Academia.edu allows academic researchers to share their published papers on a social network. I see this company as a mix of Facebook and LinkedIn for academicians. The website not only allows users to upload their academic papers to their profile but also provides analytics on readership and impact. The “About” section boasts 2,242,959 academics on Academia.edu with 1,659,134 papers and 665,965 research interests. Additionally, the site draws over 3.9 million unique visitors a month. Social networking in the academic world has been slower to catch on but Academia.edu could change that.
Retention. The value of the website speaks for itself. To my knowledge this is the main academic social network. The signup process is designed to get the user involved quickly. You can find friends to follow through Facebook and email contacts so that you have a network base immediately. After signing up an email is sent to remind you how big Academia.edu and to help you navigate the site. You are urged to upload papers, track the impact of your papers, and follow research via a News Feed. It is also easy to provide feedback for the company should you encounter problems since there is a comment bar at the bottom of every page. It will be interesting to see what else they do to retain customers since most of what I have described is somewhat of a mix between acquisition and retention.
Referral. Academia.edu asks you to invite friends during the signup process and makes it easy (if you grant them access to Facebook and email) by having names and emails pop up. They also stress that you should only invite people you know because they will send at least two follow up invites. After signup there is an invite tab that is hidden in a drop down menu. Since social networking needs a critical mass of people to be useful it might be more effective to have the invite button displayed more prominently.