As scientists we spend an enormous amount of time and effort promoting our findings and their relevance to the rest of the world. We are competitive, and like journalists, we don’t like to get scooped on a story. Whether you’ll admit it to your friend in a neighboring lab, we are regularly vying against one another for limited funding resources, space in top tier journals, speaking engagements, and prestigious awards. So it’s no surprise we, as scientists, are skilled at promoting our work and research. Besides merely promoting your jargon-laden work to peers, it is also useful to actively engage the public to teach facts and dispel myths. Social media provides just such a vehicle to do so, and to build your professional network at the same time.
Many prominent scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson have already caught on and promote their “brand” through social media to their millions of friends and followers. They don’t need to publish a peer reviewed paper or book, or attend a conference to instill us with grains of good humored wit; now we can follow them, like disciples, in real time. If academics don’t already get it, then here are the top 5 reasons that scientists should embrace social media:
- Promote your work – Use a tweet to draw attention to a recently accepted paper or an appearance at a conference. This publicity can lead to increased views, downloads and citations of your work. I recently tweeted about a paper that our group published late last year and that simple action yielded at least 7,000 impressions. You shouldn’t be surprised when one of your papers receives more than the expected number of literature citations solely because of this added real time exposure of the work to a relevant audience.
- Control the message –Don’t depend on third party journalists to put the message out there. Say it in your own words in a way that resonates more deeply and in a way that anyone in the public can understand.
- Become a news source for hot and trending topics – You’re an expert, and social media lets you show the rest of us you have a pulse on up and coming topics in your field. Besides original content, this kind of curated content can be extremely valuable to your audience.
- Engage the public – Your followers will include other scientists as well as people who have no idea what the details of your latest paper mean. Social media is just that – social – and gives you a chance to tell people why the work you’re doing should be meaningful to them. This is also a great way to help you boil down your message and see what resonates before applying for that next round of competitive funding.
- Network worldwide with breadth and precision – Your reach through social media really knows no boundaries. Imagine the benefits that can result if social media can help bring together international teams of scientists to collaborate to solve some of the greatest mysteries of science. In addition to its broad reach, the tools can be used to seek out individuals or groups that can potentially support your work.