As a graduate student in the digital age, you need a domain of your own.
First of all, you will be Googled, and when you are, your domain should appear early in the results as the fulcrum of a carefully cultivated online identity.
Second, in order to leverage the power of the social web to cultivate a community of scholars interested in your work, you need a domain to which to point your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and those who have circled you on Google+.
In thinking about your online presence as a graduate student or academic, it is helpful to conceive of it as a kind of ecosystem in which various elements work together to offer the public a picture of who you are and the work you are doing.
A canonical website – a domain of your own – should provide the essential nutrients of your online ecosystem. To create one, register your name or, if you have a relatively common name, register a unique name that identifies you across a wide spectrum of websites. It is not too expensive to register a domain name with a service like Blue Host, for example. Even if you decide to host your site somewhere else, it is important to register your domain so you have some control over your online identity.
Once you have a website setup under your domain, consider it the place in which you document your research, write reflectively on your scholarship, and invite others to discover your work. You might also use the site to curate content about a hobby of interest so as to give people a more well rounded sense of who you are. At minimum, anything you would put on your CV should be added your website and amplifed through various social media channels.
Depending on your area of research, one social media channel might be more important than another. There is a robust and influential community of Digital Humanists on Twitter, for example; while Academic.edu seems to be emerging as a kind of Linkedin for academics.
In this regard, Google Plus has a special role to play. Even if you are not very active on Google Plus, it is worth creating a profile and posting your work there because Google is beginning to integrate G+ into its core business operations, and specifically search. Once you create a G+ profile, you should link it to your domain. This allows Google to associate your G+ profile with the content you author on your site so they are able to serve information about you up with links they present in search results. When it’s set up, this is what is looks like in Google Search:
Here you can see the way information about you as author is connected with content you wrote to authenticate both the value of the link and your status as author. Once this connection is established, you will be better able to control the content associated with your name when a potential employer or an interested student or colleague Googles you to find out more about your work.
- Jim Groom has been a leader in advocating for every student and faculty to have a domain of their own. He talks about the Domain of One’s Own project he developed at the University of Mary Washington on this podcast with the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- This collaborative guest post on the Prof. Hacker blog written by Miriam Posner (@miriamkp), Stewart Varner (@stewartvarner) and Brian Croxall (@briancroxall) on Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics is very helpful.