I give a lot of talks and  workshops on how scientists/researchers/academics can use social media in a professional context. Two questions that regularly pop up are, for which purposes I use the different platforms, and how much time I spend on social media.

I always find it a bit difficult to reply to the second question. Partially, because I don’t  sit down to ‘spend time’ on social media, like I would sit down to read a book. I check my social media accounts on the go on my smart phone or while waiting for the bus, in the lunch break, in a gap between experiments, or while watching TV.

But more importantly, social media has become such a important part of my professional workflow that it isn’t much different from picking up the phone to call someone or dropping them an email. So I thought that I would collect examples of how I use social media during my workday, and maybe inspire others who hadn’t thought of that particular way.

Today’s example is LinkedIn. LinkedIn seems to stun people. What is the etiquette about connecting? Does anybody care about endorsements? Why is it so annoying? (Tip: turn off email notifications in your settings). Is there actually a point in using it at all?

linkedinI have a profile on LinkedIn that I update semi-regularly. I use the site as electronic business card organiser and I try to add everyone I meet professionally. I also use it to find speakers for seminars and conference sessions. Recently, inspired by my colleague Ana Isabel Canhoto from our Business School, I have started to keep in touch more pro-actively with my LinkedIn contacts. Congratulating someone on their new job or work anniversary doesn’t take much time, but helps to keeps up important weak network ties .

A few days ago, a local business expert requested to connect with me, and offered me a guest ticket to a day conference with speakers from local businesses. As I couldn’t make the date and it didn’t look entirely relevant to me, I asked him if I could pass on his invitation to my colleagues in the Business School. I got a positive reply on LinkedIn and emailed his details onwards. For my colleagues, this opportunity was very relevant and came at the right time, and I was happy that someone was able to take it up.

Later this morning I talked with one of my project students about careers and transferable skills, and what they might be interested in after graduation. I remembered that one of my former project students now worked in a relevant company – I had connected with her on LinkedIn a while ago and exchanged a few lines to catch up. When I came home, I sent her a LinkedIn message to ask if she’d be happy to chat with my current student about her experiences. She quickly replied to say that she was more than happy to do so, and even offered to drop by at the university for a chat. I then sent a connection request to my current student, and once she has accepted it, I will introduce the two to each other via LinkedIn.

What I like about LinkedIn is, that it offers a much more professional way to connect with people than Facebook, and due to its strong focus on work experience, it makes it easy to introduce two contacts with similar interests to each other.

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