|Photo by Nick Morrison | unsplash.com|
I recently had the pleasure of participating in Avid Research’s #SciCommSeptember (Science Communication September) challenge, which involved responding to Twitter prompts on every second day of September.
Some of these prompts included: introducing yourself and your research area; your story, your challenges; your day in the life; bust a myth, etc. Unlike previous social media challenges I had participated in, @AvidResearch would post ideas on the days of each prompt which could help frame your challenge posts.
I chose to participate in the challenge because I am usually very hesitant to post on Twitter and agonise over every character. The challenge created a safe and comfortable environment to share what I love and what I find challenging in my field in science, and to interact scientists from other fields across Australia.
These are the top 5 things that I learned when doing the challenge:
1. Plan ahead
If I sign myself up for social media challenges, I like to map out the prompts on a calendar and draft ideas for them. If I have put together a full draft, I’ll upload it to a service like Hootsuite to post it for me on the day. These services can be helpful if there are awareness days coming up that are relevant to you and your research (i.e., International Day of Women and Girls in Science, World Hypertension Day etc.) or if you are co-ordinating a Twitter account for a society or lab group.
2. Don’t shy away from using new mediums to communicate
One of the prompts for #SciCommSeptember called for a video post, which is something I wouldn’t regularly upload on Twitter. I decided to combine the “Day in the life” and video prompt and upload a time lapse video of the lab experiment I was doing that day. I used a video editing application on my phone to stitch the time lapses and some cat GIFs together to create the video. Altogether, it took less than an hour to put together and I can use the app to create future videos. I also saw a lot of #SciCommSeptember participants starting to use TikTok and Instragram stories to create and share videos as part of the challenge. Some SciCommers who have engaged with a broader audience using these platforms have rapped about science (La Trobe’s Alyce Mayfosh- @dr.fosh), created songs about science (@cat_nyroscientist) or explained a recent paper with the abstract as the background (@melaniefinch_). You can always dip your toes in the water by beginning to add GIFs to your posts.
3. Engage with other users
Social media challenges are a great way to meet and interact with researchers from a broad range of disciplines. If you’re social media shy or hesitant, it doesn’t take much effort to make first contact with other researchers by paying them a compliment, congratulating them on successes, or asking them for more detail about their research if it interests you.
4. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable on social media
I often shy away from making more personal posts on Twitter, from highlighting challenges in my field or challenges faced by ECRs. I understand that this may contribute to the toxic positivity of social media and makes it hard to maintain your authentic voice. I was absolutely dreading responding to the “My Challenge”, “Your Story” and “Your SciComm” prompts, but I took my time, had a look at the other posts for those prompts, and started typing.
Social media challenges can be a supportive space to do this because you’re all responding to the same prompts and likely facing similar research challenges. Also, if you are intimidated by releasing more vulnerable posts out into the void and being met by deafening silence, challenges are a good opportunity to give it a try- you have a built-in audience in the other participants who are likely following the challenge hashtag.
5. Have fun
It’s energising to see light-hearted posts from other researchers pop up on the timeline. Don’t hesitate to add a GIF, emojis, dog pictures, or cat GIFs to a post (where appropriate!). It will surely bring someone a little bit of joy.
If you are generally hesitant on Twitter, give one of these challenges a try!
They take some of the thinking out of creating social media posts, allow you to try new social media formats, and are supportive spaces to be authentic and showcase your passions.
Jordyn’s research focusses on the role of inflammation in cardiovascular diseases.
When not in the lab, you will find her browsing Twitter - she's at @JordynMThomas.