How I reached 2,000 Twitter Followers… for Science


Sometime late last night I reached the big 2k on Twitter. Some may see this as child’s play, but 2,000 Twitter followers for a modest science communication enthusiast? Ecstatic!

In honor of this milestone, I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned along the way about communicating science on social media. I’ve also learned a lot teaching Strategic Social Media #Manship4002 this semester, about best practices to engage your Twitter followers!

  • Everything you say is public. Think before you Tweet…
  • But don’t think too much. Have fun!
  • Tweet about your passions, in science and in life.
  • Balance tweets about research with tweets about life, about you and your “story.” People follow you on Twitter to hear YOUR opinions and learn more about you – not just to follow your awesome science links (although those help!)
  • Don’t follow all the rules. There’s tons of advice out there on what days to tweet, what times to tweet, what to tweet. But developing your own style and your own rules is important. If I have an awesome idea about science communication research at midnight – I tweet about it… at midnight. I tweet interesting ideas, questions and ponderings I have as I have them, regardless of the time of day. Who knows – you might catch someone in another time zone!
  • Tweet honestly. Don’t oversell on sensational headlines and under-deliver on thoughtful content. Honest tweets make honest followers.
  • Check the content of a link before you retweet it or share it on Twitter. Is it good, accurate, thoughtful science storytelling? Read those blog posts and news articles before you share them.
  • But share often!
  • Don’t be selfish. DO follow others with similar interests, and those who regularly tweet great stuff. Do retweet others, and give them credit for finding and sharing that awesome science story.
  • If you share a blog post or news article, mention the author of the piece on Twitter.
  • When you share that science link, don't be afraid to include your own thoughts, questions or opinions in the tweet. That's why we follow you - we think you are smart and interesting, and we want to know what YOU think about that story!
  • It’s not all about talking. Spend some time reading others’ tweets on your timeline, and engaging in stimulating conversations with others about science and science communication! Smart use of hashtags can help.
  • Branch out: It’s great to have a regular community of people you talk to on Twitter, but reach out to new people too. As a scientist, what would be better than seeking out science students and answering their questions on Twitter? Share your thoughts freely and widely.
  • Respond to people who mention you and ask you questions as much as possible.
  • There’s no such thing as tweeting too much. Ok so maybe there is – but who cares? As long as you are sharing thoughts and ideas that you think matter, keep on a’sharing!
  • Don’t get hung up on Twitter analytics, and trying to figure out why those 2 followers unfollowed you today. “Was it something I said? Am I not appealing to my audiences?” Unless you’re a big brand or PR firm, don’t get caught up in those questions. People will continue following you if you share content that matters to you, that is of high quality, and that is interesting science. Believe me, you’d rather have 2,000 engaged followers who are truly interested in your content and opinions than 5,000 followers who are there but don’t engage.
  • Please, Please, Please, don’t be rude or profane. Conversations are great, critical debate is great, mudslinging is not.
  • Tweet like you're sharing a conversation over coffee with someone.
  • Did something just inspire you? Make you think? Make you remember why you love science or research? For goodness sakes, Tweet it!
  • Ask questions! You’d be surprised the wonderful input you can get from other scientists and science communicators if you ask honest questions and listen intently.
  • Have fun!


Have tips of your own? Please comment or Tweet me!