November 29, 2013 by Amy Ryall
Kate Geller is a student on the MA in Public Humanities. Part of the module on Public Engagement deals with the role of social media in the public face of the University. Below, she blogs on the challenge that this presents to the academy
When an academic decides to speak publicly the way they do it is going to be very different to how they speak in the academy. Higher Education is always encouraging academics to take up alternative outputs for their research and how they should do so was something which came up in discussion in a recent class on social media.
I manage a twitter account for my work place (@UoSinnovation if you want to get involved) I find it easy to tweet regularly through this account as I know what type of information represents us as a team and who are the relevant people and organisations to tweet/retweet and interact with. However for my personal account I very rarely tweet as I don’t seem to know what’s relevant or interesting to say. Our lecturer described it as a persona, and said she finds she only tweets in term time when she may have work related things to say. Some members of the class enjoyed a friendly and personal voice on social media from their academics; other said they found it inappropriate when they tweeted about their personal lives and interests outside of academia. In blogging it may be that more personal opinions are seen are irrelevant or offensive.
So how does an academic or any person working in HE on social media find their persona or voice when speaking publicly on the internet? I realised that there is no one way to act when finding a correct social media voice, but that how you should speak is dependent on who you are speaking too. If you are raising awareness of an event personal comments may make it confusing for new audiences. If you are from a specific discipline personal comments may undermine your integrity, in others a lack of personality may turn people off. Using a relevant hashtag may mean that new followers find you and show interest but using one which is irrelevant will possibly mean your followers will have a quick turnover.
It turns out a lot can be done and un-done in 140 characters and it is all extremely dependent on audience.