Are you thinking of using social media for science communication? It’s easy to set up an account, but not always easy to maintain. If you’re starting from scratch, or want to launch a new account specific to a science communication project, these are a few things to keep in mind.
- Don’t try to be everywhere at once. Pick one social media platform to start with, and build an audience there before expanding to a new platform. Which platform is best depends on what your project is, and who you want to reach, so it’s worth doing some research to find out where you’re most likely to reach your audience.
- Find your voice. If you’re starting a new social media account for science communication — whether it’s a personal account or one on behalf of a project or group — try to establish what you’re hoping to do with it, and what the tone should be. Will you show lots of pictures? What kind of language will you use? Are you posting links?
- Interact with people. Reply to comments and questions, share other people’s content, comment on others’ social media posts, use relevant hashtags, and generally let people know that you’re out there and ready to talk about science.
What will you share?
One way to ensure that you have regular content on your science social media account is by planning ahead. You can decide ahead of time on which days you’re going to post, and roughly plan the content. For example, maybe you want to share links to your ongoing projects, or feature people from your community on certain days.
Simply being consistent with the type and frequency of content will help you maintain and even grow your following. If you’re creating an account for a seasonal project – maybe you’re sharing Instagram photos while you’re doing fieldwork, for example – make it clear to your followers when they can expect content, and when you will be back after a period of no content.
Who uses social media for science communication?
Here are three research papers analysing the use of social media in different areas of science communication.
- Richard T. Bex, Lisa Lundgren, and Kent J. Crippen. Scientific Twitter: The Flow of Paleontological Communication across a Topic Network. PLOS ONE (2019) 14, no. 7:e0219688. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219688
- Paige Brown Jarreau, Nicole Smith Dahmen, and Ember Jones. Instagram and the Science Museum: A Missed Opportunity for Public Engagement. Journal of Science Communication (2019) 18, no. 2: A06. doi: 10.22323/2.18020206
- A. K. Pavlov, A. Meyer, A. Rösel, L. Cohen, J. King, P. Itkin, J. Negrel, et al. Does Your Lab Use Social Media?: Sharing Three Years of Experience in Science Communication. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (2018) 99, no. 6: 1135–46. doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0195.1