In 2020, it looks like more science communicators became more active in social media than ever before. This trend could be partly attributed to the desire to educate a wider audience in the midst of a pandemic. Now is your chance to maximize your social media benefits for science communication, fun and professional development.
As we are slowly moving away from the initial shock of COVID-19, a trace of what scientists can achieve through Twitter, Instagram and search optimization engines when they use lay language has been left behind.
To help scientists improve their science communication activities on social networks, the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) has been organizing webinars on how to use social media platforms, how to engage with other scientists and how to maximize your following. This initiative has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback by both senior and junior scientists.
For the novices, in social media though, a fascinating piece of feedback came up.
The stress of building a following and the inevitable frustration when that does not happen after a few tweets packed full of hashtags, leads to them becoming gradually disengaged.
However, going over the attendees’ feedback and the messages that I was sent personally as one of the event organizers, prompted me to create a summary of ways to best approach Twitter, based on my experience, and what goals to set to maximize enjoyment, relationship building and important information sharing on Twitter.
Useful resources to questions you’ve been asking!
One of the overwhelmingly positive aspects of Twitter is accessibility to updated resources. Interested in knowing how your chances to get an R01 change if you have a PhD vs an MD/PhD? Twitter has the answer, with a link and a nice plot attached to the tweet to get your answer in seconds!
Sharing good news and celebrate milestones with those to cheered you on along the way!
Whether it’s about you or about your students, sharing good news is always fun. The benefits of sharing good news on social media are numerous but, maybe, more importantly sharing good news on Twitter let your followers know what you are up to and that you’ve been successful.
Your Twitter followers, if you’re engaged with them, are actually your network. These are the people that you want to tell when you get a grand or you’re one step closer to getting your PhD or you had a major life event. Additionally, sharing good news, should be an opportunity to acknowledge all those helping you and spread the word on good people doing good work. we all know science is a team sport but a lot of people don’t take the time to publicly acknowledge those helping them. you got an award?
Share on Twitter, and tag your collaborators, your lab maids, your mentors who helped you Excel and to whom part of this award belongs to.
A speedy way to learn how to get involved!
Are you interested in becoming more active in our society? Are you looking to get involved but don’t know how or you’re not sure of opportunities close to you or what an opportunity would entail or when the deadline is? All those things you can find on Twitter.
Follow your favorite foundations nonprofits and local community outreach programs. Trust me, they all have a Twitter account.
Spread the word on their awesome work and reach out through direct messaging or by simply tagging them to ask if there are opportunities for you to meaningfully contribute to their mission.
Celebrate with others from a distance!
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of having time with your loved ones. but people in the Sciences know very well that sometimes work takes you away from your friends and family.
Whether it’s a PhD or a postdoc, scientists are known to go from place to place four years before their settled. One would argue this is part of their training. That is even more true for international scholars such as myself. Some of us were not able to see our families for over 2 years now with the pandemic and that takes a toll. so, let’s use social media and take comfort in the fact that we are not alone. We can celebrate important events and national Holidays of our country without actually being there by simply engaging with our compatriots online.
But also make science jokes!
But more importantly, social media should be used for fun. If social media is not your source of employment or your hobby or a mandatory part of your day-to-day life, it really has to be fun. so, as you get informed about the latest publication of an old collaborator or a former student or a leader in your field, please also follow accounts that make you laugh.
These accounts are very popular for reason. You really have nothing to lose by following them, just gain a -usually needed- chuckle during your busy workday.
Or share your wisdom with those after you!
And for the more senior attendees of this event, I want to urge you to share your wisdom with your followers. Young trainees and postdocs are asking questions all over Twitter about career paths, conundrums the face, problems they have but they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their mentors.
Though you should not feel obligated to fix everyone’s problems or to offer feedback on situations in which you only know part of the story, you can share your path. you can give advice that you stand by and inspire the junior scientists that follow your account. and though advice on how to be a better scientist is always appreciated, please don’t hesitate to share your wisdom on being a scientist or having a scientist background in living life, having a family, balancing your life now and when you were younger. This is especially important for your First Gen followers especially if you’re a first-generation scientist yourself.
Most of us don’t have a family member or a relative to ask those questions so we have to find answers elsewhere. Be a resource to the first generation scientist and you will have served science in an even more profound way.
Links and Resources for Scientists interested in using Twitter more!
Ten simple rules for getting started on Twitter as a scientist
You should get Twitter…for science!
How to Use Twitter as a Scientist
Our Year on Twitter: Science in #SocialMedia (Trends in Immunology journal)
How to Make Twitter Work for You (and for Science)
Previous ASIPathways article
“Write the Tweet you need in Academia”