Social media in Academia (7): Blogging

Provides recommendations on how to start with blogging

<<< GO TO PART 6: Social media in Academia (6): Twitter

In the previous post I covered Twitter, which - with short messages of 280 characters - is a form of micro-blogging. But what if you have something more significant to share that can't be captured in such a short message? Blogging is the answer.

I didn't cover blogging in my post on comparing the alternatives, because it is a little different from the other social media platforms. However, this doesn't mean it is less important. When blogging started, it mainly involved online journals/diairies.

These days it is simply seen as a way of sharing information with other people, which for academics usually means sharing your research-based expertise. There are two main ways to engage in blogging: guest blogging on existing blogs or creating your very own blog (see screenshot).

Guest blogging on other blogs

If you want to try out whether blogging is for you, try guest blogging. This doesn't commit you to writing more than one post and gets you a ready-made audience as you will be contributing to an established blog. There are a wide range of options: your own university's blogging platform, other universities' blogging platforms, writing articles on LinkedIn, generic academic blogs such as The Research Whisperer or even generic blogs such as Medium.

As I only have experience with the first three options, these are the ones that I will discuss below. One of my Middlesex colleagues, Anne Daguerre, has written on Medium, you can see her posts here. What works best for you is entirely dependent on the type of topics you want to write about and your own preferences. Remember though that the more generic a blog, the less likely it is that readers will be interested in your specific expertise.

Your university blogging platform

First of all, your university might have its own blogging platform. This is one of the easiest way to get your blogposts posted in a dedicated blogging platform. It promotes both your own research and your university, so it will make your Head of Department and Dean happy too! Typically, few academics are willing to blog, so your university will be very happy to post your blogpost to keep their blogging platform active. I have contributed to Middlesex Minds, the dedicated blogging platform of Middlesex University, with posts about my work on creating a supportive research culture at Middlesex and about CYGNA, the academic women's network I co-founded five years ago.


Other university blogging platforms: LSE blogs

The London School of Economics has a suite of more than 50 blogs. Although many only accept posts by LSE staff and students, quite a few are open to external contributors too and they provide an excellent outlet if you are a Social Science researcher. The advantage of posting here rather than on your own university's platform is that - as one of the top universities in the UK and arguably the top-ranked Social Science university - LSE has a strong "brand" of expertise and credibility. It also has a ready-made audience in your area.

If you are a Political Science researcher or if your research has a policy angle, LSE British Politics and Policy or the LSE European Politics and Policy blog might be an option, Business & Management researchers could consider LSE Business Review. If you want to write about Brexit, you can contribute to the LSE Brexit blog and if you are keen to review books, but can't find journals in your field that publish them LSE Review of Books is a good option.

A final blog I can recommend, both for keeping up-to-date with what is happening in academia and for submitting guest posts, is the LSE Impact Blog. I have guest blogged on the LSE Impact Blog half a dozen times. Below are two posts about a new research metric, the hI annual, used to create a new ranking of Dutch economists and a post about strategies to manage information overload. The first was written specially for the LSE blog, the second was reposted from my own blog.


Blogging on LinkedIn

Although not a blogging platform as such, writing articles on LinkedIn can be a very good way to try out blogging. If you already have a LinkedIn account, you can start blogging in seconds by writing an article (see Social Media in Academia (4): LinkedIn). The article will be featured on your main LinkedIn profile until you write your next article, but all articles remain visible your "articles and activity" section. Featuring a blogpost about your most recent research project or your most important academic passion contributes significantly to your professional profile on LinkedIn; it informs viewers "what you stand for". Below is an article I wrote about my work in creating a supportive and inclusive research culture at Middlesex University Business School.

Your very own blog

If you have really acquired the taste of blogging, feel that the LinkedIn article format is too constraining, don't have a university blogging platform, feel that generic platforms like Medium drown your posts in thousands and thousands of others, or don't want to be dependent on acceptance from targeted blogs run by other universities or organizations, consider setting up your own blog. This provides you with the largest amount of flexibility to manage your own content. For my blog, I am using a content management system that has been custom designed for me and which integrates with the rest of my website. There are, however, plenty of free solutions - such as Blogger and Wordpress - that allow you to start blogging straight away.

My blogging experience

I started blogging in March 2016, so my blog celebrated its 4th anniversary last month. My main purpose in starting my blog was a desire to share my now nearly 30-year experience in academia with junior academics and/or inexperienced researchers, especially those who don't have senior colleagues they can ask for advice. Hence many of my posts are in the categories Academia Behind the Scenes and Academic Etiquette. Here are some examples:

However, I also use my blog to support my work on Publish or Perish, the free software for citation analysis that I have offered since 2006 - and to introduce fellow academics to my research by writing up blogposts about a series of articles I have written about a specific research topic. Here are some examples:

I also report on conferences I have visited or presentations I have given at other universities and have a "classic papers" section, with articles that I consider to be particularly impactful.

Inspiration for my posts comes from my daily academic life. Whenever I provide substantive advice to my Middlesex colleagues, CYGNA members or academics contacting me by email, I think about whether this would be useful as a blogpost, so it can benefit a wider audience. This also provides me with a ready-to-use stock of posts that I can refer to whenever someone asks me about a particular topic. So rather than having to type up similar advice to dozens and dozens of academics or keeping email templates on a range of topics, I can simply refer them to the blogpost in question. I have found this to be a great time-saver; it is the only way I can continue to help other academics without it taking up all of my time.

Where possible I also try to turn frustrations into a constructive blogpost. After mounting irritation with colleagues who put their whole CV in their email signature, I wrote the following blogpost. Its popularity whenever I share it on LinkedIn suggests I am not the only one with this frustration. Other posts in this same category are: Don't write mass emails (1): distributing your work or Thank You: The most underused words in academia? or Would you ask a male academic the same question? or Please don't respond to the entire mailing list or Don't write mass emails (2): asking for help.


Cygna members guest blogging on my blog

More recently I have started to accept guest posts by Middlesex colleagues (see e.g. Own your place in the world by writing a book or Onto-Epistemology in Business and Management Research or R&D Internationalization to China: MNEs new favourite destination). CYGNA members also post on my blog (see below and Mobility and gender matter in speed of promotion and development of career capital or "Publier or perir": English in French academia or How to hold on to your sanity in academia). Guest posts add variety to a blog and also give the main blogger [me!] a break from weekly or monthly blogging. In addition to the CYGNA guest blogposts, there are also blogposts for all of our CYGNA meetings, so that non-attending CYGNA members and other academics [female or male] can also benefit from the presentations and materials shared in the meetings.

GO TO PART 8: Social media in Academia (8): Putting it all together >>>

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