Todays post is about the value of blogging and promoting research through social media. It is written by Amber K. Regis who completed her PhD in Victorian life-writing at Keele University. She is an Associate Lecturer for the Open University and teaches English literature at the Universities of Chester and Liverpool John Moores. She blogs at Looking Glasses on Odd Corners on life-writing and life-narratives across different media. She has published work on John Addington Symonds, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. You can follow her on Twitter: @AmberRegis
I started a research blog in the final months of 2011 in a wave of enthusiasm. I was going to become an overnight internet sensation; I was going to get my research ‘out there’, reach new audiences and make a name for myself! And do you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed the act of blogging, and while I’m still waiting go viral, I have managed to share ideas and start conversations with a multitude of readers (including many beyond the ivory tower of academe). But blogging is also a commitment that takes up time, and in recent weeks time has been desperately lacking. Like so many other post-PhD researchers, I’m juggling multiple jobs while I seek the ‘holy grail’ of a permanent academic appointment. Prepping, marking and commuting has taken its toll and I’ve been neglecting my blog.
But, rather surprisingly, the blog has remained active during my absence. Others have started to take notice.
I’ve already admitted that increasing my online presence was a key motive in setting up my blog, and it has received several special mentions in recent weeks:
- A post on material objects and life-writing was quoted by Charlotte Mathieson, an Associate Fellow in English at the University of Warwick, in a recent piece on literary tourism for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online.
- Responding to a tweet from @TimesHigherArts, I was given the opportunity to promote a post on celebrity memoir in the ‘What Are You Reading?’ column of the Times Higher Education
- A keynote speaker at a recent Victorian Studies conference referred to a post on souvenirs and collecting. I was sitting in the audience. It was all terribly flattering, but I blushed and looked at my feet.
As a means of self-promotion, blogging appears to be paying off. Each special mention resulted in increased traffic and a number of Google search hits. Internet sensationdom is just around the corner…
But why is this kind of ‘self-promotion’ so consistently paired with the pejorative ‘shameless’? And why did I blush when my blog was mentioned at a conference? After all, wasn’t this what I wanted? But alas, was my face now registering the inevitable ‘shamelessness’ of attention seeking in the blogosphere?
I do not believe that self-promotion is a shameless or even a necessarily selfish activity. Indeed, the three instances above demonstrate a range of benefits to increasing online visibility and engaging with social media. Attention has been drawn to my work, yes, but I have also engaged directly with other researchers, forging connections with peers and more senior academics. Social media have thus transformed self-promotion into a mode of continual networking—formerly an oft-dreaded activity that required awkward conversations over coffee cups during breaks in conference schedules. But networking can now extend beyond the temporal and physical space of a conference; conversations can start before an event and continue long after, mediated online.
So yes, all this blogging and tweeting is a form of self-promotion, but it is certainly not shameless. The clue is in the title: social media and the social web. Making connections, forming communities, offering support; in getting your name ‘out there’, you are not a voice crying out in the wilderness. Self-promotion in the age of the social web is very much a team sport; plugged-in academics are networked and networking all the time.