Social Media And Quiz!

In advance of a recent COMPASS communication training for university faculty, I gathered responses to the question: Do you use social media such as Twitter and Facebook?  Here’s a representative sample of their answers:
•    No
•    No blogs or social media
•    No, I do not use any of the social media mentioned above
•    No
•    I have a twitter account but do not use it
•    I do not read blogs and do not use social media
•    Not really

Image courtesy of Jess3 via

I was pretty surprised by these responses… but then again I have only been to a few trainings since starting with COMPASS. So I asked Liz Neeley, our resident social and new media expert, about how the comfort level with new media in this training stacked up to others she’s given in the past. As it turns out… this group wasn’t atypical at all!  In fact, in a standard group size of 20 participants, we usually only have one or two people who are established users of social media, about 7 or 8 who have inactive or infrequently used accounts, and the rest are generally aware that it exists, but don’t engage in social media personally.

So, if nearly all scientists are aware that this world of new media exists, why aren’t scientists, broadly speaking, engaging? Liz says a lot of it is, “a healthy skepticism about return on investment of engaging in new media.”  But, as I observed, there was also barrier to entry – new media has a learning curve…even it’s own jargon – that to the uninitiated, or simply to the healthy skeptic, can be off-putting. Several scientists suggested that they didn’t fully understand the meaning of about one in five words of our rapid-fire social media talk until we stopped to define them. Largely, the jargon is also a factor of how many tools exist; there’s also a learning curve in keeping track of all of them and what each can offer.

But once you’ve overcome those barriers, social media can be totally worth it.  One thing that can help, is observing how social capital can work firsthand. Using a site called Storify, I’ve curated the responses to a question that Liz asked on Twitter and other social media sites. She reached out to about 30 people directly and posted a public request for advice for skeptics on why to engage in social media. Overnight she received 17 answers via Twitter, and even more the following day.  That doesn’t even count the 13 more responses on Facebook or the 7 on Google+.

So how do we get scientists from severe skepticism to appreciation, understanding, and ultimately engagement?  Baby steps!  Liz Neeley suggests to start by taking an online self-inventory – Googling yourself to see what already exists and what might need fixing or updating.  “When a journalist or someone like me Googles your name, something current – your lab website, including a picture, what you work on, links out to the rest of your presence on the web, etc. – must come up.” Not only that, she adds, but it should also look and feel new and current, and information about your work should be written at a level that the public can understand. Also, if you have a common name, like Jane Smith, utilizing the techniques of search engine optimization – so that when I Google Jane Smith vs. Jane Smith fisheries – helps ensure that you are first to appear (see pdf for a starter guide). This is especially useful for journalists and can also help guide what is written about you.

From there it’s all about learning about the right tools, and knowing the lingo.  Take our new media quiz (you’ll have to enter a name and email address to take it) to see how you stack up against other scientists and learn some of the most common words that scientists flag as the jargon of new media.

*Please note that due to the limitations of the rudimentary quiz builder we’ve used, you won’t be able to see the right answer if you submit an incorrect response.  We hope that you’ll take this opportunity to find out more about the topics that you’re unfamiliar with by Googling jargon, and using the quiz as a jumping off point for new, new media knowledge!  Please comment below if you have any questions/comments, and happy quizzing!

About Heather Reiff

Heather Reiff is the Science Policy Coordinator at COMPASS. She lives and works in Oregon, and draws inspiration from her local surroundings, as well as pictures and dreams of past and future travels. Her previous life as a dive instructor provides many underwater pictures to help fuel that inspiration.

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