We’ve all heard the excuses justifying social media avoidance syndrome:
“You can’t control the message!”
“How can you capture the impact of my research in 140 characters?”
“Does anyone really read these things?”
But recent work by @TheLibaLab in the Warner College of Natural Resources helps assuage those fears and encourages using Twitter to reach audiences beyond people who attend scientific meetings and read journals.
In an upcoming paper, “Using Twitter to communicate conservation science beyond professional conferences,” the group details an analysis of live tweets from sessions at the 2013 International Congress for Conservation Biology to find out how accurately the presenters felt they were represented.
Interestingly, despite the short format and lack of oversight, most presenters felt confident about how their talks were tweeted.
Why do you feel it is important to use Twitter for science communication?
Travis Gallo: We want to gain greater exposure and impact for the conservation science underway in our lab, at CSU and beyond. We think Twitter is a great tool for distilling what we’re publishing for our peers in scientific journals for a much larger, more diverse, audience. We want our work to have an impact beyond academic circles.
Sara Bombaci: Twitter is often used to tweet out findings from scientific conferences and as a venue to promote science communication. It is already happening there. We want to join that conversation.
Gallo: It is also about timing. A lot of the issues we work on in conservation have a serious sense of urgency to them. We want our findings to get out quickly and accurately so that our science is relevant to decision making.
What has the response to your paper been on Twitter?
SB: A lot of the tweets we’ve seen about the paper have been pretty good. Since it has been in the accepted section of the journal it’s been tweeted about over 200 times. For this journal it is now one of the top papers ever discussed over social media.
Cooper Farr: Even when people are just tweeting out the title with a link, that is great exposure for our research.
TG: We haven’t seen a lot of flagrant fouls out there about our work. I haven’t seen any tweets that really missed the boat.
What’s been the most interesting thing that has come out of your twitter conversations?
TG: This all started because we had a lab discussion about a paper focused on twitter use at conferences. I tagged the author in a tweet saying we were chatting about the paper, and he responded during our discussion. We were able to tweet him questions during the discussion and he was happy to interact with us. That was pretty powerful.
What’s your advice for others thinking about starting a twitter feed?
TG: Get on and just do it. Test a few things out and find some #’s that work for the science you are passionate about. Tag some folks and see how things can snowball. There’s really not a whole lot of risk.
So if you have some folks in your college struggling with social media avoidance, and always lamenting their messages not getting out, point them here and tell them to follow @TheLibaLab to see how the group is communicating their science to diverse audiences beyond their peers.
While this small example likely won’t completely solve the struggle, it should lay to rest some common concerns about communicating with social media, and even in the language of our people – a scientific journal.