The science of scicomms on social media

Clever ways to communicate your science, reach a wide audience – and please funders

8583949219_f55657573e_bThere has been a flurry of activity in the past few months as scientists across Europe prepare their submissions for the first calls for research funding under Horizon 2020. This successor to the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) stresses the importance of communication and dissemination in collaborative projects.

But we also know that time is valuable. If you are going to communicate, don’t you want to be absolutely certain that your efforts are worth it?

A cunning plan

Like almost everything else in life, you’ll get the best results when you follow a plan. But you must develop this plan based on evidence, not your personal preferences or a hunch.

The study by Mewburn and Thompson shows exactly why your communications plan needs strategic input: their work revealed that academic blogs attract an academic audience, but fail to engage the general public. So there’s no point simply saying “I’ll write a blog!” if you hope to spread the word beyond colleagues in your field.

Clever communication

In my previous post I gave five top tips to make your blog more engaging. I argued that it is critical to develop a clear picture of your purpose and audience. However, crafting the perfect blog post is only half of the battle: you must also attract readers.

You may think that this is easier said than done. Mewburn and Thompson certainly suggest so. So what are the secrets to building an audience for your blog?

According to Dr Paige Brown of the Manship School of Mass Communication in Lousiana, you have to share your work on social media. In a recent paper she argues that people who use social media tend to follow science and technology news – so if you share your research stories on Facebook and Twitter you are effectively “promoting to the converted”.

But how can you make yourself heard over all the online noise? Are there any tricks to sharing that cut through the clutter?

The 2012 Pew Biennial Media Consumption Survey revealed that not all social media platforms are equal when it comes to shining the spotlight on science and science blogs. According to Dr Brown, Twitter comes out on top.

Care to share

Twitter stimulates sharing: you can re-tweet in an instant, “favourite” top posts and use hashtags to hone in on topics. Unlike Facebook, Twitter users are open to discussion: it is less about you and more about the information.

So whilst Horizon 2020 expects researchers to communicate and disseminate their science – to the public, stakeholders and policy makers – it need not be a tricky task.

In my next post I offer my five top tips on how to get the most out of using Twitter to promote your research. I’ll be sure to share the blog on Twitter too – will you do the same?

Filed under: Communication strategy,dissemination,science writing,Tips | By Deborah on April 28, 2014 at 5:59 am

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