Social Media is No Longer a Science Experiment

By C&EN Media Group

Social media 101: Posts, shares and tweets work best when done consistently. A one-off tweet or link is unlikely to influence anyone. A well-built social campaign on the other hand, can trigger an avalanche of awareness and action. Heck – it can even help win elections.

Many scientific products are inherently challenging to share and rally behind (safety data sheet software anyone?), but there’s plenty of news that does deserve a campaign. It’s an option for any event, announcement or launch; be it a brand refresh, a new product or to promote your booth at an upcoming conference.

For each of these, your company will have identified (formally or informally) a marketing communications goal. Do you want to build demand for your latest lab instrument or increase brand awareness of your new chemicals division? Your social media push will be an extension of this goal – and it can be a powerful one.

Below we break down the key elements needed to make a cumulative impact with your campaign, including tips on workflow, content and audience development.

Custom Web SymposiaBefore the LaunchDon’t launch your campaign without checking off these six tips for campaign success.

1. Determine your audience. Audiences can be targeted based on several demographics and psychographics including age, geographic location and lifestyle. However, determining who they are is just the beginning. You’ll also need to sketch out what it is they want. What information would they appreciate you sharing? What challenges do they face in the lab or out in the field? It’s important to sound relatable. Answering these questions can also help you develop a library of relevant images to accompany different posts. Do your research to ensure you reach your audiences with appropriate content, through the right forums and with the right tone.

2. Expand your reach. Whether or not your social media accounts have a strong following, it’s good practice to update them before a campaign. Follow any new thought leaders – it attracts positive attention and there’s a chance they’ll reciprocate. Also have a scroll through LinkedIn to see if any new groups have emerged in your specific science sector. Some groups allow you to post directly to their page. For others, you may be able to build a relationship with the host and gain community access through them. To really expand your reach, check out other platforms, such as ResearchGate and YouTube.

3. Recruit your team. Another way to amplify your message is to have members of your organization tweet and echo your posts. It’s also a nice variation to have a ‘person’ sharing information, not just a company account. Encourage your scientists and product experts to get on board and then set up a system for e-mailing content reminders and tips for easy sharing. Let them know it’s a short-term push and that their input really counts.

4. Add some genius: There are a number of ways you can inject some interest and freshness into your social media content.

• Create a campaign #hashtag. Brainstorm a fresh hashtag that speaks to your brand and content, while offering something new. Double-check the hashtag is not already in use – you don’t want to affiliate yourself with a silly, offensive, or confusing trend.

• Give your posts a boost with paid social advertising. The dominant platforms all offer paid promotions, which can be a great investment if you need to build a substantial following or want to drive extra traffic to your website.

• Host a contest. Instead of a simple calendar of posts, consider creating a competition to truly engage with your audience. The community submits, comments and shares photos and videos, creating a lively social forum. Alternatively, you can submit a photo yourself and encourage entrants to create the best caption.

• Create a Viral Sweepstakes: Ever ‘checked in’ at a restaurant or café to collect something free (and tasty)? Most of us will readily share posts and ads on social media in return for a free macaroon. Giving away company merchandise is a good option, as it simultaneously positions your brand. Alternatively, invest in one high-value prize, which people enter a drawing to win if they share. (These types of contests are also great ways to get people to interact with you as a booth activity.)

5. Establish a clear timeline for the campaign. A start date, end date and schedule for each post should be arranged before you begin. A spreadsheet can help you organize the calendar to avoid overlaps or gaps in frequency. But don’t limit your flexibility: you want to be able to retweet and share your audience’s engagement with your campaign as it happens, alongside a few regular posts that your followers are used to (e.g. current events, industry updates).

6. Carve out your plan for measuring success. Outline clear, measurable goals that tie back to your broader business objectives. This means choosing metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that go beyond the social platforms, such as the number of people clicking through to your website or landing page. To distinguish the origin of website traffic, you may need to create individual links (through bit.ly or another URL-shortening service) for tracking before the project begins. If one of your goals is to determine which social platform works best for you, then create separate tracking links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. If understanding the overall importance of your social activity is more important, you could simply create one link with the word ‘social’ included in the parameters.

C&EN eBooksDuring the Campaign: Adopt these best practices to maximize the impact.

1. Engage your audience. Throughout the campaign, it’s important to interact with your community. A positive, personal exchange will draw customers in, even if only for a shout-out. Ensure at least one of your employees is accountable for posting, checking and responding to communication on the platforms. If no one is accountable, replies can fall between the cracks. If you created a hashtag, this must be monitored closely.

If you can, interact with journalists and bloggers to increase media traffic and open up additional channels for reach. You may also want to identify times of the day that will gain you the most exposure. Tools such as Hootsuite allow you to queue your posts to automatically send at peak times.

2. Add photos and videos where possible. According to Buffer Social’s social media study, images receive 37 percent more interaction than text-only posts, so keep it visual! Include your own images or post relevant memes and GIFs. Tip: Make sure they’re labeled for reuse to avoid copyright infringement, or consider engaging a designer to create something unique.

3. Track your success. The management tools and monitoring efforts provide a general idea of the campaign’s popularity. Analytic tools can help determine which demographics are most responsive and where to focus your efforts to improve the campaign. Many are free and easy to install and use, including Hootsuite for Twitter and Google Analytics, which has many uses. (Check out a list of free options here.)

How to Pitch Science JournalistsFinal Thoughts

The trick to social media is making it look professional. So often the role is delegated to the freshest employee or intern, with little coaching or strategic input. These campaigns inevitably look amateur and potentially do more harm than good. Your newest hire can execute the posts for efficiency’s sake; but bring your best and brightest in for the strategy and planning phase. With preparation you can maximize audience reach and achieve your company goals. Once you’ve got the basics sorted, remember to have some fun. #

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