I’m currently at the American Accounting Association annual meeting in the Washington metro area. A year ago (August 3, 2011), I wrote the following essay. To make it easier for this year’s attendees to read this message, I’m republishing it today.
I’m a throwback accounting professor, yet I use social media (not afraid to admit it). Social media helps me do my job.
A few months ago, I queried members of my LinkedIn network who are accounting professors (n=70). I already knew most of them didn’t blog, tweet, create videos, friend students or have FB pages. They admitted that they don’t actually use LinkedIn, either. Am I weird, or are they behind the curve?
Social media is a true force in the world today. People who participate in online social media sites have more and deeper relationships than those who do not. Social media adds to the quality of life. It has revolutionized marketing. It even has been used to foster revolt and topple governments. Some are arguing causality, using social media will help make a person more social. I’ve looked around, and the business world is using social media–both companies and business people. The professional world of accounting is also flocking to social media–both firms and individual accountants.
So, I don’t think I’m weird for using social media when my colleagues don’t. Here are seven reasons for professors to use social media (henceforth referred to as SM) and improve their professional effectiveness.
- SM has become an important channel for disseminating scholarly writing.
- SM has become an important channel for receiving scholarly and real-world information.
- SM enhances communication with online faculty colleagues.
- SM is a superior tool for creating and maintaining a professor’s professional brand.
- SM provides convenient channels for faculty to interact with the public.
- Professors should be using SM in the classroom, and professors need to use it before they teach it.
- Interaction with students is at the core of why faculty should use SM.
Social media has become an important channel for disseminating scholarly writing.
We are moving away from the past of exclusive refereed journals. Articles in these journals are typically read by only one or two dozen other professors (sometimes an author jokes that the paper has only been read three times, by the editor and two referees). It is expensive for readers to gain access to these journals, so research findings are not widely disseminated. Even I don’t read many journals. Blogs have been gaining favor among academics as a means to reveal the results of their research, and to dialog with readers as to its implications. A typical essay on The Summa has been read over 1,000 times, and reaches a much wider audience than any journal article.
Social media has become an important channel for receiving scholarly and real-world information.
It works like this. If I come across something interesting, I share it with my friends and colleagues. When one of them comes across something interesting, they share it with me and others. We all benefit.
Social media enhances communication with online faculty colleagues.
I have been on AECM, the e-mail listserv for accounting professors, since it began 17 years ago. It is one of academe’s most effective professor listservs. More than a collection of e-mail messages, it is a vibrant social community. But most accounting professors aren’t on AECM, and most of those that are on it only read instead of posting. Besides, the nature of e-mail calls for brevity, the poison of deep, meaty conversations. Using LinkedIn will upgrade e-mail communications. It is easier for me to locate contact information than opening up a phone book or checking some school’s web page. Also, a LinkedIn Group is a superior way of carrying on academic conversations. On Higher Education Teaching & Learning (HETL), I participated in one discussion with 500 comments posted over a six month period. It was an incredible conversation, much more in depth than anything I’ve ever encountered on AECM.
Social media is a superior tool for creating and maintaining a professor’s professional brand.
- The first component of a reputation was the school from which the Ph.D. was earned. There was a pecking order in Ph.D. granting schools. In accounting, my school was at least half way down the list. This severely limited the schools at which I could get my first job.
- The second component of a reputation was the school of employment. Again, there is a pecking order (actually the same pecking order as the first list).
- The third component was the journals published in. Again there is a pecking order, and the top journals only published from professors at the top of the pecking order.
Only a few professors had a great brand, because there are only a few elite schools. Most professors were meat. In the world of SM, it is much easier to communicate with other profs. With communication comes visibility. With visibility can come respect, and a valuable professional brand.
Social media provides convenient channels for faculty to interact with the public.
Traditionally, professors only communicated with other professors (either through journal articles or at conferences) and students. It was likely that professionals would never know of many professors. Their circles never intersected. SM, though makes it possible to communicate to the public. This not only expands a professor’s brand influence, it provides an additional channel by which scholarship can be disseminated. It is the public that supports higher education through taxes and gifts. It is only fair that the public have an opportunity to learn what professors profess.
Professors should be using social media in the classroom, and professors need to use it before they teach it.
Facebook provides an effective 2011 channel for communicating with students, and blogging is ideal for nurturing critical thinking. When SM is used in the classroom, a professor should be leading through example. A SM knowledgeable professor has a much more elemental grasp of the capabilities of the SM platform used, and can therefore more effectively use it in education;.
Interaction with students is at the core of why faculty should use social media.
Many professors maintain a chasm around them. This chasm effectively limits student-faculty interactions to class time (which is mostly used for lecture), or inconvenient office hours. To engage students, though, requires rich interactions between the professor and students. Many professors lack the interpersonal skills that would make for more effective learning by students. SM can help. Using it is a way for professors to hone their interpersonal communication abilities. Research is emerging that using online SM helps people to become more social in face-to-face interactions! Also, SM interactions are a supplement to face-to-face interactions. Although SM won’t replace traditional classrooms, it can be used to foster more effective learning. If you are a professor who makes little use of social media, I encourage you to give it a try.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht