The last week has been busy for me, in several ways.
- Teach classes: Biz Stats and Intermediate Accounting, two courses that endear themselves to students who don’t like numbers.
- Grade tests & quizzes. When Biz Stats students took their 2nd midterm, scores were unacceptably low. I offered everyone a chance to be retested.
- Visit another school. I’m in the market for a position at a different school. Spent three days on the road.
- Interviews on social media.
In the three interviews on social media, I focused on different aspects. The first was how I use social media in performing my duties as an accounting professor. The second was how I’ve used social media to become externally visible as a professor. The third was a focus on how I might use my scholarly skills to research the area. I’ll summarize my comments pretty much in that order.
Will Berend of Open Door Consulting, Inc., has been writing a series in which he asks professionals how they use social media in their jobs. The question posed to me is, “Why do you use social media in your position or role in higher education, and what results are you looking to gain from using social media?” Perhaps I should have started my remarks with a statement that I use social media because it is the best (or only appropriate) set of tools for doing my certain aspects of my job. I use it because it works.
Primarily, I blog (The Summa) on professional issues affecting the government regulation of accounting rules and the auditing profession. There are several purposes of my blog. First, I provide a professor’s perspective concerning theoretical insights and issues so they might factor into policy discussions both in the United States and in Europe. Second, I take positions on the issues and argue for them, hoping to provide important insight into policy discussions that might sway decisions in a direction that I would like to see. Because of my work, I am widely considered to be an influential person in the American accounting industry, part of the brain trust of the profession.
I continually use various social media platforms for communication with many people in the accounting industry and higher education industries, both in the United States and world-wide. I use Twitter for several reasons. Chief among them are to serve as conduits for other professionals to contact me, or to recommend interesting news items. In truth, I send out announcements related to my blog and to my off-the-cuff reactions to the latest developments in the field. To a certain extent, I also maintain personal communications with other media professionals, such as bloggers and journalists.
I am a heavy user of LinkedIn. Not only do I engage in several hosted discussion groups, but I frequently send out emails to subsets of my network. It is an extremely useful channel through which I send most of my email communication.
I believe through using various social media I have become much more adept at social interactions, both online and in person. Moreover, my social media awareness has helped me maintain a sharing/helping point of view on my blog, as well as in my courses.
Two Concordia students had noticed that I was named to some best of lists, one for being influential in accounting and the other for being a social media savvy professor. After talking about how I use social media (see above), I suggested that using social media had contributed greatly to building my professional brand (aka reputation).
A brand is a general and consensus view of who a person is, what he or she is like. It includes professional skills and abilities, world view, character and personality. Brand building is a means for a professional to distinguish him or herself from others. I told my students that I probably have at least three brands. I have a brand for the part of my life that deals with helping students learn. I have a brand for the part of my life that deals with personal interactions on campus. I also have a brand for what I do external to campus.
I have used social media extensively in the brand building for my external scholarly pursuits. During the period of time in which I have been a Ph.D. professor in accounting (1990 to the present), the landscape of professor reputation has changed significantly. In 1990, reputation was tied to where you received your doctorate. If you went to an elite research school for it, you had the necessary foundation for establishing a reputation. If you didn’t, you didn’t. If you graduated from an elite research school, you had a chance to work at another elite school. Working at such a school has numerous advantages for getting papers accepted in elite journals. If you are published in elite journals you have a reputation that matters. If you aren’t, you don’t.
I went to a respectable, but not elite school for my Ph.D. Upon graduation, I was unsuccessful in landing an assistant professor job at a research-oriented school. So, I ended up at a mid-tier school that lacked the resources for conducting research as I had been trained. This has forced me to scramble.
Since then, I’ve used social media to interact with knowledgeable scholars and researchers. I joined AECM, the e-mail listserv for accounting professors so as to expand my professional horizons. Through frequent e-mail exchanges, I’ve been able to interact with accounting professors from around the world, professors that I would never had had a chance to meet through established research/conference channels. Eventually I was writing 200-250 e-mails per year. These e-mails are similar to abbreviated blog posts. Anecdotal evidence exists to support my claim of brand building through AECM involvement. I’ve attended several academic conferences where I’ve been greeted by accounting professors who have commented on my AECM activity.
Because of my involvement in AECM, it became painfully clear that I didn’t know the practical world as well as I needed to. I studied, and when the opportunity to start blogging came along, I took it. Through blogging I’ve been able to exchange ideas with others who are carrying on discussion about the major issues of the day for the practical world of accounting. Because of my blog, The Summa, Accounting Today named me to their list of influential people in accounting. This is another example of brand building through use of social media.
My professional brand, which is out there because of social media, effectively distinguishes me from other accounting professors.
Officials at the liberal arts college with whom I interviewed were interested in my scholarly intentions to exploit my interest in social media. The following issues will drive my research over the next two years.
I’m interested in the effectiveness and influence of blogs, especially in accounting (but also in finance and economics). There are many reasons for creating an academic blog, influence is only one of them. I’m interested in learning what characteristics of an academic blog lead to influencing the thoughts and beliefs of readers.
Of course I have detailed plans on how I’m going to study the area, but I don’t want to bore you.
If you made it to the end of this blog post, you deserve a prize. I hope you get one.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht