For my first co-op position at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Blood Research (CBR), everything was new to me. “No worries!” I thought I could easily be trained – I had passion and enthusiasm. That is until I had to deal with managing our social media platforms. I had no background in managing this (other than posting on my own social media once in a blue moon), and most importantly, I had zero scientific background (to make things worse, Grade 12 biology did not help).
I was honored to work with the talented scientists at CBR, and yet, at times, I could not shake off feeling intimidated. My worst fear was communicating inaccurate information due to my lack of scientific knowledge. Luckily, my supervisor Stefanie believed in me throughout and was always happy to help and take the time to look over my posts. Fast forward eight months, a handful of unsuccessful social media posts and a majority of popular posts, I believe I’ve gotten the hang of it. Seriously, no one would ever think the one behind our social media platforms has zero scientific background. They probably think it’s some world-renowned scientist, right?
If you ever have to manage social media platforms for an institute that is totally out of your expertise – you’re not alone. Just remember these 4 tips, and I promise you’ll get that engagement:
1. Stay Active Every Day
Posting at least once a day on our social media platforms was my goal. This was to ensure that our followers (and potential ones) knew we were still alive and kicking! To meet this goal, I made a social media calendar. I printed out a monthly calendar and wrote down content I wanted to post for each day. This way, I could easily plan content in advance. Then, to save time, I scheduled my posts using Hootsuite.
2. Communicate New Research in Lay Terms
This was the tricky part. Every time one of our researchers had a new publication out, the technical terms (obviously) didn’t make sense to me. However, since I was only responsible for coming up with a lay summary of the research, the solution was as clear as day: just read the abstract of the publication! We’ve all done this when writing papers. This one was no different. I recommend figuring out the purpose and importance of the research. Then when crafting your post, frame it as what this research hopes to solve and include its implications (also, throw in some statistics to show the research’s impact). If you don’t understand the content, add a quote. When in doubt, ask an expert for clarification
3. Showcase the Human Side of Research
With every institution, regardless of the field, the researchers are all humans. It’s crucial to portray that to the public – that we have fun, hobbies outside of work, and even struggles. For instance, I posted photos (with permission) of the centre’s social events to show our close bond. I also wrote profiles on our members’ personal interests for our Knowledge Translation Committee blog, which I featured on social media. Additionally, I shared health and wellness content and resources – something everyone can relate.
4. Follow Other Researchers & Research Institutes on Social Media
When I ran out of ideas, I would check other social media accounts of research institutes for inspiration. You don’t have to always post original content. Sometimes, I would repost and/or share content that our followers might find interesting. Also, remember to save this content on your dashboard so you can easily repost it (when you’re swamped with other work but still want to remain active on social media).
Start practicing these tips and you'll gain social media traction in no time!