We have to network. It is the key to success. You want a job? 80% (or more) of the job market is filled through who you know (aka your network), not what you know (aka cold via a job ad). Collaborators? They come via your network. Industry partners? Your network.
But, for many people networking is daunting. It sounds like exchanging business cards at ten paces. Speed dating. Asking strangers “so, what do you do?”. Dressing up. Knowing who to talk to. Canapes. Short eats. Drinks. Evenings. Breakfasts. Lunches. I am sure many of you are anxious reading the list.
There are other ways. Well, at least one. Social media…
I know, you hate social media more than networking. In that case, suck it up. Go network at events, functions, dos, socials, breakfasts.
But, if that’s not what you want. If you want a larger network without that. On your time. Without dressing up. With time to think about your questions and answers. Then social media is your friend.
First, pick a channel (aka a social network). LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and are all good places to start (in that order). Why that order? Well, I’m assuming networking is for a purpose. Either a job or (as an academic) an industry partner. But, if your reasons aren’t mine, then you might want to reconsider what channel you choose, based on your target audience and reason for networking. You can see more about social media use in Australia at sensis.com.au.
LinkedIn — its dedicated to work. Despite what people say, its still less food porn, kid porn, puppy porn or cat videos than anywhere else. People expect to be contacted and to interact with strangers. It is used by 18% of people who use social media in Australia 1.
Twitter — it used by just over 30% of Australians on social media 1. And connecting with strangers is culturally appropriate. Importantly it is considered the most academic of the mainstream social media sites. Thus, if you want to grow your academic network, this is a good place to start. Indeed, anecdotal reports suggest much better engagement on twitter than via email when it comes to asking for collaborations and research advice.
Instagram — Its used by almost 50% 1(of Australians on social media). Unlike Facebook (where usage is 94% 1of Australians on social media) it is culturally okay to follow someone you don’t know. Making it easier to meet new people. It is picture-based, but that’s okay you can still network with few actual posts (I’ll get to that shortly).
Facebook — as mentioned above its used by 94% 1of Australians on social media — so lots of people are there. But it is less culturally acceptable to follow strangers. People like to keep their business and personal separate; thus networking might be harder. However, there are groups, and participation will help you grow your network (we’ll get to that below).
Back to networking without talking to people…
Pick the social media channel highest on the list that you are comfortable using for networking. You may decide you want a dedicated work channel.
For each channel people join groups and participate in chats related to specific topics. Within LinkedIn and Facebook there are groups covering all sorts of topics. Within Twitter and Instagram #hashtags are used, rather than groups.
Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email (Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org) or subscribe to the newsletter. He’s on LinkedIn, (Dr Richard Huysmans) twitter (@richardhuysmans), instagram (@drrichardhuysmans) and facebook (beyond your PhD with Dr Richard Huysmans). Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.
1Sensis, 2018 Social Media Report, https://www.sensis.com.au/about/our-reports/sensis-social-media-report, accessed 28 Feb 2019