I get it, trust me.
Many of us have been tasked to make science social, something that’s easier said than done. CSU Social has especially attempted to present high-level research happening at Colorado State University in a visually-compelling way over the last couple years, and here’s what we’ve done so far this year.
Facebook Live lab tour
We’re touring the lab of CSU researchers who dissect mosquito midguts to learn more about preventing the transmission of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever from mosquitos to humans.
Posted by Colorado State University on Friday, February 16, 2018
Since I split my time between CSU Social and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, I am positioned well to experiment mixing science and social. One tactic that works great is Facebook Live.
We hosted CSU’s first Facebook Live lab tour with two CSU researchers who dissect mosquito midguts to learn more about preventing the transmission of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever from mosquitos to humans. We timed the lab tour to the release of their research results, which were published in PLOS Pathogens the day before. The Facebook Live video was successful, reaching 17,000 people and currently has 8,000 views.
Facebook Live isn’t just important algorithmically. It can also act as a tool for media pickup. We hosted the second live lab tour on CSU’s Facebook page this week at the Crab Lab, which caught the attention of 9News, a Denver news station. See the 9News article on the Crab Lab here.
Above 👆 If you’re curious about what we use to host our Facebook Live videos, it’s Switcher Studio, which I blogged about two months ago.
Filming anything live is stressful, and we take major precautions for live lab tours. First, we meet with the researchers to talk about what they do and take a look at their lab. We come back a second time for a trial run. We act as if it’s a real Facebook Live, and rehearse exactly what will be said and what will be shown. This helps us identify any potential risks and opportunities before we actually go live. We typically only do one run-through, because we still want the video to feel like a live experience, not overly rehearsed. The third time we meet, we go live. One person is always monitoring the live video on Facebook to ensure nothing goes awry without us knowing.
Social-style research video (aka video slideshow)
Boris, a 32-year-old polar bear from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, is the first polar bear to receive stem cell therapy. Our own Dr. Val Johnson performed the procedure to help Boris with his arthritis.
Posted by Colorado State University on Friday, February 23, 2018
My second example for making science social works particularly well if you want to create a video about science or research, but have limited footage. This style of video, which I’m sure you’ve seen in your newsfeed, can also be viewed without sound, making it particularly easy for the viewer to consume.
Note: Although you don’t need very much (or any) video footage for this style of video, a diverse variety of pictures/graphics is important to keep the viewer interested.
Chase had been interested in trying this social-style video for a few months, and waited for the right opportunity: a polar bear receiving stem cell therapy from one of our veterinarians. We had photos of Boris the polar bear from the zoo, photos from the actual procedure, and some video of our veterinarian performing the same procedure on a giraffe the year before.
We also had a story from our public relations writer, Mary Guiden, as the foundation for our script. I fleshed out the script (short and sweet, around 12-15 words per picture), and Chase went to work on editing the video. The video of Boris the polar bear features mostly static images, but Chase applied movement to the photos and text, making the video more visually appealing. It took about three hours for us to complete, but was still faster than filming and producing the video from scratch. And, it was successful. The video reached 140,000 people and received 2,500 reactions, comments and shares.
The beauty of video slideshows is if you don’t have all the images you need, you can also use some stock images to fill in the gaps. If you don’t have all the video editing skillz required to create a video like this, there are free/cheap tools out there, like Animoto, that help creators make their own video slideshows fast and easy.
Promoting a scientific event
Events aren’t easy to promote on social media, especially science symposiums. This year, to help promote the Women in Science Symposium, an event that discusses gender-bias in science careers and celebrates the science-related career paths of women, we wanted to do something different and fun.
Rachel Yager, the assistant director of communications for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, found a video by Microsoft of little girls interested in science reading encouraging letters from Microsoft. So we did it, too. It’s a different way to promote an event, and I think anytime you can do something a little different to capture your audience’s attention, it’s not a bad idea.
The final product is super sweet, and the girls are actually attending the Women in Science Symposium this week to meet the CSU researchers who wrote the letters. The video hasn’t gone live on our social media accounts, yet, so I can’t give you any analytics. But I’ll update my blog when I post the video.
Someone asked our team recently if we think we lead social media trends or are part of them. We’re definitely part of them. Yes, we like to to lead when we can, but we definitely keep an eye out for what successful brands on social do. When we see something that works well for other brands, we try it out on CSU Social.
So, my only takeaway is this: Experiment. If you see something in your newsfeed you like, try applying it to your university’s brand. If it doesn’t work, don’t get down. One of Google’s eight pillars of success is to actually fail fast. So don’t be afraid to take risks or fail, and make sure to have some fun, too.