Julie Platt is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University and a permanent author at GradHacker. You can follow her on twitter at @aristotlejulep .
Social media is often stereotyped as a frivolous, navel-gazing enterprise, and completely antithetical to the deep thinking and thoughtful questioning of academia. However, most gradhackers know that academia and social media are not at all incompatible. Used well, social media can be a vibrant and fruitful space for networking, exchanging ideas, and--dare I say it--building supportive friendships. Some of my best scholarly friends are folks I initially met on Twitter, and then got to know in person at conferences.
Find colleagues to friend or follow, and friend or follow those colleagues who have found you. How do you find colleagues? You might start by following your professors, and then checking out who your professors follow, particularly on Twitter. Do they follow people in your field? Organizations? Research centers? These are all great places to start building your follow list, and will give you more leads. It's okay to "creep" on people's followers lists, as these lists are public. Also, if a colleague follows you, check them out, and consider giving them a follow back. You never know who will pass on a useful connection, retweet you, or become your friend.
Tweet, post, retweet and repost smart things and interesting stories often. We all come across interesting stories and articles in the research and work that we do. Consider tweeting or posting some of these and hashtagging them accordingly. Do you have a great classroom activity that others might benefit from? Post or tweet about it, and include a link to a SlideShare presentation. Once you've followed some great colleagues, pay attention to the things they post and tweet. As scholars, we have a commitment to disseminating information. If you see something amazing, retweet it or repost it!
Be a savvy colleague during conferences. Although some think it's annoying, I really like it when colleagues livetweet conferences that I'm not able to attend, because I get a taste of the cool scholarship that is happening, and I can "favorite" tweets that pique my interest to research later, as conference proceedings are often on the web. If this seems like something you'd want to contribute to yourself, find the conference hashtag (nowadays there are often official ones) and tweet interesting tidbits from the sessions you attend. If it's a large conference like MLA, you might want to include the session number in your tweet. Also, when you're presenting yourself, consider giving your Twitter handle and/or Facebook name as part of your presenter information. This is a great way to get your name out there and network. Also, when the conference is over, make your presentation available somewhere--perhaps on SlideShare. Tweet and post its location so your colleagues can check out and review your work.
Don't be afraid to brag. As academics, we are sometimes self-effacing, caught up in the stress of our profession and the feelings that no matter what we've done, it's not good enough. However, it's important to allow ourselves to recognize our accomplishments. Social media can help with that. I've posted and tweeted about fellowships I've earned, prizes I've won, and pieces I've published, and I've never felt bad about any of it. In fact, it's a great way to get your work out there and recognized. You never know who is watching, especially when it's job market time!
What other tips do you have for being a good colleague with social media?
[Image Creative Commons licensed by Flickr user ChrisL_AK]