In the 1970s, it cost several million USD to launch satellites into orbit to start a new TV network. Today, mobile devices and social media apps allow the majority of researchers to be just a few clicks away from live streaming. The costs have significantly reduced, making it easier than ever to reach a wide audience. However, many researchers and the organizations they work in still struggle to effectively utilize social media to share scientific content. This blog post aims to guide researchers in building their first digital science communication strategy, leveraging the immense opportunities presented by social media platforms.
Social media is here to stay despite its downsides, such as hate and misinformation. However, ignoring it only gives more space to those who seek to undermine democratic institutions. Therefore, individual researchers and research organizations should embrace the opportunities social media offers to help societies navigate complex systems and make informed decisions to address the challenges we face.
To embark on your digital science communication journey, start by answering the following five key questions:
- What do I want to achieve by communicating? Clearly define your goals and objectives. Whether it's promoting scientific literacy, fostering public engagement, or influencing policy decisions, having a clear purpose will shape your communication strategy.
- Whom do I want to reach? Identify your target audience. Is it the general public, policymakers, fellow researchers, students, or specific interest groups? Understanding your audience will help tailor your content to their needs and interests.
- What platforms and formats do they consume? Research the platforms your target audience uses. Are they active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or YouTube? Additionally, determine the content formats they prefer, such as articles, podcasts, infographics, or videos.
- Which format suits you best? Consider your strengths and preferences. Do you enjoy writing engaging articles, recording informative podcasts, creating visually appealing graphics, or producing captivating videos? Select a format that aligns with your skills and expertise.
- Which platform complements your target audience and format? Find the intersection between your target audience, their preferred formats, and your chosen format. This will help you identify the ideal platform(s) to effectively share your content. Remember, quality content on the right platform can have a far-reaching impact.
Once you have answered these five questions, you are ready to start building and implementing your digital science communication strategy. It's normal to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of formats and platforms available, but don't let that deter you. Choose one platform that aligns with your goals and target audience and start improving your skills in that area. As you gain confidence and proficiency, you can gradually expand to other platforms and formats.
The era of easily accessible social media has presented researchers with an unparalleled opportunity to share scientific knowledge with the world. By strategically planning your digital science communication strategy, you can make a significant impact on public understanding, policy decisions, and societal progress. Embrace the power of social media, tailor your content to your audience's needs, provide value, and consistently refine your skills to effectively communicate science in the digital realm.
Remember, it all starts with one step. Choose your platform, embrace the challenge, and let your voice be heard!
If you want to learn more, Julius runs three podcast and supports individual researchers, as well as research organizations with developing and implementing their digital science communication strategies. You can find free content around digital science communication on his Science Communication Accelerator Podcast, or on his social media profiles on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. And watch the webinar he gave for the IUBMB Trainee Initiative and the FEBS Junior Section (alongside Dr Mark Roberts, from Oxford University) titled "Explain it to me like I’m 5: Widening the Scope of Science Communication".