There are some good reasons to have at least one professionally looking social media profile for a career in science but there are also a lot of caveats. It is a good advice to start with one of the four major services: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ and add a ResearchGate account. The different services have quite different target groups, thus depending on your aims you should choose wisely:
In a professional context LinkedIn is probably a very good choice to start your personal branding. There are many websites which help you how to create a professionally looking LinkedIn site. People will find you quickly and get a clear impression about your work life.
If you are applying for a job or if you are hiring be aware that the public profile of your facebook account is visible to everybody – including you profile photo! Thus, be selective with your profile
picture and restrict the access to funny, unprofessional and embarrassing pictures which may create an unpleasant first impression. You may even consider to have one professional facebook account and another only for friends and family. Just use a more private name which is not easily connected with your real name by search engines.
I find it difficult to judge whether Twitter is a useful tool for young scientists to build a career in science. One interesting use may be to market selected publications, however, most young scientists do not publish on a weekly basis, thus, there must be other tweets which provide value for other researchers otherwise it is a dead account.
This service is less well known than LinkedIn and Facebook, however, many institutions and companies now use Google Apps which automatically offers you the option to create an Google+
account. Make sure that this account is either professionally designed or completely empty and unclickable. All rules mentioned above for LinkedIn and Facebook also apply here.
This service got known very quickly due to a clever automated procedure to invite your colleagues and especially co-authors on publications. Within a short period most colleagues I know have now a
short profile on ResearchGate. When clicking the ‘info button’ of a selected profile you get a nice summary of the network of the scientists. Most of these data are semi-automatically added to your profile. A big advantage is the possibility to upload your previous publications as PDF file which makes it easy for visitors to screen and download your publications.