Making an impression online: how to build your digital presence and increase your research impact

Research isn’t just global – it’s digital. To make an impact in research you need to have a consistent online presence.

The good news about building your online persona is that consistency counts, so once you’ve got all the basics in hand – you can just work at sharing them across a range of platforms. Think about how you wish to be viewed, and start building your professional persona. Here are the basics:

Your highlights on the web

If you’re a researcher at UON, the Research and Innovation communications team can help enhance your web presence by crafting a professional highlight story. Simply set aside 30 minutes and the team will come to you for an interview and photo shoot.

A highlight story is an easy-to-read overview of what you’ve done in your career – and what you’re focussed on in your research. It should give people an idea about what inspires you, and what your aims are.

It may cover:

  • Your Undergraduate degree and what inspired you to study.
  • Post grad degrees – what helped your forge this research course.
  • Mentors – who helped you make an impact along the way.
  • Areas of interest – rather than honing in on a specific research topic we like to keep it as broad as possible to open possibilities for collaboration.
  • Key career milestones and projects.
  • What’s next? Where will the next five years take you?

professor-catharine-coleborne

above: a recently published highlights story on Professor Cathy Coleborne

Once the article is written you’ll receive a draft copy to edit and approve before anything goes live. When it’s live it becomes a great resource for collaborators to learn more about you and your research.

If you’re a researcher at UON contact us  to set up your highlight story.

In the picture

A quality high resolution head and shoulders picture is essential for all researchers. Use it across all your online platforms so that you’re recognisable and professional. Ensure your image is web-optimised and 300dpi jpeg, 250px high by 150px wide.

It’s worth getting a professional to take a good headshot. They know what’s flattering, how to find good locations and how to get the lighting just right. Keep it simple and look to set up a ‘Profile Pic Photo shoot’ with a few colleagues and get in touch with the Research Comms team (as above).

Be prepared. Work out what you do and do not like about photos of yourself. Get out your phone and snap off a few selfies – you’ll work out which angles do and don’t work and find your most flattering angle. Dress in smart work clothing – but keep prints (particularly stripes) to a minimum. Bold, bright colours work well if that’s what suits you. Otherwise classic or neutral shades work just as well.

Brief bio

Can you describe who you are and what you do in 150 words? Get practicing. A good biography is brief, succinct and around 150 words. Distil your work down to the ultimate essence: Your title, location, and a brief description of your research using the main keywords.

Include a link to your university profile, and any professional social media accounts. Read bios in conference papers or online to see what works, and what doesn’t.

Get social

Are you on twitter? Sign up now. No, it’s okay, I’ll wait…

Twitter is the single-most effective tool for researchers to find collaborators, build networks and share their research. Once you’ve got your profile set up, it’s time to find your tribe. And don’t worry, they’ll be on there. Search for researchers in a similar field to yourself, then scroll through their ‘following’ and ‘followers’ lists to find like-minded researchers.

Be a caring, sharing person on Twitter. Don’t just share your work, share the work of colleagues, collaborators and people you’ve never met who are doing something interesting. Cultivate a Twitter feed that’s vibrant and interesting and gives a great understanding of who you are and what you do.

Again, contact Research Communications team and we can organise a twitter seminar for 5 – 30 people – in just 30 minutes.

Follow the leaders

The best way to succeed online is to assess what others are doing and work out why they’re doing it well. A well-optimised online presence makes you more attractive to collaborators, to those awarding grants, and for promotion.

Look to the leaders – those who get the grants, forge the collaborations and seem to be in the news. Search them on Google and check out what comes up on the first and second pages – then look to replicate it.

And don’t forget, we’re here to help!


A big, big thanks to our guest blogger for this post. Linda Drummond is the Research Communications Coordinator for Research and Innovation Division at UON. She curates their wonderful Twitter account @UON_Research, so get following. This account is a prime example of successful and forward-thinking Tweeting for research impact.


Last post for the year! I will be back in 2017, along with my colleague, Jessie Reid. Enjoy the break, everyone!

Jarrod