How to be found online

By sharing their knowledge on social media, researchers and experts can increase the probability of being found online.

The road to knowledge is increasingly through the Google search engine. This could impact how researchers and other experts are recognised.

What do the search results have in common, if we search individually for law professor Beate Sjåfjell at the University of Oslo, language professor Øystein Vangsnes at UIT Artic University of Norway, researcher Jørgen Carling at PRIO (The Peace Research Institute, Oslo), professor of medicine Anne Spurkland at the University of Oslo, and professor of organisational psychology Linda Lai BI Norwegian Business School?

These five researchers from very different disciplines have made use of social media when communicating. This is why the majority of the first results in the Google hunt for information on these experts are pages the researchers edit themselves.

Here are blogs, the researchers’ academic homepages and profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media.

Online academic identity
Social media can be much more than media and communications channels. They can be used as strategic tools to establish an online academic identity. Experts who use social media in communication of knowledge, increase the probability of being found the way she or he wants to be found. For their professional expertise.

If you, as a researcher or expert, want to use social media to create your digital academic identity, you need to establish a webpage for content, such as a blog (or a homepage or the webpages for the organisation you are a part of).

It could also be advisable to use one or more services where you can share the content you post on the blog, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. You need to reach people where they are, and invite them to your blog.

When you regularly publish new content that others find interesting, you will gradually build a larger audience. This might contribute to value creation for society in the form of better decisions, new products and services, as well as smarter ways of doing things.

In addition to making your knowledge available to a larger audience, you are building your online academic identity brick by brick. Academic blogs and social media profiles that are visited by many people, score high in search results from Google and other search engines.

Using social media in communicating your knowledge will also increase the probability that people find you when they search for expertise on your field, rather than for your name.

To be found or not to be found
To paraphrase William Shakespeare: “To be or not to be” is not enough when it comes to publishing work in recognised research journals. “To be found or not to be found” online also matters.

Of course, you do not have to show your face out there in social media. But then you leave it up to others to form your online academic identity. Or even worse, you might not be found when people search for knowledge in your field.

Although you may regularly publish work in leading research journals, it is not given that you will receive the recognition you might deserve.

Increase your recognition
Together with a team of researchers, Professor Dietram A. Scheufele at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked into a possible link between the communication practices of researchers and their level of recognition.

They looked at 241 top researchers within nanotechnology who all publish research articles in leading research journals, but differ in how much they talk to journalists. The study showed that the researchers who often spoke with journalists about their research, received higher scientific recognition than those who rarely or never spoke with journalists. If the research was mentioned on Twitter as well, it helped enhance the effect for those researchers who talked to journalists more often.

Communicating knowledge in social media might be worth a go. You increase your probability of being found, strengthen your academic recognition, and contribute to increased value creation for society. Not bad at all.

Audun Farbrot (2015): Sosiale medier for forskere, kommunikasjonsrådgivere og fageksperter. Cappelen Damm Akademisk.
A Norwegian version of this article is published in the daily Dagens Næringsliv on December 31th  2015.

Published 8. January 2016

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