I Am SciComm is a science communication (SciComm) twitter account with nearly 30,000 followers. @IAmSciComm provides a public platform for connecting scientists, science writers, and the lay public. Administrating @IAmSciComm can seem daunting, but it is an exciting and important opportunity to chat about the best ways to communicate science — an urgent need in a pandemic.
This blog will discuss some of the tips that I learned for manning the @iamscicomm communication page. These tips will help you grow you twitter account while talking about my case study with SciComm. A meaningful experience for scientists and general audiences alike, bridging the gap between science and the lay community. Read on to learn the six tips that worked best for me.
The first tip for manning the @iamscicomm twitter page is to be prepared for the experience by planning ahead. You can’t over-prepare. I found it extremely useful to write down everything you are planning to post ahead of time. This will not only set you up to respond quickly and thoughtfully, but it will set you up with the @iamscicomm mindset ahead of time.
This tip comes from Meredith Schmehl, a neuroscience PhD candidate and avid and talented science communicator at Duke University. Meredith provides examples and links to her writing and tips for meaningful and engaging science communication on her website.
The purpose of @iamscicomm is to bridge the gap between science and the public. Your followers, whether fellow scientists or science communicators, science students, or lay people, are the heart and soul of the @iamscicomm community. Followers give legitimacy and visibility to the @iamscicomm community and a learning experience for science communicators.
For these reasons, spending time with your followers should be a top priority. Make sure that you are not simply present but are engaging your followers in meaningful discussions and thought-provoking exchanges. This is an excellent opportunity to increase interest and engagement in @iamscicomm (not to mention your own science communication work!).
@iamscicomm is a Twitter page, so tweeting is necessarily the platform for reaching your audience. You should write short, engaging tweets that communicate your points in a clear, meaningful, and approachable way. Make sure that whatever you tweet it is aimed at connecting you and your audience.
Videos and GIFs are an excellent way to promote engagement with the @iamscicomm community and lay audience. Tweeting at peak hours is the best way to increase visibility and thus is also key to garnering audience engagement. For me, I chose the peak hours of 12p and 3p to focus on tweeting.
If tweeting from @iamscicomm is the way to start the conversation, tweetstorming @iamscicomm is like picking up a microphone and walking on stage. Tweetstorms are an excellent way to maximize visibility and engagement. An interesting tweetstorm will not only bring your audience in but it will keep them hanging on your every tweet.
Your use of tweets should focus on visibility and engagement over other tweets and twitter feeds, key to this is getting the audience to your tweets in the first place. Your time as a host is an excellent opportunity to promote your tweetstorms and enlarge your audience.
@iamscicomm is also an excellent community-building opportunity for fellow scientists and science communicators. You should take this (and every) opportunity to reach out to your compatriots in the science and science communication world and ask them questions, ask them for advice, and learn from their experiences and insights.
During my time manning @iamscicomm, I reached out to Dr. Peter Hotez, among others, and used the opportunity to ask him about best practices to prevent COVID-19 spread over the holidays. This ended up being very fruitful! They all shared many valuable insights that I can take with me and pass along.
Remember, the first tip was to be prepared by planning ahead. You spent all of that time preparing your script – when you are manning @iamscicomm you need to stick to that script. The key idea when you are preparing your script is to mold the discussion to each day’s theme.
When you have a specific and realistic script, applying it to questions and discussions as they arise is relatively easy. Even where you may need to make minor adjustments to your script, you are directing the conversation, so use your script to steer the conversation and keep it on track.
Hosting the @Iamscicomm Twitter account was not an easy experience. It demanded a lot not only in preparation, but in energy and engagement throughout the actual event. However, this is exactly why these types of SciComm events are so important.
Effective SciComm is key to building a better, healthier, wiser society. This is accomplished through making complex accessible to a general audience. SciComm is of paramount importance in a pandemic, when people need to be able to understand the science of COVID-19 to live the healthiest, best lives. Science literacy has become a public safety concern during the pandemic, which has provided a stark example of exactly why it is so important to increase public engagement, understanding, and trust in science.