Thing 8: Professional social networks

penResearchers have more options than ever before for connecting with others, whether in the academic community or more broadly. Whereas Facebook focuses on personal use, other networks focus on building and maintaining your professional connections.

In this Thing, we look at two of the most commonly used professional social networks: LinkedIn and

Social networks

Social networks are websites that focus on building and facilitating connections between groups of people. Facebook is the most prominent example of a social network website, but it is explicitly geared towards personal use. While many institutions and companies use Facebook – including the University of Auckland – it is not the focus of this Thing.

Instead, Thing 8 talks about two professional social networks that specifically concentrate on your public face – your professional profile. Going back to our discussions in Thing 7, LinkedIn and profiles tend to feature high in Google searches, so a well-constructed profile can be a great way to develop your online brand.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and it allows you to build an online profile that features your experience and skills as well as to network with other users in a professional environment. It provides a great way to connect with contacts from your work world. is essentially a sort ofLinkedIn focused on the academic world, so it has improved features for things like listing and sharing publications.

Signing up

You’re not required to set up an account on either network to finish this Thing, but we strongly recommend you do. You’ll need an account to explore many of the tools’ features, and it’s a good way to improve your professional presence online. Pick one (or sign up for both!) and set up an account.

Getting an account on either tool is simple, and you can register from each tool’s home page. Make sure you fill in your profile fully. What keywords do you want to associate with your online identity?

Remember that these are professional networks, so your photo, taglines, and activities should be those you’d be happy with employers and colleagues seeing. LinkedIn allows you to upload your CV straight into your account (with a chance to edit and format, of course!), which offers an easy way to get all your job information in.

Once you’ve signed up, try adding colleagues or other contacts. You’re welcome to add me if you want:

Or use LinkedIn’s search function to identify other users.

I already use these

Successful social media use requires that you actively connect with people and give them something to interact with, rather than just setting up an account and leaving it.

If you already have a profile but haven’t used it very much, the Explore Further section below suggests some ways that you could make it more attractive.


As LinkedIn is aimed professionals in any line of work, it allows you to interact with other users outside of the confines of academia and often with a more employment-focused slant.

LinkedIn offers groups, which allow you to join others based around a sector, place of work or other interest. For example, the following pages are relevant to the University of Auckland:

LinkedIn also allows you to see who has viewed your profile, send private messages, and give and ask for personal recommendations and skill endorsements. Users can identify their own skills and strengths, and other users can elect to ‘endorse’ these (although see the critique of the endorsement system in the Explore Further section below). began as a way for scientists to share research, but is now used in all disciplines.

You can write update posts on your activities, upload papers and other documents – including links to your journal articles but also ‘grey’ literature such as conference papers, reviews, and opinion pieces. This is useful for all researchers but perhaps particularly valuable if you are at the start of your career.

(A note of caution: always check the copyright status of the research you upload. The Explore Further section has some details about this.)

You can identify your research interests and use these to follow other users and ‘tag’ their uploaded papers. You can also follow the profiles of other scholars, which is useful to keep up to date with people’s publications. also has an analytics section. This can tell you how many people have viewed your profile, what keywords they used to find you, and who is following your work.

try-this-iconTry this

As mentioned above, you don’t need to create a profile in these networks in order to complete this Thing. Instead, we’d like you to write a blog post reflecting on these tools.

Do you use these websites? Which do you prefer? Do you think these tools offer a good way to present your professional profile, or do you prefer something else (a website, blog, etc.)?

If you use Facebook, do you feel that LinkedIn or are a suitable alternative space for professional activities, or do you find Facebook works just as well if not better for what you want to do?

explore-further-iconExplore further

“You’ve filled out your LinkedIn experience, summary and maybe some other accomplishments and interests. But, what other LinkedIn features do you use to your advantage?”
Top 7 LinkedIn features that all professionals should be using

A list of LinkedIn groups that are particularly relevant to academics
50 great LinkedIn groups for academics

John Naughton’s critique of LinkedIn’s endorsement system
LinkedIn endorsements turn you into the product vs. Elsevier – who owns the copyright on research articles?
The end of an era for and other academic networks?

“‘When I was in university, I was vexed by the way publishing worked, but I thought that maybe other academics didn’t care about changing it,’ he says. Now, he is almost certain that they do.”
Sharing is a way of life for millions on


Parts of this Thing were adapted from  23 Things for Research Oxford / CC By-NC-SA 3.0 and 23 Research Things @ Melbourne / CC By-NC-SA 3.0

Header image: Sheila Scarborough / Flickr / CC By 2.0
Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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