Strategies: Social Networking Sites

As a scientist, how can you most effectively use social networking to bring your research to the public?

Using social media can bring your work to a wide-range of audiences through many outlets. Here are a few broad concepts surrounding the ways in which social networking can be used as a conduit for scientific connections:

  • Be Social: As discussed in the etiquette tips section, the key to social media is simple: be social and network. Use social networking sites to announce your latest discovery and be ready to discuss your work. Having conversations is the most important part — link to others whose interests you share and ask and answer questions.
  • Connect: Use social networking sites to connect with other scientists in your field — for example, if you meet someone at a conference, add them to your networks — or engage members of the public who are interested in your work.
  • Collaborate: Use the networks to collaborate with others. By starting conversations and creating an online presence, you never know how that community could help you and your research. For example, Twitter profiles are used as platforms for many citizen science programs.

Consider these social networking tools, among the many available:

  •  Facebook: Start a page or group for your department, lab or research group. Post updates, ask for feedback from group members and see where the conversation goes. Add a social plugin or "like" button to your other online pages to help you and others share your posts. For example, announce a new blog post on Facebook and Twitter so that your contacts there know where to go for more information.
  •  Twitter: Follow researchers you know – and even ones you don't — to see how they interact online. Plus, you'll stay up to date on information being released to the public! Tweet about updates to other platforms (such as your blog or website). Use hashtags to make sure your posts are located by relevant searches. Remember to start and continue conversations with other Twitter users to create a dialogue.
  •  LinkedIn: The more "professional" of the social networking platforms, use this site to connect with professionals or other individuals interested in your field.

At the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting, a panel of scientists and bloggers spoke about communicating science using social media. The video recordings are available to watch for free.