Reaching Audiences Through New Media: Lessons
We Are Learning From the International Year of Astronomy

Sunday, March 22, 2009, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center
The Woodlands, Texas

Using Social Media in E/PO Efforts

Workshop led by Dr. Pamela Gay
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Notes compiled by Stephanie Shipp
Lunar and Planetary Institute


Social media is changing the way people interact with each other and with information. It offers the E/PO community new and exciting ways to connect with the public and to educate audiences.  Social media allows the public to be active participants in the conversation of science and exploration.

The landscape of social media constantly changes. At present, it includes blogs (Twitter), wikis, podcasts, vodcasts, virtual “scrapbooks” (FaceBook, MySpace), networking venues (LinkedIn), content sharing spaces (YouTube, Flickr), and virtual worlds for socializing (Second Life).  All of these fall within “Web 2.0,” second generation web tools that foster communication, interaction, and collaboration.

Before using social media, determine what you want to accomplish (sharing project information, engaging the public, providing timely news), the audience(s) with whom you want to connect, and the messages you wish to convey. This will help to define your social media strategy.   It also is important to get the science and E/PO team on the same page with respect to the message and tone of social media interactions. It is important that all team members respect  limits on what will be shared through social media platforms – and when sharing is permitted. Finally, leverage social media; if you have posted new images on Flickr, broadcast their accessibility in on YouTube, in Second Life, on Twitter, and on your Facebook page, etc.

Remember that social media is a multi-directional dialog; a dialog with audiences that increasingly expect interaction.  As a conversation, it requires care and feeding of the relationships that are initiated; continued interaction is a way to grow your audience. Social media is not about a one-time information blast. While we still are learning about best practices and achieving intended impacts in using social media to engage and educate, it is clear that evolving social media are integral to our future efforts.

Some General Rules
Social media platforms are public venues. Anyone can view it. Immediately. Social media is not the place to share embargoed information or unpublished science results. 

If you are blogging a meeting, be considerate and let the attendees know.  At the same time, if you are a presenter, know that what you share may be blogged by audience members – without notification.  Social media is a form of journalism.

As a translator of science, you need to maintain credibility. Stay on message, be professional, and be up-front about who you are and for whom you are working. Cultivate a strong, professional, positive image as you present on behalf of your team.  If you really want to discuss your movie preferences, play scramble with friends or share your party pictures, consider creating a personal account that is separate from your project account.  In most cases, this means you will need a different e-mail address for each.

Be sensitive to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and copyright restrictions. They apply and you are responsible for what you post. Like publications, you must obtain permissions and cite resources.

And now, check out some Web 2.0 tools.  Find out what they are, who’s using them, how they might be useful in your programs, and some helpful hints on getting started.  (links to separate pages):

LPSC Forum 2009 Twitter    Facebook  Blogs Podcasts Flickr Second Life

Last updated
June 22, 2009