Your online persona as a faculty member
Online personas are the social identities that people create for themselves in online communities and on websites. They are the images we present on web pages and in blog posts, tweets, comments, discussion forums, emails, etc.
If you don’t think you have an online identity, try Googling yourself. What picture emerges and what messages does it convey about you? If you’re not happy with what you find, you may want to begin deliberately shaping your virtual footprint.
A large part an online persona falls under the heading of digital voice - the ways in which a person’s online writing conveys attitude, personality, and character. This emerges from factors like the kinds of words you choose and the level of detail (verbosity?) in your writing. The tone one takes is also part of the picture; a faculty member’s voice can be respectful, humorous, distant, serious, angry, even eccentric.
How do you mold an online personality? Start by considering the following questions:
- What do you want your writing to say about you? What adjectives would you prefer students and colleagues to use when describing you?
- What are the goals of your online presence? You may have one or more of the following in mind:
- Networking with colleagues
- Disseminating research
- Calling to action
- Searching for a job
- For whom are you writing? Are your audience students, colleagues, or the general public? What are their likely age, occupation, and background?
Another aspect of a digital persona is your web presence – the technologies that carry your digital voice out onto the Internet. Do you blog or tweet? Do you have a website? Do you use Facebook? Maybe you have your fingers in all of the above, but it would take a great deal of time to be active in more than two or three. Some of the possible elements of your web presence include:
- Personal website – traditional, blog, etc. (see Three easy ways to make academic websites)
- Course website – via course management system (Blackboard, Sakai, etc.) or other means
- Social network – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
- Professional network – LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Researchgate, etc.
- Media sharing – YouTube, Flickr, etc.
- Interest sharing – Pinterest, Goodreads, etc.
The way you write and what you choose to say will determine much of your digital voice. People who have blogs and traditional websites can assume visual control over the look and feel of their web presence. Color scheme, layout, fonts, and images can all become aspects of your online persona.
Looking at the big picture, though, it’s critical to manage the content of your web presence
- Get the good stuff out there – other people may be doing some of this for you, but you can also tactfully let the world know what’s happening with your research and teaching.
- Minimize the bad stuff – part of your persona is your reputation. See the articles listed under “Sources” below for strategies to reduce any damage that may already have been done.
- Keep the private stuff private – don’t say more than you need to about yourself or your family. On social networks, take advantage of profile settings to restrict access to personal information.
- Finally, consider owning your own domain – your address could be http://www.bestprofever.com! Okay, maybe you could think of a better one…
Sources and Follow-up
- Creating an Online Persona (U. of Penn.)
- Online Persona Workshop (Tona Hangen)
- Geek to Live: Have a say in what Google says about you (LifeHacker)
- How to Clean Up Your Digital Dirt Before It Trashes Your Job Search (Wall Street Journal)
- Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing (Grammar Girl)
- From Jo Hawkins’ historypunk blog : Developing your personal digital marketing strategy: A guide for academics and 8 reasons why online reputation building can give academics a competitive advantage
[Image: "Tragedy and Comedy" by Anthony Dawson on Flickr]