What exactly are academic social media? Academic social media are social media networks aimed primarily at academics and researchers. In addition to the usual functions of social media – connecting and communicating with peers and sharing and discovering information – they also offer the ability to document and share your publications. As such they function as informal repositories for their members.
ResearchGate and Academia.edu
The two best known academic social media are ResearchGate and Academia.edu. These two are also The Connected Leiden Researcher's focus for August. While both networks offer roughly the same features, the difference between them is one of emphasis. ResearchGate is more closely focused on collaboration and interaction, while Academia.edu often functions more as an academic version of LinkedIn, with an online CV a.k.a. a bibliography in the case of academics and as a place to share your publications. You can find a closer examination of both of these networks in the In Depth section.
Of course there are more networks than just ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Most of these however are more narrowly focused, for example MyScienceWork seems to be more oriented towards the Sciences, Labroots for the Life Sciences, or BiomedExperts for the biomedical sciences. Connected Researchers offers an overview of different social networks for academics.
What is their benefit?
Academic social media allow you to connect to other researchers in your field, share your publications and datasets, get feedback on your non-peer-reviewed work, and to stay current with news and events in your field of interest. It gives you another place to establish your name and research and perhaps even collaborate with others.
Academic social media and impact?
Academic social media tie into altmetrics mostly indirectly, through making your work more widely discoverable and, if you've uploaded a copy, more easily available. They also provide an additional source for impact data by tracking the number of views and downloads your uploaded papers get. ResearchGate has developed its own additional metric called the RG Score, which isn't just based on your contributions (papers, Q&A's, data sets, negative results), but also on your interaction with others on the site; this means that who looks at your research is as important as how many people look at your research. The RG Score and the other data aren't automatically incorporated in the altmetric aggregators such as altmetric.com and Plum Analytics.