TikTok for Science Communication

How many of you use TikTok?

It has about 500 million users, 41% of whom are between the ages of 16 and 24. I don’t use it, but from what I understand, you can use it to make 1 minute videos, though most are only 15 seconds.

Yesterday I discovered that science communicators have gotten into TikTok in a big way – especially chemists! They’ve been recording videos of chemistry experiments and other chemistry related topics. As this article notes, “Some, like Nguyen, make skits or dance routines featuring science concepts. Others are teachers or researchers who favor short lab demonstrations or explanations of basic concepts. Still others use the format to complain about chemistry exams or the travails of graduate student life.”

Sounds like TikTok could be one more tool in your science communication tool box, which likely includes the following social media outlets:

  • On Twitter, your 280-character tweets reach reach a slightly smaller group of young people: 38% of Twitter users are 18 – 29 years old, while 26% of users are 30-49 years old. This is the medium I’m most familiar with, and with over 6,000 followers I can disseminate science information fairly widely (though I’m not a super-scicommer like Canadian Mika McKinnon, who has over 57,000 followers).
  • On Facebook, you can share longer posts with photos or videos, and reach an older crowd: 62% of online seniors aged 65+ are on Facebook with 72% between age 50-64. One science communicator I follow on Facebook is Sandra Steingraber (whom I mentioned in last week’s post), who has over 10,000 likes on her personal page.
  • On Instagram, you can feature images of science concepts or science in action, and reach the 67% of 18 – 29 year olds who use it. One Canadian example is ScienceSam – Samantha Yammine, who uses Instagram extensively for scicomm and has over 42,500 followers.  
  • Finally, on YouTube, you can record yourself doing any number of science-related things. 81% of 15–25 year-olds in the US use YouTube, but the fastest growing YouTube demographic are the 35+ and 55+ age groups. For example, Sudbury’s Science North science centre, the second largest in Canada, uses YouTube to share videos of their facilities and of their “bluecoats” (Science North communicators) in action to over 2500 subscribers.  

I’m sure I’ve missed other social media platforms that science communicators have used for their own purposes. The main thing that all of these have in common is that scicommers are getting creative in how they do scicomm – and reaching a broad audience in the process!

Note this week’s featured image is by Christoph Scholz (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

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