Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and not just for individual use. Social media is an important tool for businesses, including science-focused businesses. So exactly what is social media used for in business? It’s all about relationships and connecting with customers, partners, and the public. In this article, we explore the use of social media for science communication and reasons why science-focused organizations need social media and highlight common social media platforms and how to use them.
What is Social Media Used for in Business?
Savvy business owners and marketers recognize social media marketing for what it is: an essential business initiative for building brand awareness that generates both current and future sales. Fundamentally, social media is good for business.
Different social media platforms provide a multitude of ways for science-focused businesses to communicate with their current audience and engage with new people. So, it’s probably no surprise that the use of social media for science communication varies by industry and company. Ultimately, every science-focused organization has to develop its own specific social media strategy.
Generally, factoring in these reasons for being on social media will help in the creation and maintenance of an effective social media presence:
Reason #1: Explain what you do and why.
What you do is obvious to you because you do it every day, but unless you tell others, most people don’t know what you do and why. You can use social media to explain not only the science behind your work but also to describe its benefits. Keep your explanations simple, accessible, and relatable.
Reason #2: Promote products and services.
This one is obvious, but it still needs to be said since it’s so important. You can (of course!) use social media to promote your business’s existing products and services, or you can use it to help launch new products and services you’re just introducing. It also allows you to differentiate your offerings from those of your competitors.
Reason #3: Establish expert authority.
Social media is a great way to share company news about contracts won, awards earned, clinical trials scheduled, papers published, and attendance or presentations at upcoming academic conferences and trade shows. Doing so builds trust in your reputation as an involved, respected, and knowledgeable member of your field or industry.
Reason #4: Share educational content.
Social media is an effective tool for spreading the word about and even delivering upcoming classes, seminars, and webinars you’ll be teaching. You can promote brand-new learning opportunities or re-market existing, available, on-demand educational offerings.
Reason #5: Showcase how your company gives back and your sustainability efforts.
Your social media contacts are not only interested in the technical side of your business. They can also appreciate all the ways your organization is giving back to the community. We recommend humbly describing your efforts, or better yet, recruiting others to do the talking about what you’re doing to give back and how it’s helping.
Reason #6: Spotlight employees.
Highlight the skills and expertise of your team members by publicly recognizing their achievements and accomplishments. Sharing content such as staff profiles helps your audience relate to the fellow human beings behind your organization’s excellent work.
Reason #7: Recruit new employees.
Finding good talent is hard, especially when labor markets are tight. It’s always easier to attract qualified people when you have a good work environment. While social media (i.e., LinkedIn) can be a useful recruitment tool, it’s also a great place to highlight your company’s positive culture and establish your organization as a meaningful place to work, especially for younger people.
Before we get into our last three reasons, let’s take a moment and reflect on relationships. What do you think makes them work well and what doesn’t?
You’ve probably come up with several things. Being respectful, being present, and being kind are three keys to success. Another big one for us is communication.
If you look back at the first seven reasons, essentially, they are about communication. However, they are more about broadcasting than about listening, and we all know that in the most fulfilling relationships, communication goes smoothly in more than one direction.
With that in mind, we introduce reasons #8, #9, and #10.
Reason #8: Provide customer or client support.
Thus far, life science-focused companies have tended to be less present and responsive on social media than companies in other industries. At the same time, people have become accustomed to interacting directly with brands through their favorite social media platforms. If your organization establishes a consistent presence and promptly responds to comments and questions, you’ll be delivering excellent customer support that ultimately boosts your bottom line. It doesn’t matter if your social media audience is primarily consumers or other businesses. Everyone appreciates timely, helpful responses.
Reason #9: Collect feedback.
Many of the best ideas for new products and services, and ways to market and deliver them, come from customer or client complaints and suggestions. Customers, clients, providers, and patients are the people on the frontlines using what you’ve researched, developed, or manufactured. Why wouldn’t you make it easy for them to help you keep getting better?
Reason #10: Connect with industry collaborators and competitors.
Social media is a great tool for monitoring what’s happening in the life sciences industry. By following both collaborators and competitors, you keep up with cutting-edge research and development and competitors’ offerings. Initiating a conversation or following up on an interaction might even lead to your next big partnership or business development opportunity.
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Now that we’ve examined what social media marketing is used for, you can explore how the use of social media for science communication and marketing works. Where do you begin?
First, identify which platforms you’ll use. Most companies use more than one, but not every company uses every platform. Determine where your audience is most likely to be and which platforms are best for effectively telling your brand story.
As one of the original social media platforms, it’s still perhaps the simplest to use. Users broadcast relatively short content with text, photos, videos, or links in short posts called “tweets.” Twitter is a great way to share company happenings because it’s monitored closely and used by many scientific news and tech publications as well as the general media. It can also be a good way to have conversations with specific customers and provide direct customer support.
Facebook and Instagram
Although Facebook and Instagram started as two separate and distinct platforms, they’re now owned by the same parent company (Meta) and have evolved over time to be quite similar. Instagram was originally oriented more toward sharing photos and videos than Facebook, but users can now efficiently and simultaneously share the same content on both platforms. It’s also easier to post longer text content on both platforms. However, you can just keep it short and sweet and focus on sharing photos, videos, and links. Live streaming is another feature of both platforms that science-based companies routinely use to deliver educational content and broadcast major news announcements.
This is how most companies store and share enduring video content. YouTube is best known for its DIY how-to videos, and science-focused companies often use the platform to explain the technology behind their offerings. Strong YouTube content offerings enable customers and clients to educate themselves and troubleshoot or even fix their own issues, which can significantly reduce the load on company sales and support teams.
Over time, LinkedIn has become the de facto social media platform for professional networking, job searching, and career development. It’s excellent for sharing academic and science-based content, as well as company and staff news. And of course, most of us are already familiar with it as a good tool for recruiting new talent.
The newest major social media platform is often dismissed by companies as something only younger people use among their friends. However, TikTok has become an effective way to reach current and potential customers of all ages and is being widely and quickly adopted by businesses as a valuable e-commerce tool. What makes it unique is that it’s only for sharing short video content, which means you can’t just default to the old standby social media practice of sharing text, images, and infographics. Creativity is a must to figure out how to share what was previously non-video content in video form — especially more detailed or nuanced scientific and technical content.
Ready, Set, Post
Contrary to what some people think, science is not too serious for social media. Rather, social media is a huge opportunity for science-based companies. To create new and develop existing relationships with more and different customers, partners, clients, providers or patients, your science-focused business should be consistently present and active on social media. It’s a great way to listen, educate, and engage.
To learn more about social media marketing and communications for science-focused businesses, or to get help with any aspect of your company’s communications, visit our Cobalt services page, or contact the Cobalt team.