Social media: Talking straight to the audience

Social media and blogging allow you to talk directly to audiences about your research, be they other researchers or the general public.

Top tips for twitter

More and more scientists are turning to Twitter to find out about science-related news, events and outreach activities and to disseminate and discuss interesting research. Here are some tips to get the most out the 280 characters of each ‘tweet’.

Write as if you are writing a newspaper headline. Grab people’s attention. Use strong, colourful, everyday nouns and verbs. People retweet superbly written tweets.

Engage in conversation. Make sure to @mention other people on topics they’re talking about, and respond to people who interact with you.

Keep it short. Omit redundant words. Limiting your tweet to around 240 characters will allow people room to credit you when quoting you.

Retweet with careful consideration. You are displaying your editorial judgement to the world, and what you retweet reflects on you.

Credit others. If you’re retweeting someone, credit them for their work—it’s common courtesy. Use quote marks if quoting someone.

Rewrite if necessary. If linking to a blog post or a website that is not your own, don’t feel you have to use their headline. Write a better one.

Check your tweets before publishing. Tweets can’t be edited once published, but they can be deleted and rewritten if you notice an error immediately.

When communicating through social media

  • Interact with other people (comment, share, retweet).
  • Ask questions to encourage interaction and discussion.
  • Respond politely and respectfully to comments. Sometimes it is best to just ignore.
  • Use spell check – it only takes a minute.
  • Be consistent – check your site regularly and build a cohesive social media presence.
  • Don’t just talk at people – aim to actively engage with them.
  • Don’t post sensitive or confidential information – if in doubt leave it out.

Writing a decent blog

Writing a blog can involve a large time commitment, but can be incredibly rewarding and prove highly effective as a science communication tool. Here are some tips to help you blog up a storm.

Make it personal – write in the first person. The web is a one-to-one medium, so get personal and say ‘you’ and ‘I’. Say ‘you’ a lot more than you say ‘I’. People want to know how what you are saying is relevant to them. Use active rather than passive voice: ‘they found’, instead of ‘it has been found’.

Write meaningful, short headlines. Try to use fewer than eight words and give a strong indication of what you are writing about in the first two words. ‘Water quality: what should we do about it?’ instead of ‘What should we do about water quality?’.

Write less. People rarely read all the way through a page so keep your posts short and include your key points in the top 20% of your post. Keep paragraphs and sentences short. Stick to one idea per sentence.

Where possible use lists, images and small tables to break up your text.

Use plenty of links to provide context and background. Ensure the text you link gives the reader a clear idea of what they are clicking through to.

Make sure each post can stand alone. People might stumble on your website via web search or another blog. Link to any earlier posts that can add context, but don’t assume the audience has already read them.

Proofread. People will judge you on grammar and spelling. Even simple errors can undermine your credibility.

Post regularly – at least once a month — but not just for the sake of it. Make sure you have something meaningful to say.

Get an unbiased opinion. If possible ask someone objective to read your post for content before you post it. Once it’s out there, it’s difficult to completely remove and comments you might regret can be reposted elsewhere.

Sciblogs.co.nz is a network of New Zealand scientists blogging about their research and topical science-related issues. Contact the SMC to inquire about joining Sciblogs.

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