Benefits of LinkedIn for Academics and Universities

Jennifer van Alstyne

The Academic Designer LLC


There are so many social media platforms out there for academics to choose from. Where’s the best place for faculty and researchers from your institution to spend their energy online? My name is Jennifer van Alstyne. I work with academics to share their work with the world online.


The one question I get asked most often is: What social media platform is the most important for me? While there isn’t one right answer, there are so many platforms to choose from, LinkedIn is the place I most recommend researchers start. Here’s why.


LinkedIn is a great website-alternative

LinkedIn is a great place for faculty to share their

  • Teaching

  • Research

  • Service

  • Speaking engagements

  • Awards

Most faculty profiles I come across may list their work experience, but faculty on LinkedIn tend to leave out the details that are most important to being found.


A well-filled out LinkedIn profile for researchers looks a lot like ResearchGate or Academia.edu. You can list things like awards, publications, and even add media links.


The best news is, your LinkedIn profile (and any articles you post there) are well-indexed by Google. And that helps you get found.


LinkedIn has long-term benefits for networking

When I tell faculty LinkedIn can also be used for these things, they’re are often surprised

  • send messages to connections (and inMail to people you haven’t met yet)

  • follow people, companies, and organizations

  • follow topics of interest (hashtags)

  • share text, image, video as posts

  • like and comment on posts

  • write long-form articles

  • join groups

  • search for alumni or company employees

  • search for and apply to jobs

People don’t always realize LinkedIn is so social.


While faculty will find many of their colleagues on LinkedIn, it’s also the best place to connect with editors, funders, potential industrial partners, the media.


But it all starts with having a complete profile. That’s the 1st step, because when you reach out to connect with people, they need to be able to learn about who you are and why they might want to connect.


The search feature is so powerful, but faculty don’t take advantage of that

Not only does LinkedIn show up in Google search results, their native search feature is powerful. And that’s why I’m touching on specific things your faculty can do to improve their profiles as academics: to be found by more people in their research fields.


But most faculty are not taking full advantage of the portions of their profile that will help them get found.


Here’s an example of what I tend to see most in LinkedIn headlines from faculty:


“Assistant Professor at X University.”


So, a short job title + affiliation.


That’s it, and it’s not a lot of information.


Let’s think about it from the perspective of someone thinking about connecting. If I’m an administrator or faculty member at X University, I might connect with you because our shared affiliation is in the headline.


But what about a professor at another institution? Or you’re an academic editor. Or a grant funder. That person has to take extra steps to understand if you’re a good person to connect with.


Why? Well, it’s unclear from this headline (“Assistant Professor at X University”) what field this person is in. And what their specialty is.


Most people don’t have the time or incentive to take those extra steps.


I usually do though. So let’s talk about what it looks like for people who do go into your profile to learn more.


The next issue is that, sometimes people who haven’t included their field in their headline, also haven’t shared it in their job title. In which case, it’s hit or miss if they teach in the same field as their most recent educational degree.


So rather than making someone leave LinkedIn to Google you (which you have to be pretty highly motivated to do), and hope your faculty profile is up-to-date (they’re often not), you want to make it easy for them.


Here’s what I suggest. If you have something like “Assistant Professor of English at X University | 20th and 21st century literature,” well that’s more specific.


That’s “job title + affiliation | field or specialization.” And again you have 120 characters to include the info people need to take that next step.


When you’re clear about what you do, you make it easy for people to find and connect with you.


In my All Day All Night Talk, I’m going to get into easy changes your faculty can make to improve their LinkedIn profiles now. And, why it’s something to consider when onboarding new university faculty and graduate students.


The benefits for universities like yours

When your faculty, staff, and students include your official school page in their Education or Work experience, it grows your LinkedIn company pages as well. This helps your employees and students network internally, and connect with shared stakeholders with more ease.


Lots of people on LinkedIn don’t know how to do this. Some tag the wrong page. Some have updated their Education section, but not their Work Experience. These are common mistakes that lessen the benefits of a LinkedIn profile.


LinkedIn is a professional way for faculty to keep in touch with past students. And, it’s a great way to share public engagements and good news about your university. By supporting your faculty to better communicate on their profiles, you’re helping your larger university-network to stay connected.


Learn more of my top tips in “LinkedIn as Networking Platform for Faculty and Researchers” on The Social Academic blog.


Connect with me on Twitter @HigherEdPR. And, find more advice articles and interviews on The Social Academic blog.


Jennifer van Alstyne will be speaking at All Day All Night. View her session overview here.

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