Posted by Makena Neal 6 months ago

KRISTEN - I have started on multiple occasions to build my "professional website" and haven't found the motivation to follow through. All the choices and options for content to include can be overwhelming... do you have suggestions on how to get started? On top of it, I'm an educator but not a faculty member (so this wouldn't be something I'd direct students to). Because of this, I'm also struggling with how to balance person and professional. I have one twitter account - I see you have a RSS feed on your website - should I have two separate accounts and only link my "professional" one? Should I think of my audience as current colleagues at MSU and potential future employers? (So BALANCE is one of my question themes)


Posted by Kristen Mapes 6 months ago

Hi Makena - This is one of the hardest parts of it, to be honest! The best place to start is to find an example or two of colleagues' websites that you like and to see how you might emulate parts of that. But it's key to keep in mind that building a digital presence is a process, so starting somewhere is the key bit, and then you can develop over time as you learn more, have bits of time, etc.

One thing to keep in mind is that your digital presence and website can do whatever you want it to professionally and so isn't something exclusively of interest to research-focused folks, or to faculty members. The work that we all do in our disciplines and communities is of interest, whether to our own colleagues, or to your students, or to parts of the public - it just depends on what you want to share, and why you want to share. For example, with my website, my primary audience are colleagues in my fields of digital humanities, medieval studies, and libraries. I share my syllabi and some other teaching related materials so that others can remix them etc, and so that my students can find these things too. I also create tutorials for technologies etc, which is a part of my job, but by posting those on my site, colleagues can learn from them and use them, and I can direct my students to them to help them in class.

This ties into your question about multiple social media accounts and audiences - it's really up to you to feel out who your audience is. It's the old addage that if you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one, so it's better to imagine one or two key audiences, and gear your website/Twitter/etc to them. Doing so won't exclude what you do from being available and possibly of interest to others too, but it will give you a focus and clarity that can help with some of the tone and content decisions that come up.

As for the question of keeping multiple accounts and generally being 'professional', that's a really personal choice. I know people who really like to keep separation between their personal and professional selves and so maintain multiple accounts, but mostly that becomes really challenging considering how limited all of our time and energies are. Personally, I have chosen to have one presence that I keep professional but without being too formal all the time. I think there are advantages to showing some personality, especially in your social media presence, because it makes it clear that you're a real person with dimension. It's more social that way, which is something that we can't forget about in Twitter (etc). I find myself returning to Heather Froehlich's "How I use Twitter as an academic" blog post from 2017 as my guide: I hope it's helpful to you too!