My first public presentation was when I was an 18-year-old College Freshman, eager to make my mark and set myself apart from my peers. I applied to be a guest speaker at a Leadership Conference being put on by my College, and was somehow accepted. By the time they found out I was a Freshman selected to speak alongside all industry professionals, the damage was done and it was too late to rescind my invitation to speak on the topic I put forward: Marketing You: Personally and Professionally (if you want to see 18-year-old-me’s presentation, it can still be found here).
At the time I thought I knew quite a lot about marketing yourself and building your personal and professional portfolio…I was invited to speak on the topic after all, surely I knew something about putting yourself out there. Looking back on that presentation now, I realise my knowledge at the time was just the tip of the iceberg, so I’d like to share some tips and tricks that PhD-Brittnee has added to Freshman-Brittnee’s toolkit.
- Decide not just what you want to be seen, but where you want to be seen.
- In the ‘real world’, go to the conferences you don’t just think you can present at, but that will have papers you want to genuinely attend. I’ve definitely put forward abstracts in the past for conferences that I sort-of fit the bill for, only to attend and find out I was surrounded by researchers in subject areas that were very different from my own interests. These were certainly enlightening from an interdisciplinary perspective, but it didn’t really expose me to anyone who would expand my network in my own research area.
- There is a surprisingly active ‘academic Twitter’ community, less-so on platforms like Instagram. If you’re going to an event or conference- Tweet about it! If you’re visiting an exhibition- take a photo and use your hashtags! Twitter is an effective tool for connecting with the academics you might not get to speak to/meet otherwise, as well as organisations and museums. I have effectively used Twitter to reach-out to other academics who share similar passions and interests as me, and vice versa.
- Instagram is a bit trickier to find genuine connections as a lot of people want to be talked about, but not necessarily do the talking. I’ve had mixed success tagging organisations, businesses, and museums in my posts, with some recognising and re-posting me, and some not acknowledging me at all. Instead of using Instagram as a networking tool, I’ve tried to alter it’s use to more of a composite view of ‘me’ that I would be proud to share.
- Facebook is where I, by default, spend a good chunk of time as it is where my family ‘hangs out’. Especially living across the world from all my family and relatives, Facebook closes that distance by serving as a platform both to share our rants, things we find funny, message each other, and share hundreds of photos and video at a time. To my Facebook isn’t something I spend much time on for ‘exposure’ purposes, even though there are groups on Facebook I’m a part of for the purpose of networking. It is more of a time capsule for me, and the least-influential social media platform I use for building my brand.
- The ‘Right’ Content
- Purging old media that is not on-brand is not a necessity…except when it is. I started my Twitter and Facebook accounts long before the phrase ‘the internet is forever’ was really enforced. The Facebook days of ‘Brittnee: is SOOO bored omg lolz XP’ seem to be behind us and most of the people (on my feed at least) are not using Facebook for periodic, hourly updates on what they’re up to. It would take ages to go back through everything young-Brittnee said about her mundane daily life and thoughts, but as I got older I realised the importance of going back and making sure there was nothing I would cringe at too much should it see the light of day again. I’ve learned to live with the copious ‘hahahahahahaha”s and ‘XD’ faces.
- Each social media platform has its pros and cons, but that’s not to say that you can’t have different ‘images’ for each platform. For me, I try to leave most of my personal content, including photos, off of Twitter, as I use it primarily to connect with ‘academic Twitter’. My Instagram is a totally different story, where I am very candid and open about everything from my fitness routines, what I eat, my health, and my travels. I consider Instagram a cultivated image of my life- it’s genuine, but with a filter. It’s where I pour most of my energy into my ‘brand’ as I recognise the value of having a well-formulated public identity should I continue blogging beyond my SGSAH role.
- If you’re looking to expand your network through social media platforms, a solid ‘look’ is important, but so is staying true to your interests. People follow and find you based on the content you post- if that isn’t consistent then you may lose interest or attract followers for the wrong reasons. If you want to be a Bookstagram (book Instagram account- they are amazing!) then you wouldn’t necessarily start throwing in photos of movie posters/TV shows, or dog breeds. It’s fine if that’s the content you want to post- but then you are no longer a ‘specialty’ account amassing followers for a specific type of content. This is where you may sometimes find it worth running multiple accounts if this sort of branding appeals to you.
- Possibly most important but also most difficult to maintain is regularly keeping on top of your brand and marketing yourself. Be it going to conferences or events, being seen in your department, or posting across social media- maintain consistency!
- Some conferences are only held every other year, some are held bi-annually, and you’re not expected to constantly be around for every one. Prioritise where you haven’t been present as much and try to get yourself seen there. In my field, there is a tendency to see the same people at the same conferences all year, so it takes some extra work to look into applicable conferences with new groups of people that you can add to your plans annually.
- On social media I try to engage on Twitter a few times a week (it doesn’t always happen) and post on my Instagram stories almost daily. Your priorities may be different- but do strive to engage with your ‘audience’ on a regular-enough basis to generate continued interest in you, and what you’re working on.
I’ve only touched on a few of the many resources at your disposal to build your brand, but it’s a start if you’ve never given it much thought before. Wether you intend to stay in academia or move beyond, being able to market yourself and have your own individual ‘brand’ will help you stand-out!
We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Brittnee via email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with the blog on Twitter