On Monday 5th December, the Sparks & Co team attended the 3rd Digital Communication Observatory of Research Organizations, which took place in the Ministry of Research in Paris. As a Masters student in European Communication, it was very interesting to hear about scientific communication, which is very different from what I learned before. During this meeting, I had the opportunity to see the evolution of the use of social media for communications by French research organizations since 2014.
The event was hosted by The Ministry of Research and Sircome, a strategy consulting firm. They conducted a study between June and December 2016 on the use of social media by French research organizations and shared the outcomes during the meeting.
In order to give a clear insight of how the use of social media has evolved, Mathieu Jahnich, the CEO of Sircome, made a summary of the last studies undertaken in 2012 and 2014 before revealing the results of this year’s study:
The discovery of social media
The study of 2012 by Sircome revealed that research organizations started to use social media and were looking for the way to exploit this new tool of communication. Obviously, research organizations realized how important it was to exist on the web and update their pages on a regular basis by publishing their results and communicating about them.
According to the people interviewed by Sircome, this change wasn’t accepted by everyone yet for a number of reasons. One reason is because of the negative image of communication in the research community which can be often mistaken with adverstising, some distrust among the hierarchy who don’t know how communication could be useful for them and their results or noinvestment in the financial and human resources sectors of the research institutions that are dedicated to communication. The investment of research organizations towards social media was visible through the creation of accounts on different platforms and the content shared on their pages, but to go further, it became necessary to implement a strategy.
Sircome published an interesting infographic to summarise how the use social media by 30 French research organizations has evolved between their last study in 2012 and 2014:
The research organisations studied had experimented with different social media platforms and resulted in an increased global number of followers.
The study of 2014 by Sircome highlighted the professionalization of the use of social media by research organizations: each social media platform has its own public and a specific function. According to their study, Twitter became the favourite media to address journalists and professionals; Facebook is the way to reach the general public, while Youtube and Dailymotion is used to humanize science and conquer a new type of public.
The statistics from the infographic above reveal some changes in communication strategy: research organizations now developed exchanges with the communities they succeeded to reach and gather, rather than only publishing content. However, some scientific journalists raised the issue of the difficulty to at this time where information is easy to get but not always exact or robust. This is the reason why, if they want to investigate further it is still necessary for them to count on a reliable press office and meet the scientists.
…to a stabilised use
After the discovery and the professionalisation, the study of 2016 by Sircome presented a stabilisation in the use of social media and the increased efficiency of the communication strategy as it became common to integrate social media in their global strategy.
The activity has increased on the following social media:
- Twitter: where researchers, scientific mediators and economic partners can exchange as a community
- Facebook: followers of the research organisation, mainly from the general public, can easily follow and share their posts
- LinkedIn: this social media conquered the research community and is seen as a professional tool to connect with the potential partners, who don’t have an account on Researchgate, on diverse projects
- Youtube is used to reach the scientific vloggers as broadcasting science became a trend
Based on 35 French research organizations, the study revealed that between 2014 and 2016, research organisations that benefitted from 8 times more followers on Twitter, 4 times more fans on their Facebook pages, 3 times more followers on LinkedIn, and Youtube became more efficient than Dailymotion to reach a wider audience.
The current use of social media by research organization resulted in an increase of followers and confirmed the professionalisation of social media use since they implemented a reorganization of the communication office. For instance, the people in charge of social media and those of public relations work in pairs or have implemented a matrix-style organisation for the communication team: in which each person works on one audience, one theme or using one specific tool. Those strategies contribute to a coherent global communication strategy and will allow research organization to increase their visibility and shine.
To conclude the main points of this meeting about the use of social media by research organization, I would like to share with you the point of view of Valeria Ramirez, counsellor for Sircome since 2012. She noticed 3 categories of research organization: “the superstar” which are very active and visible on the web, “the integrated” who understood the codes of social media but don’t have the resources yet to implement a communication strategy and finally “the constrained” who are aware of the importance of social media to exist but don’t yet know how to exploit this new tool. During the discussion, some participants raised the topic about the use of social media by researchers. Indeed, some of them would appreciate to learn about the career? Those requests from the researchers might be the opportunity for research organization to strengthen their reputation.
As it was said during this event, strategy is the key of a successful communication. Fortunately, here at Sparks & Co we have a team of expert communicators to help you set up a personalised communication strategy to attain your impact and reach objectives. If you are interested in personalised communication services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye on our blogs for more interesting information and helpful tips on numerous different subjects!