Researchers and scientists are being encouraged to create a social media presence and engage with SciComm online. This is awesome! It means we are one step further in making research more accessible. But, with the variety of social media platforms available, one of the most frequent questions I get is: which platform do I have to be on? How do I choose a social media platform for Science Communication?
I get the confusion. There are just too many options, and the landscape changes all the time. Every few months, there is a new hot platform that people just can’t shut up about. And you just don’t know what to do.
The truth is: there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
A lot of the advice out there suggests that you should pick your platform based on your audience. This is based on the fact that each platform tends to have a specific type of audience that already flocks to them, and you need to be mindful of where your audience might be.
This is true to some extent – you might not want to focus your efforts on LinkedIn if you are trying to reach teenagers. However, I find that at this point in time, the big networks have reached a stage of mass adoption. So you are likely to find your audience on most of those platforms.
Having said that, sometimes there could be a slight difference in numbers, especially if you have a very specific audience in mind. Let me explain. Let’s say your main goal is to connect with other academics. In terms of sheer numbers, I might be inclined to agree that Twitter probably has the largest number of academics at the moment, so you might be tempted to think that for your purposes, this is the best social media platform for Science Communication. However, I am also absolutely sure you will find plenty of researchers and scientists on every social media platform out there. As unlikely as it may sound, there is, for instance, a thriving community of researchers on Instagram, and even some TikTok stars are scientists. Also, social media goes through cycles, and who is to say we won’t all be on a completely new platform in a couple of years?
So, my advice is to make your choice based on your own preferences. Even if you do want to reach other scientists, if you don’t like Twitter, then you are just going to hate spending time there. I am sure you are too busy as it is, and you don’t have time to waste trying to do SciComm on a social media platform that you hate.
Instead, I suggest you actually think about the best way to communicate your message, and what do you like to produce. Social media is all about consistency, so you need to consider what kind of content you can realistically produce regularly.
If you prefer writing, you might actually quite like Twitter (especially if snappy one-liners are your thing!), or maybe you might prefer to forgo social media altogether and start a blog instead.
If your research lends itself to tons of cool photos or visuals, you might enjoy a visual-heavy platform more, and your research might be a great fit for Instagram.
If you have a movie-maker hidden inside of you, YouTube might be your network of choice. Or maybe you will feel inspired by TikTok’s fast-paced videos and creative transitions, and want to give it a go.
If you are camera-shy and would rather not show your face at all, have you thought about starting a podcast or trying your hand at the new-kid-on-the-block Clubhouse?
At the end of the day, there are a variety of ways you can present information. The best social media platform for Science Communication will be the platform that works for you and your research. It will be one that you enjoy spending time on and can consistently create content for – and if your content is good, I am sure you will find an audience there.
If you know how to communicate your research well, you will find an audience on any platform.