One of the issues that many of you encountered last week when setting up your blog was your new visibility online. Some of you were making your first foray into the blogosphere and found it a little uncomfortable at first, others had been blogging already for a while, but were now creating a new identity as learners rather than experts, and felt they needed a new blog for this purpose. Many of you raised the issue of whether people were reading what you wrote (whether that was a good or bad thing!), and how separate or integrated you wanted to keep the DH23Things ‘identity’ from other professional or personal online activity.
Early Career Researchers have always needed to build up a profile of themselves and their work and become better known in their field, and the ability to promote yourself is a valuable skill in any sphere of life. However, the internet has radically changed the way we can make ourselves more visible to others, and is often the first point of call for peers, colleagues or future employers to find out more about us. Our online presence needs to be carefully managed if we are to be visible to the people we want to find us, and to ensure that there’s nothing that might potentially embarrass us if it is seen by the wrong people. Everything you do online contributes to your digital footprint, and although you might wish to make a distinction between different groups and audiences in your online activities, boundaries between the public and private can become very easily blurred.
We will be exploring the issues of managing our online identity through various tools that enhance your digital footprint. There’s quite a few Things this week, but none of them will take long to use!
The tools are:
- Google profile on Google+
- Flavours.me or About.me
- Google Adwords
Google yourself. Type your name into Google and see what comes up. Don’t forget to have a look at the ‘images’ tab too! Then run your name through Personas to see what the online profile of that name is, and have a look for your name or usernames on Socialmention, a search engine for social media, to see if anyone’s talking about you…. But what if people aren’t looking for you, precisely, but someone like you? Think of a few keywords that sum up the way you’d like to appear online, and google those – see if your name appears. Then use a keyword research tool like Google Adwords to find out exactly how people are searching for that term. You can also see what Google suggests in its autocomplete function, when you begin to type search terms into the search box. How might you incorporate these key words into the web presence you already have?
Think also about linking to and from sites*. Google treats pages on an .ac.uk domain more favourably, so if you have a personal web page in the University domain, linking to it from your other web presences will make them more visible. You could also consider which web pages outside academia have the most authority, relevance and impact in your field, and link to those. If you can get them to link to you, even better! Social linking also works well – linking to and from things like your blog and twitter feed (we’ll look at twitter later in the module).
*(to create a link in WordPress, copy the URL you want to link to from your blog, highlight a suitable word when writing your post, and click the chain link button in the tool bar, copying the URL into the box that pops up. The button that looks like a broken chain link removes links).
Once you’ve analysed your online presence and looked at ways of making yourself more (or less!) visible, you’ll need to think about the range of activities you engage in online, to what extent you want it to be identifiably ‘you’ or anonymous, and to what extent you may wish to keep various aspects of your identify separate, such as personal and professional.
If you haven’t already, fill in the ‘about’ page on your new blog with as much information as you’re comfortable with, about yourself and your activities. If you’re comfortable with the idea of using your real identity online so that there’s a coherent profile which people can recognise (which may be useful in your professional networking), you could create a Gravatar or a Google Profile on Google+ to represent you and save you typing in your profile information each time you access a variety of applications. Google+ will also give you various other functions, including an email address which we’ll be using later. It can be useful to have a non-university email address to ensure consistency if you move between institutions on short-term contracts, or separate personal from professional communication. You could also use Flavours.me or About.me to collate together the various guises in which you appear online. If you’re in the process of creating a coherent web presence, with your real name or an alias, you could use name.chk to see if your chosen username is available across various platforms to ensure consistency. Other applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to log into a number of other platforms and share your identity and activities.
If you’re less comfortable using your real name and image so prominently, you might think about an alias or image that looks professional and representative of you, remembering that this may also be reflected in things like your email address.
How easy were you to find and was the resulting profile one you’re happy with? Do you need to alter the way you approach managing your presence online? Think about the way you create usernames, embed commonly used keywords in the way you write, use metadata when you upload media and create content, create links between websites, manage privacy settings or monitor content about you that others have uploaded and which you might not wish to be online. If you want to maintain quite separate personal and professional identities, how will you ensure you do this, when many applications encourage you to use a single log-in, such as your Facebook or Twitter account?
- How visible are you? Is the top-ranked information up-to-date and accurate? Are there any nasty surprises – things you didn’t know were online, or had hoped were well buried? Or are you simply invisible?
- How visible do you want to be online, and to whom? If you don’t want to be very visible, you’ll still need to do some work to monitor content that others upload about you, and unfortunately it’s hard to get things removed from the internet. The best way is either to email the person and ask them to remove any comments or images, or to ‘demote’ the content by writing content of your own to bump it down the search rankings.
- What different guises do you appear in, and how clearly are they linked? Do you want to create strictly separate identities for social and professional use, or are you happy with a ‘profersonal’ blend of the two to make you seem more rounded? What impression do your usernames and profile pictures give, for example, your email or blog address, if you’re using an non-university one? Do you want to remain anonymous?
- Making yourself visible online is partly about push – creating content and putting it out there – but also about pull – making sure people find your content when they are searching. How will you find a balance between the two? If you’re thinking about a blog or website to represent you, search engines favour content that is frequently updated – can you see a meaningful and easy way to do this?
- To what extent will you link your online presence to your real life one, for example, using your real name or an alias, including details on your business cards, email signature, or pictures of yourself along with your username so people you’ve ‘met’ online recognise you in person?
- How will you maintain a stable online presence over time? As an Early Career researcher, your association with an institution may be time limited, as is any web presence you have within the university domain.
DH: The digital medium means that you are not limited to a single presence but can occupy many spaces and identities simultaneously – your institution’s webspace and ‘the open web’, your faculty discipline and interdisciplinary (digital humanist, medievalist, linguist, etc). What are the issues with these more open ways of presenting yourself, and the relationships between them?
Making yourself findable in searches also relies on your tagging yourself with appropriate metadata. How will you use consistent, unambiguous terms which will be clear to and used by others who want to find you? You could start with using the tags and categories function on your blog to make types of entry more easily findable. Are there any aspects of your research in which thinking about metadata might help to enhance your research outputs?
To what extent do you want to create and maintain a professional presence online? What are the benefits and disadvantages? What work is involved and is it worth it? Can you afford not to?
No matter how visible or invisible you want to be online, that profile will need monitoring and maintaining. How will you create a strategy for doing this longer term? Might you choose one main platform to maintain, and link the others to it? You may be setting up quite a few accounts with various platforms, as part of this programme -how will you securely manage all the usernames and passwords? If you experiment with tools, and decide not to use them, how will you manage the inactive accounts which might then clutter up your online profile and look unprofessional?
Guardian article on ‘altmetrics‘.