3N. Benefits of Facebook as a research communication platform
Many people use Facebook for personal networking, but it can also be a very effective medium for engaging people in science. Instead of setting up a personal profile (that only friends can see), you would set up a public Facebook page or create a Facebook group.
Setting up a Facebook page or group is quick and easy, provided you already have a Facebook account. Make sure whether you need permission from your organisation (if the page or group will be linked to your work) and think of a relevant, easy-to-remember name.
Facebook has over 1 billion subscribers. On this platform you can target exactly the demographic you wish and have direct communication with your audience.
If you are completely new to Facebook, follow these steps to sign up:
Facebook groups are useful for people who share a specific interest, for example public engagement with research.
While public Facebook pages are open for anyone to read and access content, Facebook Groups are private and have three access options: You can create a group that is either:
Open – anyone can join and access content
Closed – anyone can ask to join, but the administrator must approve first (with this setting you can also remove or block a member if necessary)
Secret – only invited users can join and access content.
Groups have ‘administrators’ who manage the group, approve applicants or invite others to join. It is a good tool to connect and share with a more focused group of people.
You can adjust the settings so that any approved group member can post content, but as administrator you can delete inappropriate content.
One of the advantages of a Facebook group over a page is that groups allow you to share documents and other files. These files remain in a centralised place and do not disappear down an ever-scrolling timeline.
As administrator of a specific page or group on Facebook, you are able to access valuable analyses on your page, which provides demographic information about who the visitors on your page are and how much time they spent on specific links.
Examples of Facebook groups relevant to research communication
Market your page or group at every possible opportunity.
Post relevant, new and useful materials regularly to keep your page or group fresh.
When you share posts from other pages or groups, make sure you add a short comment on its relevance or significance to your followers.
If you mention people or groups you know are on Facebook, tag them as this increases reach.
Interact with others and your audience by responding to their posts and comments.
Use the analytical tools on Facebook to monitor how people are engaging with your content.
Always be professional in the content you share via a Facebook page or group that is connected to your work.
Facebook has an option to edit a post. Read your own posts carefully and correct any errors immediately.
Note: Facebook is only one of many social media platforms that offer huge potential for public research communication and public engagement. Others include Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, and many other – including, of course – Twitter! If you don’t know these platforms, start exploring them by simply finding them via “Google” and then searching for “scicomm”; “science communication”; “research communication” or “public engagement” within each one.