Thing 5 – ‘personal brand’ and other uncomfortable ideas…

Alison was concerned that she may have taken her involvement with Twitter a step too far...
Alison was concerned that she may have taken her involvement with Twitter a step too far…

And so we come to the first element of the ’23 Things’ programme where I am truly uncertain. I have spent a great deal of my life trying to be as invisible as possible – indeed it was necessary to be ‘professionally invisible’ on social media in my previous existence as a teacher (See Thing 3 post on this). The concept of a ‘personal brand’ makes me shudder…

I followed the guidelines for this week’s activity: ‘Googling’ (ugh, changing noun to verb) myself led to a myriad of people, all of whom were not me. Google images illustrated many beautiful humans – ditto. I do not exist on social mention. I do pop up on Facebook, identifiable as ‘doctoral researcher at Sheffield Hallam University’ – but my pages are uber-protected, so except for links to my blogs – that’s all you’re getting.

The challenge, then, is to grapple with the principles of reaching a wider audience for professional purposes. I have begun this journey by rejoining Twitter, which I see as a professional platform rather than a personal one. Following people I respect and organisations I admire allows me to discover events and ideas I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. So far, I am only engaging in the echo-chamber activity of ‘retweeting’ things I think are important and interesting and am reluctant to ‘over-tweet’ (again, see Thing 3 post). I have also linked my Twitter and blog accounts, so notifications of posts from now on will go out to people I do not know, may like to meet or possibly who don’t really care. That is what feels uncomfortable in its newness.

Public blogging does feel somewhat different: I see the exercise of writing and reflecting as crucial in my development as a researcher: it’s like going to the gym for my brain. I also feel passionate about the role of blogging in connecting people and communities who share the same values and who can learn from each other. Part of my planned research is to use my Recovered Threads blog as an interaction with readers, ‘making scholarly work accessible and accountable to a readership outside the academy’ (Gregg, 2006).

The blogosphere is full of articles about the digital footprint of academics, ways to get noticed professionally and the use of exciting new algorithms for applying metrics which measure citation and influence beyond the traditional spheres. I remain uncomfortable – I am a ‘newbie’ after all. However, I do see that moving into a different role in a world with different regulations and lingua franca means reassessing how I present and re-present myself within it.

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