Social Media in Academia (4): LinkedIn

<<< GO TO PART 3: Social media in Academia (3): Google Scholar Profiles

These days most academics have a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t, creating one should be a priority, but for a different reason than creating a Google Scholar Profile. For most academics, LinkedIn now seems to be the “go to” place for finding out more about your career history.

How to make the most of your profile?

If you have limited time or don't think you will use LinkedIn much (see Social Media in Academia (2): Comparing the options), you can stick with a basic profile, including just a picture, short bio and your current position. However, if you spend half an hour you can make your profile look a lot more attractive and informative. These additions are "future proof", i.e. you don't need to spend a lot of time to update them.

Banner image

The standard blue LinkedIn banner looks a bit boring and won't make your profile stand out. Consider adding your own banner image. Walking in green landscapes and connecting with human and architectural history are important to me. Therefore, my banners on LinkedIn and Twitter emphasise this. In general, landscape banners tend to be very popular, probably because they are inoffensive and most people find them soothing. However, you could also be more strategic and add a banner that reflects your professional identity. One of my former colleagues works in digital retailing and her banner neatly reflects this.

Career history

Rather than just your current position, make sure you have a complete career history on your LinkedIn profile (but don't bother with your student summer jobs unless you are very junior). You can add detailed information with job descriptions and achievements for each step of your career history, but – unless your various roles have been really unusual – I think in academia it is usually better to just have job titles. This means colleagues can see your experience in one glance.

Adding publications

You can add publications to your profile. To do this just click Add profile section/Accomplishments/Publica­tions. Presumably you can add all your publictions, but as - like most senior academics - I have so many I have never tried this. This feature is particularly useful for junior academics on the job market that only have a few publications and really want to showcase them. But even experienced academics may wish to add a few key publications that best represent their interests. You can link to your co-authors LinkedIn profile as long as they are one of your connections. And if they are not, you might want to invite them, as being a co-author is certainly a good reason to be connected.

Connecting with others

After sprucing up your profile, you might want to connect with key academics in your field (and your colleagues in your own institution). To find them, you can search LinkedIn by name, university or keyword. Include a short message, especially if you reach out to people who don’t know you. If you don't care too much about computer security, you can allow LinkedIn to connect to your address book in other applications and automate this process, but I prefer to keep matters in my own hands.

Once you have a set of connections, LinkedIn will also suggest others under "people with similar roles" and "people you may have worked with" and you can send an invitation by just clicking on the connect button under their name. You will also start receiving invitations to connect with others. As the process of sending out connection requests is so easy, you may receive many invitations from people you have never heard of, especially if you are fairly well-known. Feel free to be selective, you are not obliged to accept every invitation; doing so will result in a large, but unfocused network. It is not rude to decline an invitation from someone you feel you have no connection with. Rest assured they will not be specifically notified that you have declined their invitation.

LinkedIn as source of professional/academic information

Just like Twitter and ResearchGate, LinkedIn has a timeline with postings (see next section to find out where these postings are coming from). This can be a very useful source of information, but in order for that to happen, you will need to put it a little bit of work.

  • By default you will be “following” everyone you ever connected with, which - if you have more than a few hundred connections - might lead to complete information overload. Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn’t make it intuitive to change this, but it can be done. Click on “Manage Followers” in the Articles & Activities section of your profile (see screenshot below). On the next window click on "Following" and simply un-follow those connections you are not interested in. This list is ordered by frequency of posting, so you can quickly reduce the number of posts you see in your timeline. Your connections won't be able to see that you have unfollowed them, so don't worry about offending people.

  • You can follow people even if you are not connected with them. This might be a useful way to keep up-to-date with famous academics that have not accepted your connection request.
  • You can join groups (incl. journals) and read postings that have been posted specifically in these groups. As a member you can also post information in these groups. This might mean your posts get a more targeted audience. For me, posts in groups get less attention than when I post to my own followers, so I don’t bother with this. However, it may be different for you, just experiment a little!
  • You can follow companies and #hashtags. The latter means that you will see any posts that have this #hashtag in their post. This can be a very useful alternative to Twitter, especially if you are not inclined to open a Twitter account or can't be bothered to check it. Please note though that LinkedIn’s recommended #hashtags tend to be a lot more generic than Twitter’s and you might end up seeing a lot of irrelevant posts.

Sharing (news about) your research with your followers

Just like Twitter, LinkedIn can be used to share news & promote your own work. The advantage of LinkedIn is that it allows longer posts. It also usually has a more academic audience as most of your connections are likely to be fellow academics. Here are some suggestions of what you can do:

  • Share interesting journal articles, newspaper articles, blogposts or any other material that has a LinkedIn share button and that is related to your (research) interests. I also share my own blogposts on LinkedIn and get a good readership, generally between 200 and 2,000 views. Here you can see a share of a blogpost announcing the 65th edition of my Journal Quality List.

  • Write a short post on LinkedIn, for instance to alert followers to a recent publication or an event you or your university are organizing. You can find this option at the top of your timeline. If you can’t find your timeline, click “Home”.
  • For something a bit more permanent, consider writing your own article. This is similar to a blog post and a good alternative/complement to blogging on blogging platforms given that on LinkedIn you have a ready-made audience. Your last article will appear permanently on your profile, next to your three latest shares or posts. You can see my article about "Creating a supportive and inclusive research culture" in the screenshot above.

If you are curious about your audience, click on the "[...] views of your post in the feed". This opens up a neat analysis of what type of people at which institutions and in which cities are viewing your post. Below you can find one for the above post on the Journal Quality List.

Adjust your notifications settings

I suggest you adjust your preferences to ensure you are not overwhelmed with emails. I have switched off all add tailoring and most emails/notifications. For instance, I really don’t feel I need to know about people’s birthdays, work anniversaries, or my "connection anniversaries" with them. In contrast, I am interested to know if someone in my network has changed jobs. Spend five minutes to make sure the notifications work for you rather than just cursing all the irrelevant emails you get.

GO TO PART 5: Social media in Academia (5): ResearchGate >>>

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