Welcome! Thank you for joining us for our unique and slightly eclectic 8-week program that helps you find and build an audience online. We are beginning today! My motivation to teach you is that there are so many people who have unique knowledge and perspectives that we all could benefit from. However, unfortunately, most of the online content is some form of click bait that tries to steal attention and money instead of provide something meaningful to the global conversation.
I have developed this course with trainees in academia (especially underrepresented voices) in mind, but I hope that it will also be of help to others. In contrast to all the bad writing about how to "trick" search engines and other usually meaningless tools derived from the (shady?!) world online advertising, my course is focused on few solid strategies that help you get started. There is no success guarantee since there are many factors beyond my control that determine the outcome of your efforts. I hope you will find this exciting and helpful. I always appreciate feedback, best way to reach me is on Twitter @FlavioFrohlich.
Let's begin! Today, we are taking our first two steps of week 1.
Step 1: Decide on social media platform and sign up
There are a gazillion of online platforms and one mistake I recommend you do not make is to sign up for too many of them. After all, you do not want to waste hours of pushing content to all the numerous platforms and spend even more time engaging with your audience on multiple social media platforms. Many of these platforms can be very addictive (I once deleted my Twitter account to take a break from some unhealthy habits) and the more platforms you use, the more likely you are to get trapped. Your goal should be to identify the one platform that is most used by your audience and to focus on quality content and engagement for that one.
For me (and likely for you, too), the one social media platform that stands out is Twitter. Like it or not, this is the place where the conversations are taking place, including exchanges about training and research in STEM. But here is the key: one such platform is enough. For example, many years ago my research group at UNC set up a Twitter and Facebook account. We struggled to create enough content for both platforms, so we decided to delete our Facebook account. We never looked back. So simple.
So, if you have too many accounts on different social media platforms, disable all of them but the one on which you are most likely to find your audience. Also, delete the corresponding apps from your phone and get some hours of real offline life instead. If you do not have yet such accounts, I recommend you sign up for a Twitter account. We will spend quite some time these next few weeks talking about how to (not) use that account. Building an online audience is fun but your mental well-being should always have priority.
Step 2: Buy a web URL and (learn how to) set up a basic website
Part of our program is to create a more stable presence online that does not require you to constantly create new content in the form of posts and tweets. And yes, there is nothing better than a good old website for this. It used to be that creating a visually appealing website was hard and cost money. Thankfully, today things are easier. If you can, I do recommend you spend money on buying a URL. If not, no reason to worry. Most website providers also offer free URLs but they are not that memorable (e.g. www.whateveryourURLis.weebly.com instead of www.whateveryourURLis.com). For example, I have purchased a long time ago the URL that spells out my name (www.flaviofrohlich.org) and one that spells out who I aspire to be both online and offline (www.networkneuroscientist.org, the site that hosts this blog). There is a seemingly unregulated business with URLs, so do not spend more than $20/year on a URL (I guess technically you rent and not buy them, so set them on auto renew such that you do not loose your precious URL in a year from today). Most website hosting companies (I use weebly, no commercial interest) offer the option to buy a URL, this is the easiest approach. It will take a bit of time to find a good URL since all the obvious ones are long gone. One option to consider that few people know about is to make use of all the new(er) domain endings (beyond your standard .com, .org etc). For example, I recently started two new websites with - what I think - really cool URLs using some of these new top domains: flavio.network and tACS.academy.
Once you have this all set up, you are ready for the next step, which we will cover tomorrow. If all of the above is old news to you, my task for you is to think about your online presence in terms of how you can reduce your broad but likely shallow footprint to few points of focus to build on during the coming eight weeks.