5 tips for social media for your science career

How can you use social media to help your science career (and avoid embarrassing yourself)? Dr Anne Osterrieder, Lecturer in Biology and Science Communication at Oxford Brookes University, shares her 5 top tips.

1) Stay on top of your privacy settings.

Do you know who will be able to see what you put online? Use the appropriate privacy settings for your social network accounts. Restrict very personal accounts to friends and family. Occasionally check how your account looks to different people. Make your professional accounts public, so that potential new contacts can decide whether they want to connect with you.

Tip: Some public Facebook groups have a design where member profile pictures randomly appear in a collage at the top of the page. Would you be comfortable with your current profile picture appearing on other sites out of context?

2) Know the social networking etiquette.

On Twitter, feel free to follow (and unfollow) anyone at any time. On LinkedIn, people tend to connect with people who they already met face-to-face.

I would recommend separating your private and professional online life, and thinking carefully about becoming friends with your lecturer or boss. It could lead to awkward situations, for example when your unproductive week coincides with lots of party pictures, or when you complain about work and forget that your boss is reading this too…

3) Find your voice.

Just posting links to interesting websites is safe, but not very engaging. Let your personality shine through by adding your own commentary, and interact with other users. But be aware of pitfalls of the medium, such as quotes being taken out of context, or being misunderstood due to missing body language or language differences.

Remember that everything you post online under a public profile can be read by anyone all over the world!

4) Network, network, network.

Social media is a great way to grow your professional network, and to keep in touch with your existing contacts. Congratulate someone on their new job, or simply favourite or like a post to show that you have read it. Weak network ties are more likely to open up new opportunities for you (read more).

5) Manage your time.

Managing information effectively has become an essential skill. Social media is like a radio channel – dip in and out when you have a break, don’t try to catch up with everything that you missed. Use lists or groups to keep up with the accounts that matter most.