Author: Theo Lipfert – Montana State University, United States

Co-author: Catherine Trainor – MFA Student, Montana State University

Short video optimized for smartphones is a successful and popular method of communication. On social media, these mobile-friendly videos generate more interaction and engagement than the same videos on desktop or laptop computers, and more clicks, “likes” and “re-tweets” than text-based content or still images.

Our study seeks to determine whether the strategies that have made mobile-friendly video a “hot trend” can be used to explain complex topics such as the recent discovery of gravitational waves. Our “Show, Tell, and Talk” will present the results of our research into the communication of science on Facebook and Twitter using the codes and conventions of non-science video content.

Our first tests are stylistic: we will compare videos with identical content about the discovery of gravitational waves but with variations in format: text dominant, still image slide show dominant, and video dominant. Next, we will compare alternate story structures. Using the lessons learned in our stylistic tests, we will construct three videos that explore different stories: one historical (Einstein was right!), one technical (This is how LIGO detected gravitational waves) and one that showcases feelings of “awe” (this is how gravitational waves unlock the mysteries of the universe). We will use the established metrics of engagement from each social media platform to describe the results.

Finally, we will provide a blueprint for how communicators can conduct similar tests for the public dissemination of science. We will instruct the audience on how to develop effective video content and a methodical testing strategy. We will explain which metrics to track on Facebook and Twitter. By using our “style + story” methodology, scientists can learn which strategies drive the most engagement for the communication of their research.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices