Tag Archives: Social media

Guest posts, take-overs, interviews, and why I love them

Guest posts, take-overs and interviews are a great alternative to maintaining social media channels for every scientist / project / institution individually, if that isn’t what you want to be doing (or — as in my case — a great addition)

As I am preparing a workshop on online science communication, I have been thinking about how maintaining a quality social media presence requires high levels of dedication and commitment, as it requires a lot of work and time. And sometimes, for whatever reasons, committing that sort of time to online scicomm just can’t be the priority, and that is ok. So what do I want to recommend to people who are interested in principle, but who have concerns that it will be too expensive to maintain in the long run in terms of time or energy or ideas or motivation, or whatever else the limiting factor might be?

I think there are ways to do cool and impact-ful online scicomm without building and maintaining a personal social media presence (or focussing on one specific channel and audience and not feeling bad about not doing all the things that one could possibly do).

But first, I believe it is super important to get clear on why we want to appear on social media in the first place.

What are your objectives?

Being clear about what you are trying to achieve is always really good advice, for science communication on social media, outside of social media, for life in general. But especially if we are trying to minimize effort and maximise effects of online scicomm, it helps to be really clear about what the goal is.

If you want to build a community or regularly update a group of people on your project’s progress, having your own social media channels might be the way to go. And I am in no way trying to dissuade you from having your own social media channels! All my suggestions below also apply if you do this in addition to maintaining a regular presence on social media.

If you wanted to, for example,

  • convey a message without necessarily becoming visible as a person
  • create short-term visibility for a specific project / result / event
  • be highlighted to a specific audience that isn’t one you regularly (want to) engage with
  • brush up your CV on the online scicomm side (without too much regular work)
  • prepare content occasionally, but not regularly
  • dip your toes into doing scicomm in a specific format to see how it works for you,

below are some options worth considering.

Who is your audience?

Depending on your goals, you might want to address audiences as specific as, for example,

  • students at a specific university
  • young adults living in a specific country (or reading in a specific language)
  • PhD students working on polar sciences.

And you might want to reach all of them at different points in time, for different reasons and with different messages. For each audience you might want to reach, there are likely accounts already targeting that exact same group of people. The clearer you are about who your audience is, the easier it is to find accounts that have build already that audience to collaborate with.

What is your message?

And does conveying your message include interaction with your audience?

Once you are clear on all this, here are a couple of options worth considering.

Take-overs of rotating accounts

For many communities, rotating accounts on Twitter and Instagram exist. Those are accounts that are focussed on specific topics but are run by different people each week. The benefit of taking over those accounts is that there is a large established audience interested in your kind of content already, that you are instantly exposed to once you take over the account.

Take-overs typically require you to commit to posting on the channel a couple of times throughout the course of a week, and, depending on the size of the channel, it can be quite scary especially if you don’t have a lot of experience using social media beforehand. And, since those channels typically have quite a large following, you should not underestimate the time it will take to prepare content, overthink it, post it, agonize over it and regularly check how it is being received, and respond to people’s comments. But my experience with doing this has been very positive indeed.

For example, last year I took over @GeoSciTweeps (an account with, at that time, 4.6k followers, where each week a different person working in gesosciences presents what they do) and @IAmScicomm (where people working in/on/with science communication present themselves) with then 18.6k followers. Both weeks were great experiences that led to me making super interesting new connections and friendships. Depending on which community you want to interact with during your take-over week, there are many many more rotating accounts and it is definitely worth taking a moment to figure out which is the right account for your purposes.

My plan for my takeover of @IAmScicomm in October 2018

Similar accounts also exist on Instagram, for example @nordicpolarscience, which we used earlier this year to inform an audience of mainly students in anything related to nordic polar sciences about our fjord oceanography student cruise. See example below:

One of our guest posts on @nordicpolarscience on Instagram

Guest “take overs” for institutions

Instead of doing a take over on a rotating account, you could also do one for an institution like your university. I was asked to take over Kiel university’s Instagram @kieluni for a couple of days, and it was fun!

Caution — “take over” for an institution might mean something different than for rotating accounts. In case of Kiel uni it means you have to pre-produce content, and they will post it themselves. Which is actually very convenient (if you realize this early enough, which I did not. But you live and learn ;-)).

Instagram profile of Kiel University. The three posts visible at the bottom are mine!

This take over had unexpected effects: Before our first session using 4 rotating tables simultaneously, one of the students approached and asked me if it was me who did this takeover with the cool tank experiments on @kieluni weeks ago! Glad to prove to Torge, who was part of that conversation, that Social. Media. Works! :-)

Guest posts

Sometimes there are blogs that cater to your intended audience that are happy to accept guest posts.

A while back, I wrote a guest post at Sci/Why, a blog for Canadian science writers for kids. They invited me to write the guest post, and why not? It was fun!

Screenshot of the Sci/Why website

A really good example for a very successful guest posts is one I recently hosted on my blog: Dan’s post on an analogue activity to understand how machine learning works. This post received a lot of attention on Twitter and I am excited to provide my platform to give visibility to such a great project! If you are interested in writing about anything related to “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”, please get in touch and I am happy to host a guest post!

Another example of a guest post I did is on my friend Alice’s blog and Instagram for her #experimentalfridays series.

Guest post on Alice’s Instagram @scied_alice

What makes guest posts really convenient is that you can write them whenever it suits you, edit them as often as you might like, talk to your host about how to make them the best fit for their audience, etc.. So in a way it might feel like it is the “safest” way to do online scicomm, because it’s the slowest, most familiar way.

Being featured on accounts

There are also a lot of accounts that are happy to feature you and/or your work because their goal is community building.

For example, I was recently featured on @WeAreCAU on Instagram. Their goal is to feature people with a connection to Christian Albrechts University Kiel (CAU — hence “We are CAU”), and as an alumna I thought this was a great opportunity to connect with people at this university.

Me being featured on @WeAreCAU on Instagram

Being featured this way was also a super easy thing to do, all that was needed was a picture of myself and a short text, which I wrote when it suited me, and which they then posted when it worked with their schedule.

Providing information to other accounts

Sometimes, the goal is just to get a message out there without necessarily becoming visible as the person / project / institution behind the message. I recently met the person behind @doktorwissenschaft, a very popular german Instagram account, “Dr. Science”, who posts two science facts every day. He was happy to receive a list of ocean facts (complete with references ;-)). And using his account with 38k followers (and 3k “likes” on my most recent post on his profile) gives my content so much more visibility than I could achieve with my own channels, so I am really happy about this collaboration. Win win!

The popular Instagram-profile “Doktor Wissenschaft” posts twice daily facts in physics, chemistry and biology!

One of the ocean facts I provided to Doktor Wissenschaft

Again, this is a super easy collaboration, as both parties can work on their own schedule.

Giving interviews

This might actually be the most conventional way of reaching new audiences. And in a way it might also be the easiest way, because you are interacting with a host that will help you tailor your message to their audience, that they know a lot better than you do.

I’ve done this several times over the last year, for example on Susanne Geu’s blog, and on Ronja & Maxie’s podcast “Treibholz”.

My experience doing these guest posts, take overs, etc.

Time commitment

Depending on the kind of collaboration you choose, you need to be aware of how much work it will bring with it. I did the two twitter takeovers mentioned above while being a visiting scientist in Bergen, thinking that then at least I would have something to talk about. But trying to work on other things at the same time and going on student cruises, and that was actually a little overwhelming. Maybe also because it was the first time I tried doing something like this, but I would definitely recommend doing such takeovers on a slow week at home rather than a week where you want to make the most of visiting a place, chatting with people you don’t get to see regularly, go on cruises, etc.. Also do it during a week / in a place where you know you will have good internet access. So being on a ship might not be ideal.

On the other hand, if you choose to work with pre-produced content on channels that you will not be administering yourself when your content is being posted, this is something that you can prepare over as much time as you like and thus fit it around your schedule. So this might actually be something worth considering for a really busy and important week, on a field trip, a conference, whatever, the week your big event is taking place, to raise awareness for whatever you are up to that week without actually having to do anything about it during those busy times, and without depending on having good internet access. Provided everything is prepared beforehand…

Would I do it again?

Yes!!! As I was writing this post, more and more examples of where I have contributed to other people’s online scicomm came to my mind. I didn’t realize I had been doing it so much. And it was fun, I enjoy looking back at each individual interaction and all the different products that came out. It was also work. Of course, being suddenly able to reach audiences that I wasn’t familiar with and some that were so much larger than my usual audience was also both exciting and terrifying. I would totally do it again and I would totally recommend trying it!

And also if you are thinking about taking up a new-to-you form of scicomm, doing a guest appearance somewhere is a great way to test the waters. The coolest scicomm idea doesn’t actually carry very far if it turns out that you HATE the app you need to work with in order to communicate on a specific social media channel, you really can’t find a lot to say on a specific topic, or you find it annoying to write for a specific kind of audience. So this is a really great way to see what it would be like to do this kind of scicomm and get some reactions!

My nine most successful Instagram pictures of 2018 #2018bestnine

Interesting year-in-review: despite amazing photo opportunities in Cyprus and Norway and other beautiful places, the Kiel fjord is clearly dominating my most successful Instagram posts of 2018 (only two are not from the Kiel fjord, one is from the Kiel Canal and another one from the Eckernförde bight, so still very close to home…). But I guess it shows the “Kiel” in my Instagram handle @fascinocean_kiel wasn’t an accident ;-)

Using social media in science communication — the Kiel Science Outreach Campus shows how it’s done

One of the 2018 achievements that I feel most proud of is developing a social media strategy for the science communication research project Kiel Science Outreach Campus, and implementing it together with the project’s 11 PhD students plus a couple more colleagues who we “entrained” along the way. And now an article we wrote about the whole social media has just been published! (pdf of the article and a link to the full issue No 4 of the IPN Journal). Check it out, as well as our Twitter @KiSOC_Kiel and Instagram @KiSOC_Kiel — both lead to the project’s central social media, which in turn often link to our individual scicomm social media profiles.

