Thursday, March 07, 2013

17 things science writers can pin on Pinterest (that are not pillows or dresses)

Even though it was my idea, let me say that there were moments when I wondered why I was going to talk to a Science Writers in New York and the American Society of Journalists and Authors joint meeting about using Pinterest. I was expecting skepticism, at best (it's what they're known for, after all). That's why I started with this pledge:
But in promoting the talk, I heard from scientists, science writers and communicators all over--in the U.S. and beyond--and from nonprofits, companies and organizations that don't deal in science but deal in the geek/wonk/nerd territory in their respective fields. They also are hoping for a non-consumer, still-useful path on Pinterest.

And then I heard from an executive at Pinterest itself, with an interest in the discussion and what, if anything, is holding science types back from using the service. (Nothing if not smart, Pinterest.) So we started last night with a short discussion of what's keeping science journalists and communicators from using Pinterest, if they are not using it yet. Their feedback included:
  • For the novices, "we need tutorials," so much the better if the tutorials show journalists and communicators specific ways the site can be useful to them;
  • For those getting started, it's not easy to find the people you are already following and stay on top of what they are posting without searching for them individually--which isn't any easier when you start following even more people; and
  • For some, the "pillows and dresses" image lends credence to the thought that science writers won't find their audiences there, so it would be a help to share other use cases. 
I think many science communicators fall in that last group. If you think your science audience isn't on Pinterest because you aren't, you may be assuming incorrectly that you are the same as your audience, and, as I urged the group last night, chances are high your audience is there--you just need to go look for them. I count more than 1,000 boards users have created on physics, and nearly that amount on chemistry, among other science topics. Users are busy pinning and sharing your science information there, even if you don't have a presence on Pinterest. Imagine what that would be like if you participated?

For me, and for many savvy communicators, bloggers and journalists, it's all about the traffic, since Pinterest drives more traffic than YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ combined. And if you're a big believer in Twitter as a traffic-driver, think again: Pinterest even has been shown to drive more traffic to blogs than Twitter.

I'm sharing the slides with you in this post, because they link to 17 ways science writers and communicators can make use of the popular social network. Freelance science journalist Allie Wilkinson joined me to speak about This is What A Scientist Looks Like, a creative set of boards on which scientists share photos of themselves in the lab, in the field, and doing their hobbies. Some of the other examples I featured include ways to:
  • promote your own work as a science writer, whether that's by driving traffic to a blog, widening your audience, finding jobs and writing opportunities, collecting images for a project or collecting your talks, interviews and articles easily and making them widely available;
  • engage public audiences with science, ranging from sharing science explainers and experiments they can do at home, to giving them access to scientists who can answer their questions or encouraging them to visit scientific institutions or volunteer for research projects; and
  • share new information about science, from high-resolution photos, charts and graphs with research data to images from new discoveries and panels of experts who can comment on them.
You'll find my favorite examples and a wish list or two on how you can use Pinterest to write about or otherwise communicate science in the slides embedded below. Journalists of all kinds should look at Steve Buttry's nice roundup of links about how newspapers are using Pinterest, and the slides include an offer for a free report-with-signup from me about using Pinterest to promote your blog.You can also go here to see audio and video from the webcast. I'll warn you, we got interrupted for many questions throughout, so bear with us--this was a lively discussion.

What are some ways your science institution, news organization--or you--are using Pinterest to communicate science? Leave word in the comments, or share your examples on Pinterest or Twitter with the hashtag .#sciencepins. You can steal other good ideas on my great ways to use Pinterest board.

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