Finally, the one I’d been waiting for, science and social media. Kristin Alford from Bridge 8 moderated the discussion, but let the discussion grow naturally. To set the scene, there were 30 of us in a small carpeted room with no wifi (/cry) sitting on chairs in a circle.
After a succinct rant about how social media is NOT just for kids, we brainstormed what it IS. This was more complex than expected.
Social media is – dynamic, conversation, real-time, large-scale yet individual, niche networking, meeting people, being transparent, identity-forming, and provides access to experts.
Twitter is particularly good for connecting scientists directly to other people. Through daily updates made late in the lab, people connect to the (often tedious) process of discovery. It also highlights the passion people feel for their field. The audience is respected, and equal with experts. At it’s best, Twitter becomes a two-way dialogue between two real people who share an interest.
You often hear that Twitter is only about sharing what you had for lunch. When I first started, I promised myself I would NEVER talk about food. I have broken that promise on several occasions, and felt guilty about it. But actually, it’s okay. Having trivial conversations can forge a personal connection, bonding over bean sprouts. Scientists are human, after all. It’s okay to say what you’ve had for breakfast.
For companies interested in making the first foray into social media, there are risks in being involved and risks in not being involved. Instead of being averse to the risk and simply avoiding it, Kristin suggested creating processes to manage that risk.
The Australian Museum is a social media extraordinaire, with Facebook pages for Mr Blobby the blobfish, and a stack of blogs. They have a process for creating new facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs etc. First they define goals, then the plan and finally the exit strategy – a process which lasts half an hour. Then they act on it.
After some discussion, we talked about policy recommendations to take back to the conference.
1. Support scientists to get on social media. Companies to integrate processes into current communications strategies.
3. Help people use social media by showcasing best practice examples, such as on websites like the new Scicommunity.
4. See science communicators as enabler for scientists to talk for themselves.
5. Change the perception that Twitter is just for kids and unimportant.
Most of all, I think social media should be a creative, connective endeavour. We can’t force people to do it if they don’t want to, but if someone has a flair for online comms, we should encourage and support them.
This was a REALLY good workshop, and it was great just to meet and chat with some science tweeps. My peeps. My online cyber friends. This ol’ salt is getting mushy.