Most research labs have a website to share news about their work, but you may be wondering if there are other ways to expand your reach. It can be difficult to spread the word about the work you are doing, as it is not easy to entice people to come to your site, and even when they do they likely won’t come back regularly for updates. In addition, your university may have social media pages with considerable reach, but they likely only post what they consider to be the most important news and updates. Finally, individual researchers can post about your work, on their social media pages, but this limits the reach to their network. In order to expand your presence online, we suggest launching social media pages for your research lab.
This may seem like a daunting task, but doing so can bring about a variety of benefits. First, this will create more awareness about your lab and the work you are doing. In addition, social media is a great place to share papers, achievements, and news. These types of accounts can also be useful in recruiting people to work in the lab and can serve as a way to discover amazing talent. Finally, social media engagement can provide valuable networking opportunities with other labs and researchers.
Maybe now you are convinced that your lab should build a social media presence, but how can you get started? First, you have to decide what platforms you want to use. It may be best to start out with one or two and expand as you get used to regularly posting. Different platforms serve various purposes, so you should be strategic in deciding which to use. For example, Twitter is great for sharing links or quick facts while Facebook is better for a longer, explanation-based article. SlideShare is great for sharing your findings in a visually appealing way, and LinkedIn is great for networking. Based off of this information, choose the platforms that are likely to provide the most benefits and help you achieve important goals.
Once you choose the platforms you want to use, you can decide who is going to be posting content and how. Using a content scheduler, like Hootsuite, can help you keep your accounts active even when things get hectic. Deciding who will post is also important. If you want the social media effort to be collaborative you can share the username and password with others in the lab, although in this case it might be helpful to create an approval process before things are posted. Another idea is to hire an intern from the university to manage the accounts for you. This is a great opportunity for an undergraduate student to develop their skills in a role that requires only a few hours per week and a flexible schedule.
After you have all of the logistics handled it is time to start creating content. This is the fun part because you can be creative! For example, you may decide to create a group on LinkedIn where researchers in your field can discuss their work and other relevant topics. You could also turn your most recent publication into a slide presentation on SlideShare. On Twitter, you could run a poll to engage your followers about the work you are doing. These are just a few ideas to get you started, for more inspiration there are hundreds of SciComm blogs and social media accounts online where scientists are sharing their work in really cool ways.
Finally, when you are working to build your initial follower base, we suggest connecting with other labs, programs, and organizations at your university as a starting off point. You can also leverage connections within your own personal network and expand from there. Before you know if you will have a sizable follower base of people interested in your work.
We hope that these ideas help you to start building a social media presence for your research lab. Have additional questions? Ask us on Twitter, @Conserisapp.
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