Research. Are we excited yet?
Trying to get a broad social media community made up mostly of 18-22-year-old students excited about a list of highly complex scientific words can be…a challenge? Let’s not pretend to be shocked. No one I know wants to have to use WebMD to figure out what their university is trying to tell them.
So…what do you do?
Research is an incredibly important aspect of any university. You have to share research news with your social media community, but you also want people to read it (and actually understand it).
Try this: Explain the research in a way that catches your audience’s eyes.
Our Veterinary Teaching Hospital here at Colorado State University is currently researching the effectiveness of stem cell therapy on cranial cruciate ligament injury/disease in dogs (What?). Instead of just telling the broader CSU social media community that, we did this.
Step 1: Get on the right platform
For this particular research story, Instagram was our social platform of choice (that might not work for everyone’s situation). Dogs are obviously popular photos on social, and sometimes research is easier to explain when you have an image/graphic to back it up. (Ay-o! Shout-out to my visual learners.) Plus, photos are highly popular in the social media world (especially when there’s a dog involved).
Step 2: SHOW your audience rather than TELL them
We didn’t frame the Instagram photo series as research, we framed it as following a VTH client involved in the research study through its appointment from start to finish. It had kind of a behind-the-scenes tone to it. (Did I mention this helps if you have a cute dog to photograph?) Don’t just talk about the research happening, take a picture or short video of your researcher actually doing the research. People can behind a great shot of technology.
Step 3: Explain the research in a way your dog could understand (I know, my jokes aren’t funny)
Don’t try to over-complicate the research. The best way to explain the research is by telling your audience how the results from the study are going to be applied in a broader sense. What’s it going to fix? How’s it going to help them? (This will take a few meetings and emails with researchers to make sure you’ve nailed it down. Don’t take their intelligence personally. Call your mom after the meeting if you need to get some encouragement and positive reinforcement about your lack of scientific knowledge. (I did.) And, always remember, the reader can tell if you actually know what you’re talking about or not. Make sure you really understand the science behind the research.
Step 4: Throw a hashtag on it
Creating a hashtag that your audience can use to follow along is going to bring it all together. Plus, your followers won’t be completely lost among all the posts. We used #DayAtTheVTH.
Step 5: Share, share, share away
I prepared the Instagram text for each post a week ahead of schedule. This allowed me to focus on taking pictures during the appointment, leaving all that fact-checking at the doggy door. Copy and paste are a beautiful, beautiful thing. Plus, it helps to have a plan. (Tip: Also share your photo/s with your Twitter audience. Make sure to leave enough characters to fit both the photo and the text!)
Takeaway point: If you have the chance to do more than tell a story, and you can actually visually explain it, DO IT.
See the entire Instagram series in this Storify.