Social Media – Creating an Online Research Profile

Google

Have you ever Googled yourself?

Those of you who have ever Googled yourselves will know whether or not your name comes in at the top of Google searches.  The key to creating an effective research profile  is to get your name linked with the key terms/words associated with your research topic so that when somebody performs a search for that topic, your name comes up as somebody currently working in that field.  With yesterday’s launch of Vitae’s new ‘Digital Researcher’ conference down at the British Library in London (http://tiny.cc/k2QHi) I thought this it would be an excellent opportunity to put together a blog post about social media and how to create an online research profile.  Research profiling is becoming increasingly important for those wanting to make contact, through the web, with other researchers and people interested in the field.  If you want to follow the Twitter discussion from yesterday’s DR10 workshop at the BL, simply put the hash tag #dr10 into the Twitter Search bar and also follow Tristram Hooley, Web2.0 extraordinaire (@pigironjoe), for more details.

Starting out….

I have written a couple of posts about the benefits of writing a research blog, but for the purposes of this post I wanted to concentrate on creating a web page.  The best place to start is probably Google Sites (http://tiny.cc/0YkqJ) which offers free and easy to use templates to create simple web pages.  Some schools in the Faculty also offer research profiles for PGRs on their web pages – ask your School for more details.

What information should I include?

A web page can often double-up as an online CV, but here are some tips on what to include:

  • Give your web page a name or a title (making it easier to search for): e.g. Joe Bloggs, PhD Researcher in Development Studies at the University of Manchester, UK
  • Start with your contact details (it is a good idea to restrict these to your University contact details) and a valid email address (again, your University email).
  • It is useful to have a short biography or statement detailing your current research – why is it relevant, who are you working with, who do you collaborate with?
  • What are your future research plans?  Who would you like to hear from?  If you are interested in collaborating with people working in a particular aspect of your research then put this down – it will encourage them to make contact with you.
  • Publications/publication plans – always useful to have a section where you outline how you plan to disseminate your research.
  • Conferences/papers – if you have attended or will be attending conferences, devote a section to this.  People ‘Googling’ the conference might come across your research profile and make contact.
  • If you have teaching commitments, upload resources/links for your students to use.  A webpage can also be useful in keeping all links and resources in one place for easy access.

How to make the best use of your web page…

It’s all very well and good having a web page, but you need to make proper use of it and this means letting people know that it exists.  This involves linking it up to other social media that you are using.  For example, if you have a research profile on your School website, then link that to your web page.  If you are on Facebook or Twitter, include the URL on there.  If you use business cards when you attend conferences, make sure there’s a link to your web page.  And finally, include a link to your web page at the bottom of your email signature – the chances are that people getting in touch with you will want to see your site.  If you are attending conferences, your name will appear in the conference proceedings – if people ‘Google’ you then they will be directed to your web page and be able to find out more about you.  Anything that encourages people to make contact with you will automatically boost your research profile.

Using Google Analytics

Once you are up to speed with your web page you can use Google Analytics to assess where your hits are coming from.  Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) enables you to gain an insight into your website traffic and also tells you how effectively you are marketing yourself.  From there you can decide how to develop your profile.  Take a look at the product tour to find out more about how it works.  Remember to update your web page frequently – it needs to be up-to-date and interesting.

Still not convinced this could work for you?

If you are still not convinced that a web page could work for you then read about the very positive experience of a Manchester PGR who has been using a web page for some time:

“Well, it’s a bit difficult because I don’t always know 100% that they’ve got in touch with me because of the webpage, but I strongly suspect so.  I use google analytics when I remember, so I have an idea of where visits are coming from and with what search terms, etc.  My name is the top search term, but I sometimes get some more random terms associated with my name.
This is another ‘I strongly suspect’ story: I recently gave a talk for an HEA subject centre run by a researcher at Warwick University.  I got an e-mail from them asking if I would do it just before I was going to give another paper at Warwick.  The researcher who invited me wasn’t at the paper, so I didn’t meet her there but I mentioned the invitation to the prof that was hosting me and she knew nothing about it.  She reckoned that the researcher must have invited me to give another paper after seeing my talk advertised.  That week, my site showed a reasonably lengthy visit from Warwick – so I think that the researcher Googled me, read about what I did and asked me on the basis of that.  When we finally did meet she seemed to know a little bit about my work and I can’t think how else she would.  So I think that’s one opportunity there, although I couldn’t say for sure.  People have definitely looked at my pages before/after conferences etc.
This isn’t a story from my own website, but in the first year I had a short discussion paper published on the website of a research network.  A couple of weeks later, I got an e-mail from a rising star in that field, who I had footnoted.  He confessed that he had been ‘rather vainly Googling’ himself and had come across my paper, that he thought that what I was doing was really interesting – and that he hoped that I might consider submitting to the journal he was now an editor of in the future!  I haven’t taken him up on that yet but it shows the benefits of having a web presence of some sort!
The University of Warwick have ‘e-portfolios’ for their PhD students.  I had a quick gander before I went to give the paper.  I saw one student who had similar research interests to me in a later period.  When she turned up to the paper and I was introduced to her, I was able to say ‘ahh, you work on whatever, i’d love to ask you about…’ etc.  This sounds dangerously close to stalking, but I think she was actually impressed that I knew what she was doing.  We’re now in touch quite often and are currently contributing to a joint event for a conference taking place in the Autumn…”
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