Social Media 101: Tips for Scientists

By Cristyn Fung, Admin Team                                                                      

Dear scientists, did you know you can amplify your passion for research and convey its results using social media? And the best part? It’s simple and free. You can post your newly published paper online to increase the number of views and even number of citations. Your voice can reach the general public to communicate why your research is important. That’s right. You can now effectively procrastinate – browse social media to strengthen your science career.

For my first co-op position, I had the honour of working with the talented scientists at the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) and managing all of our social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). Fast forward eight months, I believe I’ve gotten the hang of science Twitter and science communication. Seriously, they (probably) think it’s some world-renowned scientist behind the scenes, right?

If you want to start building up your social media presence but don’t know where to start or what to do, I’ve got you covered. Once you have your account ready, just remember these 4 tips and I promise you’ll get that engagement (be it through views, likes, or followers):

1) Stay active frequently – Set a goal for yourself (ex: posting once a day, a few times a week, etc.) and make it a routine. This is to ensure that your followers (and potential ones) know you’re still alive and kicking! To meet my goals, I made a social media calendar. I printed out a monthly calendar and wrote down content I wanted to post for each day. This way, I could easily plan content in advance and move it around. Then, to save time, I scheduled my posts using the app Hootsuite.

2) Communicate your research in lay terms – This could be tricky. Even for scientists, explaining research in lay terms can be difficult but it’s an essential skill to have and you’ll only get better with practice. I recommend figuring out the purpose and importance of the research. Then when crafting your post, frame it as what this research hopes to solve and include its implications (also, throw in some statistics to show the impact of the research). Before you post your message, be sure to run it through the de-jargonizer, an app that highlights which words are more technical and not so public-friendly. Not sure what word to replace it with? The thesaurus will be your best friend. Remember: you want your research to be as accessible and relatable as possible!

3) Showcase the human side of research – With every institution, regardless of the field, researchers are all humans. It’s crucial to portray that to the public – that we have fun, hobbies outside of work, and even struggles. For instance, post photos of yourself at events, conferences, or just your daily life. Share interesting facts about yourself, your thoughts/views, perhaps some funny stories about your research experiences and your failures too. With each post, let your personality show and don’t be afraid to form informal connections with other scientists or your followers. Additionally, you can share health and wellness content and resources – something everyone can relate to.

4) Follow other researchers & research institutes on social media – When you run out of ideas on what to post, go check other social media accounts of research institutes, scientists, labs, science companies and journals for inspiration. Curate your own special science feed by choosing who to follow! Start by following your current lab mates and see who they’re following or what content they’re engaging with. Note that you don’t have to always post original content; you could repost and/or share content that your followers might find interesting. Also, remember to save this content on your dashboard so you can easily repost it (when you’re swamped with other work but still want to remain active on social media).

Why not sign up or engage with science twitter today? You won’t regret it!