10 February 2020

Widen Your Reach with Social Media

Posted by Shane Hanlon

Sample page from an NCEI Instagram Story publicizing the U.S. Drought Monitor.

By Greg Hammer

I recently read that in the United States alone, nearly 400,000 scientific papers are published each year. That’s a lot of competition for attention to your paper. How do you stand out in the crowd? Using social media can help.

How? If you are social-media savvy, then using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms can provide audiences a gateway to your work. If you need guidance, look for help from your colleagues or communications staff.*

As a science communicator for many years, I’ve seen the power of social media give traction to the work of numerous scientists and critical topics. You’ve worked hard to get published—so don’t let your paper get lost!

Does your workplace have a public-facing website? If so, pursue publishing a story about your paper. A web story can be a link for more information in your social media posts. A good technical writer can craft a web story that will translate your findings into easily accessible, plain language that will engage readers to learn more about your work.

If your workplace has any social media accounts, leverage them. Create a social media plan to promote your findings. Every platform has its own characteristics:

NOAA Twitter thread about drought.


Facebook is a great medium to post a short or long blurb about your paper, with tags and links to your work. Facebook also lets you add pictures, create photo albums, slideshows, and even post video. These can illustrate your work and make it interesting and accessible to the public and a wider audience overall.


Use Twitter to grab attention and provide “tidbits” of information about your paper. Although tweets are limited to a maximum of 280 characters, “threading” them means the length of your message is unlimited. Append pictures and videos to your tweets.


Instagram is a visual medium. Use graphic design tools such as Canva to create an “Instastory” that tells a story. With just a few slides, you can illustrate your research and pique someone’s curiosity about your findings.

Whether you have a comms team or are on your own, give your findings a chance to be discovered on social media. After all, knowledge is best when shared.

*If you don’t have a comms team to help, be sure to have someone proofread your posts and provide an overall review before publishing.

– Greg Hammer is a meteorologist at NOAAs National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, NC, and has a passion for effective science communication. When not in the office, he enjoys practicing Bikram (hot) yoga, spending time outdoors with his dog Salsa, and traveling. This spring, for fun, he is learning to be a whitewater rafting guide.