Opinion, Resources

OPINION: Science and social media – Alice Gray

Do you engage in social media, or is it that mysterious ‘dark art’ that you don’t venture into? During the 2018 Research Staff Group away day Alice Gray presented on “Science and social media”, and subsequently agreed to turn a portion of her talk into a blogpost. Here is that post outlining the simplicity, reach, and potential power of social media for scientists… will you become the curator of your own online presence?


“Science and social media”

With 2.62 billion people using social media worldwide, it’s inarguably a platform that allows you to access a wide audience. It’s been harnessed by businesses, charities and organisations as a promotional tool, but it’s uses aren’t limited to faceless corporations, as it also holds great potential to enable individuals to put themselves on the map. Therefore, by using simple marketing tools, you can build a personal brand for yourself and carve out a space for your work on these platforms – raising your profile for the public and potential funders.

The most basic concept of marketing to employ on your social media platform is to stop considering your platform from your point of view, and start to consider your ‘customer’ and their user experience. Who would you like to reach with your social media? How would they like to be communicated to? By firstly taking a step back from the content that you’re producing, and start considering what people are viewing, you can start to tailor the content to optimise engagement.

Alice’s Twitter profile (mobile format)

But where do you start? Initially, it’s best to decide which platform to build on based on your audience, and currently for science the answer is almost always Twitter. Setting yourself up on Twitter gives you access to a large audience, and when you start creating content and engaging with others, a following will come. So, now you have logged into Twitter, what next? It’s a good idea to populate your profile so that it is informative. You need passing visitors to make one quick stop on your profile, be able to understand your goals and your research interests almost instantly, so that they can decide whether to invest and follow your social media channels. It seems like a simple step, but it is endlessly valuable. Your profile acts like an executive summary of your content and gives and insight into what new followers can expect to hear from you.

By regularly contributing to a social media page, and by optimising your profile to suit your audience, you’ll soon start to develop a loyal following that is interested in your work (from either a lay perspective or an industry perspective). This will allow potential funders and contributors to find you, and almost condition people so that when they think of your field of research, they think of you. Furthermore, a comprehensive social media output will allow you to reach your audience in a way that a website or a staff profile on your organisation’s webpage will not. As social media gives a three-dimensional experience of you and your work, which is interpreted as more authentic by an audience, and are therefore they become more invested in your content.

And best of all, it’s free.


About the contributor:

Alice Gray – is currently the Communications and Marketing Officer with the Cardiff School of Biosciences as well as The European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute.

Alice is as you might expect on a number of media platforms and can be found at:

University profile – https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/935036-gray-alice
Cardiff University Alumni article (2016) – Examined Life – Alice Gray (BSc 2013)

Twitter – @AliceJaneGray
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/alicegray/
Blog – http://www.mindfulofscience.org
Youtube – Alice Gray