Click image to reach pdf of article

A big Thank You to Sonja Taut for the super nice graphic design and print setting!

This week I am taking over @IAmScicomm!

You might think that I’d be busy enough with my visiting fellowship at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen this month, and you would be right.

However, I’ve always* wanted to take over one of the rotating Twitter accounts (You know? Those accounts that tweet about certain topics, but are being run by a different person every week. People follow it for the topic and get to see a new person’s view on things every week. A very cool thing when you want to be exposed to a lot more people than you usually are and that are all interested in that topic!). And when I signed up for it in spring, October still seemed so far away that it seemed to be a good idea to do it then.

So this week, I am curating @IAmScicomm! Which I am super excited about, although it is also kinda scary. 18.6k followers is a little different from my usual couple of hundred… Anyway, this is what I am proposing to talk about:

Come join the discussion! :-)

Last week I already did a similar thing already for @geoscitweeps.”Only” 4.6k followers were slightly less scary, and I had the super cool surface drifters to tweet about. @geoscitweeps is another really interesting account you should be following!

*Yes, ALWAYS. It was actually pretty much on top of my list when I started my private #scicommcall, only at that time there were no vacant weeks available that suited my schedule, so I put it off. But now here we are!

Asking students to take pictures to help them connect theory to the reality of their everyday lives

— This post was written for “Teaching in the Academy” in Israel, where it was published in Hebrew! Link here. —

Many times students fail to see the real-life relevance of what they are supposed to be learning at university. But there is an easy way to help them make the connection: Ask them to take pictures on their smartphones of everything they see outside of class, write a short sentence about what they took a picture of, and why it is interesting, and submit it on an electronic platform to share with you and their peers. And what just happened? You made students think about your topic on their own time!

Does it work?

Does it work? Yes! Obviously there might be some reluctance to overcome at first, and it is helpful to either model the behaviour you want to see yourself, or have a teaching assistant show the students what kind of pictures and texts you are looking for.

Do I have to use a specific platform?

Do I have to use a specific platform? No! I first heard about this method after Dr. Margaret Rubega introduced the #birdclass hashtag on Twitter for her ornithology class. But I have since seen it implemented in a “measuring and automation technology” class that already used a Facebook group for informal interactions (see here), and by a second class on the university’s conventional content management system. All that is required is that students can post pictures and other students can see them.

Do you have examples?

One example from my own teaching in physical oceanography: Hydraulic jumps (see figure below). The topic of hydraulic jumps is often taught theoretically only and in a way that students have a hard time realizing that they can actually observe them all the time in their real lives, for example when washing your dishes, cleaning your deck or taking a walk near a creek. But when students are asked to take pictures of hydraulic jumps, they start looking for them, and noticing them. And even if all of this only takes 30 seconds to take and post a picture (and most likely they spent more time thinking about it!), that’s 30 extra seconds a student thought about your content, that otherwise he or she would have only thought about doing their dishes or cleaning their deck or their car.

hydraulic_jumps

Collection of many images depicting hydraulic jumps found in all kinds of environments of daily life

And even if you do this with one single topic and not every single topic in your class, once students start looking at the world through the kind of glasses that let them spot the hydraulic jumps, they are going to start spotting theoretical oceanography topics everywhere. They will have learned to actually observe the kind of content you care about in class, but in their own world, making your class a lot more relevant to them.

An additional benefit is that you, as the instructor, can also use the pictures in class as examples that students can relate to. I would recommend picking one or two pictures occasionally, and discussing for a minute or two why they are good examples of the topic and what is interesting about them. You can do this as introduction to that day’s topic or as a random anecdote to engage students. But acknowledging the students’ pictures and expanding on their thoughts is really useful to keep them engaged in the topic and make them excited to submit more and better pictures (hence to find better examples in their lives, which means to think more about your course’s topic).

Does this work for subjects outside of STEM, too?

Does this work for subjects outside of STEM, too? Yes! In a language class, for example, you could ask people to submit pictures of something “typically English [or whatever language you are teaching]”. You can then use the pictures to talk about cultural features or prejudices. This could also be done in a social science context. In history, you might ask for examples of how a specific historical period influences life today. In the end, it is not about students finding exact equivalents – it is about them trying to relate their everyday lives to the topics taught in class and the method presented in this article is just a method to help you accomplish that.

P.S.: This text originally appeared on my website as a page. Due to upcoming restructuring of this website, I am reposting it as a blog post. This is the original version last modified on October 1st, 2016.

I might write things differently if I was writing them now, but I still like to keep my blog as archive of my thoughts.