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Social media as a scientist: a very quick guide

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Every now and then, Indigenus brings you some interesting and relevant posts from sister blog Naturejobs, a leading online resource for scientists in academia and industry who seek guidance in developing their careers. The blog delivers a mix of expert advice and personal stories to help readers review, set and achieve their career goals.

Today we have a condensed social media guide for scientists by Beth Kenkel, a research scientist at the University of Washington. She’s interested in science communication and point-of-care diagnostics.

Her guide provides key facts about how researchers report using social media and some concrete examples of how you can use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to network, exchange scientific ideas, or advance a career. This is an all ages guide designed for scientists at any career stage.

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Getty Images

LinkedIn

% of Scientist/Engineers Who Regularly Visit Linkedin: 41%

#1 reason scientists/engineers use LinkedIn: In case they are contacted.

If LinkedIn were a place… it’d be an interview room. LinkedIn is an online profile (think CV or resume) that can connect you to your professional network.

Getting Started: Check out this three part series on the basics of LinkedIn for scientists: part 1part 2part 3.

Tip #1: Use LinkedIn to learn more about a company you’re applying to or one you hope to work at someday. Check out some of the employees’ profiles to see if you have any connections that work at the company.

Example Company LinkedIn Page: Here’s an example of what a company LinkedIn page looks like.

In the upper right hand corner (red arrow), LinkedIn points out if any of your connections work at the company — I have two connections at Bio-Rad. There’s also a link to all of the company’s employee profiles; in this case, 6,537 Bio-Rad employee profiles.

Tip #2: Use LinkedIn to set up an informational interview. Look for second and third connections that have jobs that sound interesting. To maximize networking potential, try to meet people in person if possible. Here’s a list of questions to help you prepare.

Twitter

% of Scientists/Engineers who Regularly Visit Twitter: 13%

If Twitter were a place… it’d be a giant coffee lounge full of science enthusiasts just like you. Used properly, a Twitter network can broaden/change/improve your scientific thinking.

Example: Check out this paper to learn how Twitter shaped the outcome of the #arseniclife controversy.

Reason scientists/engineers use Twitter: to follow discussions, and post work related content.

Getting started: Check out these onboarding tips for Twitter newbies.

Tip #1: Follow lots of people, especially those with similar interests as you. Organize these people in Twitter lists so that the number of people you follow isn’t overwhelming. Also, find hashtags relevant to your field and monitor them regularly to stay up to date.

Example hashtags#CRISPR#molbio#genetics#phdchat#phdlife#ShowUsYourScience.

Finding people to follow: pick one person on Twitter, maybe someone you know in person or a scientist whose work you admire. Raid their following list for people to add to yours. Also, this list is a good place to start.

Example: I searched for one person on Twitter, April Pawluk, because she’s the first author on a paper I really enjoyed. By clicking on her followers tab (blue arrow), I can see all 422 of her followers. I can start following any of these people by clicking their follow button (yellow star).

Example: I searched for one person on Twitter, April Pawluk, because she’s the first author on a paper I really enjoyed. By clicking on her followers tab (blue arrow), I can see all 422 of her followers. I can start following any of these people by clicking their follow button (yellow star).

Tip #2: Be more than just a one-way broadcaster of information. Having meaningful and mutually beneficial connections with others is key to tapping into the networking value of Twitter. For an example, see this podcast.

Examples of meaningful tweets:

 

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Three ways to have a meaningful tweet: 1) Ask a question, 2) retweet someone’s question to your network to help them (and you) to get an answer, and 3) reply to someone’s question.

Example of a meaningful tweet #2: 1) Offer a tool/resource to the community, 2) reply to a tweet by offering advice, and 3) promote someone else’s work.

Example of a meaningful tweet #2: 1) Offer a tool/resource to the community, 2) reply to a tweet by offering advice, and 3) promote someone else’s work.

Bonus: Listen to this podcast for more Twitter tips and to learn how Stephani Page’s hashtag revolution #BLACKandSTEM affected her career. Skip to 11:50.

Facebook

% of Scientists/Engineers Who Regularly Visit Facebook: 38%

If Facebook were a place… it’d be your favorite bar on a Friday night. It’s one of the least professional of all of the social media platforms but potential employers may check your Facebook profile during the hiring process. Be aware of how your profile reflects on you.

#1 reason scientists/engineers use Facebook: non-professional purposes.

Getting Started: Adjust your privacy settings! Don’t know how? Check out this link.

Tip #1: Facebook can be a tool to maintain friendships with former lab members, classmates, and colleagues. Bonus: Facebook research suggests that both strong and weak ties can help you find a job.

Tip #2: Create a Facebook page for your research or your lab.

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Examples of lab Facebook pages: Use your Facebook page to 1) Promote your recent publications, 2) share current going-ons from your lab, and 3) comment on current events or topics of interest in your field.

Here’s a quick summary:

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There are endless ways to use social media as a scientist. This post touches just the highlights of three platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook — there’s a lot more out there. Do you have a social media tip for scientists not discussed in the post? Comment below and let everyone know!

[Follow Beth on Twitter @ElizabethKenkel.]

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