How to use 21st Century media to promote science research
June 14, 2011 8:33 AM   Subscribe

How can I use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, "the cloud," podcasting, any other new-fangled social or distributive media to get the word out about the great work being done at our large university satellite research facility? Yes, I'm an old fogey. Computer literate, but not social media savvy. Suggestions? Experiences? (some details within...)

I am the Public Information person for a large university research facility specializing in satellite climate and weather studies. A large team of Antarctic researchers. World-class engineers designing and building satellite instruments for today's and tomorrow's environmental studies launches.

It's my job to get the word out about some really important work here. I'm a science writer. I understand press releases, interviews, televised media spots. But Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, any other 21st century information distribution strategy is somewhat foreign to me. The technology itself is no's just that my reflexes are all press and MSM oriented and it's hard for me to know what to pursue. Thanks for any help! (The fact that I am totally addicted to AskMeFi might be a point in my favor.) Thanks for any suggestions and/or experiences!
posted by rexknobus to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Some quick advice:

1. Pick your battles, and do one thing at a time. You don't need to jump into accounts at all of these services at once. Start with a FB page. Set it up with some relevant photos, and come up with a strategy to get "fans." This doesn't have to be hard. Start with your own FB friends. Invite everybody. Have colleagues do the same.

2. Develop a written strategy that incorporates regularly scheduled updates to this page. Keep them interesting and relevant. Photos are cool. Info about upcoming events is great. Interesting science tidbits. Links to good articles or other content (videos, etc.). If you have a blog, you should update the FB page with links anytime you post a new blog post.

3. A Youtube account only makes sense if you have in-house expertise or equipment to make your own videos. That's not that hard nowadays, but you should put it out of your head if that's too overwhelming at first.

4. Podcasting only makes sense if you have in-house expertise or equipment to record regular and interesting "radio" segments.

5. Avoid Twitter unless you will be updating regularly. If you get a handle on the FB page, Twitter could be the next step.

6. The golden rule is to create interesting content, on a regular basis. If you can't fit this into your schedule, then trying to implement new-fangled social media can backfire because people will be uninterested in your boring and infrequent updates. Good luck!
posted by hamandcheese at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you these guys? If so, it seems like you have the actual twitter/facebook pages down, you just don't have any followers / fans. Which is a much tougher problem to solve.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on June 14, 2011

Sorry, posting too fast. A bit more info...

A place for press releases and in-house articles about what you do. Share pictures and anecdotal stories and make it interesting.

FB Page
The central clearing house for your social media campaigns. A place for short-form public service announcements and links to interesting content (including all other social media you create--things like videos, blog posts, photo albums, podcasts, press releases, media you've received coverage on external sites).

At minimum, an even shorter-form version of the FB page. Or if you get into it, a place for ongoing conversations and interactions a bit unlike anything in traditional media.

Your personal video channel for hosting your in-house videos.
posted by hamandcheese at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Science is cool and quirky and really lends itself easily to fun and interesting Youtube videos.

If I were you I'd consider getting some cameras together and creating a fun "Anthem" video in a creative and quirky way to tell people what you're doing and get the message out there. It's really not hard to write, you just need to talk to your staff and come up with something that you feel represents you. I actually work in this area so PM me if you need inspiration.
posted by rudhraigh at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2011

I think you'd be better off taking an indirect route to social networking since, with all due respect, climatology and meteorology fall outside the usual realm of "popular" science topics that I personally see bouncing around social networking sites.

Why not target websites like TED and Gizmodo and submit articles to them? That's where a lot of in-the-know college and grad students (prime users of social networking) source their topics of discussion. One reblog can spawn a thousand if timed correctly. :)
posted by patronuscharms at 9:01 AM on June 14, 2011

Twitter is for very short stuff, Facebook is for longer stuff, and YouTube is for video hosting. Follow other people like you on Twitter, and try to reply to them or retweet when they say interesting things. Put every discrete update on Facebook (new article, speaker schedule, hey this speaker talked about X yesterday, new YouTube video posted.)

The best way to figure out how to use these tools is to see how other people do it. Ohio State's greenhouse recently did a FaceBook page for their corpse plant - they did a good job of using FB the way you should. The OSU Alumni Society does a good job on Twitter. On YouTube I think the Mormon Channel is doing a decent job lately.
posted by SMPA at 9:04 AM on June 14, 2011

One of the better lab FB pages I follow is EMSL at PNNL. They usually post interesting articles and news from scientists at their research site and awards people are getting, welcoming new researchers, etc. I started following because a former advisor of mine works there and he posted it on his wall. Basically you will need to get all of the young'ins that work at the facility to start posting link on their Facebooks to the facility's FB page, and soon sciencey friends of theirs will start following.
posted by sararah at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2011

Hi. I help organisations get started with this stuff and have a client in a similar (though smaller) field, a science center that houses a working, academic astronomy lab. While they are not in Antarctica (cool!) they are in a castle (also cool!) They face the same constraints as a lot of similar organisations in terms of not enough money, not enough staff and overextended job responsibilities. Even with that, they are doing a solid job blogging*, a really good job on Twitter, updating their YouTube frequently, and I have not checked their Facebook in a while but it was good when I last looked. You can find links to these social media channels in the footer of the site I linked.

*I would dearly like to see them post more original content on their blog; they have a great story and could get more mileage out of telling it but... see common issues, above. It sounds like you have great stories to tell, too, and I would encourage you to make telling them the basis of your social media initiative. Real people do not want to read your press releases. They want to read stories about what you're doing. These are vastly, vastly different communication modes.

posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try creating buzz on a site like Reddit. They seem to love anything science, especially if its accessible to popular science readers.
posted by laptolain at 5:24 AM on June 15, 2011

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