By Shannon McConachie

When I started my PhD last year, I knew there were three areas I would have the next few years to refine my skills in; research, teaching, and outreach. Research and teaching I knew where to go, but outreach? I hadn’t the faintest clue where to start looking and was, frankly, mildly terrified of the concept.

Then came the email. Inger Mewburn, The Thesis Whisperer, would be running a new course on social media for researchers. After some prodding from my office mate I signed on up and have not regretted it.

We learnt a lot in the two months the course ran, far more than can be helpfully summarized in a single blog post! The two most important things I learnt however where that there is no one way to do social media & communities are the most important part.

You don’t have to become a master in ever social media form and have dozens of accounts. If you just want to have a profile page up on ResearchGate or LinkedIn so that people can find you when they google you then that’s all you have to do. It all depends on what you want out of social media.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of social media when I started. A way to do outreach without leaving home? A network with fellow scientists? A resource for support?

I think I got all of those in the end, along with great new friendships with the rest of the social media students. These friendships created a community of support during the course, and helped me personally get over the worst of my social media fear. We were constantly talking both inside and outside the classroom, which made figuring out what to say on twitter a lot easier!

Along with learning and forming friendships we also had some pretty cool accomplishments come about because of the course. The best of which was getting the ANU 3MT final trending first on twitter as a group!>

Fiona used her skills to open and manage OWLs, a Facebook to connect older PhDs (read more here). I took my practice in live tweeting to SSERVI Australia’s workshop, which really helped break the ice when I would have otherwise hovered at the edge of the room.

Not every attempt has been successful, blog ideas were thrown about which have yet to come to anything and gently prodding other researchers onto social media has been a slow process.

But that’s social media – it’s always a work in progress. Your needs will evolve as you do.

More information can be found out about the course here and it should run again this year.

Until then, if you want help getting into social media you can hit me up on twitter!

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