The role of social media in sharing and humanizing science
By Sean McNally and Dervla Meegan Kumar
What’s the point?
We are both fairly new to science outreach, but we’re fortunate to be learning from our mentor Dr. Adrienne Sponberg (ASLO’s Director of Communications and Science), a veteran science communicator. The other day Adrienne shared with us how her theories on addressing science communication have evolved over the course of her career. As she became more experienced in the field, she developed several hypotheses about the root problem of the “general public’s” lack of engagement with and/or mistrust of science. Currently, she believes that the solution lies in humanizing science (giving science a personal story). Contrary to her (and scientific communicators’ in general) prior notions, the public is aware of, interested in, and literate about science, but rather many people do not personally know scientists (or at least they don’t realize it!) and feel like we are “others.”
So, where does social media come into play? Social media presents a platform through which we can directly address as targeted or broad an audience we desire. Most people use some form of social media daily, so the potential reach is huge. At the same time, these properties of social media are the same ones that allow anyone to spread information, therefore scientific societies and scientists need to present in order to “combat” misinformation.
The social network that ASLO has created allows for unparalleled opportunities to engage with other scientific societies, the science interested, and a broader general audience, in addition to providing another means through which to communicate with our members and scientific community.
As ASLO continues building these social network relationships with groups to exchange knowledge we will create new learning environments that increases the impact of aquatic science. With better communication to diverse audiences, shared through ASLO’s social media platforms, we hope to spark new curiosities to some of our followers and through that curiosity encourage enthusiasm, passion, and commitment to actively pursue a career in the aquatic sciences. This use of social media places the organization in a much better position to broaden its identity within the global community.
ASLO’s Social Media Strategy
The overall goal of ASLO’s social media engagement is to place ASLO content where the intended audience is located; by disseminating our content in a targeted manner, we can have a greater impact overall. Using social media as a professional organization requires more intent and forethought than a personal profile, so over the last month we have put together a Social Media Strategy for ASLO. We are currently focusing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube as these are the most relevant to our goals.
For each platform we identified the target audiences, outlined communication goals with that audience, then crafted a content strategy specific to the audience and goals. While each platform serves a unique role, it is critical that there is a synergy between the content distributed across all platforms in order to maintain a standardized branding for ASLO.
Facebook – This channel will mostly be an additional line for communicating with ASLO members. However Facebook also provides a medium through which we can post content that our members can in turn share with their broader networks.
Twitter – Posts are this platform are targeted to our scientific community, the broader scientific community, and the science interested. Given the rapid nature of the platform, content will include ASLO news, links to content on other ASLO channels, and retweets and responses to topical scientific and news stories.
Instagram – This platform provides the best opportunity for engaging with the broadest audience, so we are targeting our content to the science interested and general public rather than any niche groups. We are utilizing stunning images from ASLO’s Online Media Library to highlight the beauty and excitement of aquatic research and have several weekly themed posts.
YouTube – One of the YouTube channel’s main goal is to get more mileage out of our conferences through promotion of events like workshops and sessions via targeted videos. This is also our best platform for humanizing aquatic science by providing a friendly medium through which we can share stories about who and what we are (see below). We hope the content on this platform will be interesting to a wide array of users, from members to nonscientists.
The future for ASLO social media
Going forward, we will need your help as ASLO members to achieve our goal of humanizing the sciences, and specifically the aquatic sciences. We want to share information about the far-reaching work that aquatic scientists do and create the most effective narrative that connects with our various social media audiences. It is our hope that through highlighting our members stories along with news & information that we will garner greater charisma for the aquatic sciences both within and outside of the ASLO scientific community.
By translating science from sterile scientific statements to stories shared through ASLO’s social networks we plan to orient science messages with the organization's core values so that they are accessible to all. Sharing of scientific experiences and news to diverse audiences and relating those stories to the people can play a huge role in the understanding and education of the public.
Through sharing stories about aquatic scientists in our network and working with our global members to produce short videos we will highlight ASLO’s diverse membership base and ensure ASLO members know that the organization is not solely American. Through this series we can speak to what science is and how science can be accessible to anyone, anywhere.
As highlighted with our first installment in our Science Exchange series “Who’s Behind Deep Time? A behind the scenes look at the Smithsonian’s Paleobiology Department” we have begun our series by bringing a story from scientists of our partner association, the American Geophysical Union (AGU). It is our hope that these stories will reach readers on a new level and inspire creativity on a larger scale. This model of communications gets us out of our current box of thinking and builds on our core values in order to create stronger narratives that share what it means to be scientists in our global communities.
We plan to continue the production of the Science Exchange series at this years Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon February 11-17th, 2018. If you are interested in participating in ASLO’s Science Exchange Campaign and want to share your science story contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also if you are interested in taking over our Instagram page to share the work of your research group with our nearly 2000 followers, please reach out us!
We are also always looking for content to be shared across all of our social media platforms, so if you have any photographs of your field site, research group, instrumentation, or lab group please add them to our Online Media Library!