another influential hashtags is #AcademicChatter.

Academics often use these hashtags in combination with other more discipline-focused hashtags when they tweet. #chemtwitter, for instance, is a hashtag used by the (academic) chemist community.

Twitter allows PhD students to connect with academics who work on similar research topics. Twitter is also an easily accessible tool to connect with non-academic parties and to share your research with a large audience.

Gaining followers can take a bit of time. In the beginning, it may feel like you are sharing your thoughts on your research, and no one listens.

However, you will learn which hashtags to use to your advantage. And over time, you will be able to experience the mind-blowing reach that you can have via Twitter.

By following others, you will also become aware of jobs and other opportunities in your field.

Additionally, Academic Twitter has a wonderful community that is quick to help you if you have a question or want to exchange views and experiences of academia in general.

2. LinkedIn to grow your professional network

Many people either love or hate LinkedIn. The latter group often feels annoyed by the fact that people tend to simply share their most impressive achievements. It triggers comparisons, envy and can be intimidating.

However, as a PhD student looking to expand your network, do not turn your back to LinkedIn too quickly.

LinkedIn can be a powerful social networking site that enables PhD students to connect with – and stay on the radar of – academics and practitioners in their field of interest.

For instance, after connecting with other researchers at a conference. Smart post-conference networking includes searching for the people you met and sending them a connection request on LinkedIn. In the future, you can follow their professional development. Additionally, they will be able to follow your milestones. For instance, if you share a new publication and it appears on their LinkedIn feed.

Furthermore, LinkedIn has thematic groups. You can easily search for these groups and become a member. These groups are great to attract people to join events which you are organising (such as a panel discussion or a webinar).

LinkedIn groups also come in handy if you are looking for study participants and to share online surveys for your data collection.

And lastly, LinkedIn has a search function for jobs and many people share open positions on their feeds. With the right connections, LinkedIn can make PhD students aware of many exciting career opportunities.

Thus, while LinkedIn definitely has a more formal vibe than Twitter, PhD students are advised to use it to their advantage.

3. ORCID ID to showcase your publications

I wrote a whole blog post on why PhD students should have an ORCID ID, and I firmly stand by it.

An ORCID ID is a free, personal identifier that tracks academic’s trajectories and publications.

ORCID ID is not a traditional social networking site in the sense that you can ‘follow’ or ‘connect with’ other academics. Nonetheless, having an ORCID ID is an absolute must to be present in the academic online space.

An ORCID ID is able to compile and showcase all your work in one spot. Regardless of your university affiliation, name changes, or the existence of academics with the same name as yours.

And trust me, people do look up other academic’s ORCID IDs. So if you do not have one yet, stop whatever you are doing and set one up now!

You may also like: The value of a personal academic website

4. Google Scholar to tap into the power of Google

Similar to the ORCID ID, Google Scholar is not a traditional social networking site. You cannot send connection requests and have a visible community attached to your profile.

Nonetheless, Google Scholar allows you to ‘follow’ academics. It means that whenever these academics publish something new, you receive an email notification. This is incredibly useful, and it is one of my recommended strategies to keep up with the latest publications in your field.

Even more so, Google Scholar is a powerful tool to be present as an academic online.

Google dominates the internet and most people use Google as a search engine. If you have a Google Scholar profile, it pops up on top of the search results when someone googles your name.

Thus, if you want that your profile and your work can be easily found online, setting up a Google Scholar profile is the way to go.

5. ResearchGate and Academia.edu to join many others (with caution)

ResearchGate and Academia.edu are the most prominent social networking sites that were specifically set up to connect academics.

Both sites allow users to create a profile, to connect with other academics, and to share their publications online

While many academics are active on ResearchGate and Academia.edu, PhD students should be aware that these are commercial websites that received quite some criticism in recent years.

ResearchGate, for instance, has been criticised for its leniency toward fake publishers and ghost journals, making the site and what it publishes less reliable. Additionally, there were copyright issues which led academic publishers to threaten to remove millions of papers from the site.

Academia.edu was criticised for its monetisation of academic writing and the introduction of a ‘paid search’ function.

Particularly the new generation of scholars questions the monetary gain of publishers and private companies. Young scholars tend to strive more for open-access publications. And they are less active on ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

Depending on the networking habits of scholars in a specific discipline or research field, it may still be beneficial for some PhD students to be active on ResearchGate and Academia.edu.

However, they should do it with caution.

Remember the saying to never ‘put all your eggs in one basket’. This means that if you decide to use ResearchGate and Academia.edu, also use other sites to actively grow your network. Due to ethical and copyright issues, the future of ResearchGate and Academia.edu is uncertain.

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