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Using branding and social media for effective science communication

by Jennifer L. Maclachlan, Chair, ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications
July 25, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 30

Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Photo of Jennifer Maclachlan.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

As the sales and marketing professional for my family-owned and -operated analytical instrumentation manufacturing company PID Analyzers, I believe that being an early adopter of digital and social media initiatives has been an asset for both our company’s brand recognition in the industry and for our personal brands: @pidgirl (me) and @pidguy (my dad, Jack Driscoll, who started the company).

Creating a personal brand and developing a social strategy to communicate your science are critical building blocks for maintaining professionalism across new forms of media. I stressed this concept in my address to the ACS Women in the Chemical Enterprise Breakfast earlier this year at the ACS national meeting in San Diego and again at the Materials Research Society spring meeting in Phoenix during a science communication workshop I organized.

How do you create your personal brand? Start by selecting a current and professional-looking headshot for your LinkedIn profile. Resist the urge to use the selfie you took on vacation, and don’t crop people out of the great photo of you someone took at their wedding. Ask a friend or colleague to snap some photos, or make an appointment at the ACS Career Fair at the national meeting to have C&EN take a free headshot of you. Use the same profile photo throughout all of your social networks, the same way that you would use a logo. If you will use other social networks besides LinkedIn, you need to choose a username or handle. Choose your handle wisely as it becomes your online identity and using it consistently across online channels such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and e-mail will assist you in promulgating your personal brand. Image and nomenclature are the infrastructure for personal branding, which must be coupled with social strategy to be effective and professional.

Next, you will want to develop a social strategy, but first, you have to decide which social networks are right for you. The ACS Committee on Public Relations & Communications is developing infographics and various tool kits to help ACS members decide which social networks are most advantageous for professional and personal use as well as for the public relations purposes of ACS divisions and local sections.

Creating a personal brand and developing a social strategy to communicate your science are critical building blocks for maintaining professionalism across new forms of media.

Once you have decided which social network to use, you need to continue to build on your brand and generate a social strategy. This can be as simple as considering what you will share with your social networks. How often you share is governed by the social media you choose as your communication vehicle because each platform has its own threshold for frequency of posting. What content will you share from those friends and other connections that align with your professional online persona? This includes posts that you like, favorite, retweet, reblog, and comment on.

Familiarize yourself with your existing audience by periodically scrolling through your connections, friends, and followers on social media. Be someone your connections, friends, and followers can rely on for information concerning community or global events and/or local section meetings/seminars. Actually check links before blasting them to your network.

Have meaningful online conversations, and conduct yourself in each social interaction in a professional manner. Make sure that the content you are about to share is worthy of your endorsement now and will be several years from now, as it is a reflection of you and your brand. Invoking your social strategy will make it easy for you to navigate the digital landscape.

Through informal polling, I’ve found that most people log in to LinkedIn because they have received a notification in their e-mail from LinkedIn about updates in their network. Log in and use the update function frequently. Set a reminder on your calendar, and take the time to manage your social networking. Be the reason that your network logs in. Communicate your science, and speak simply about it using social media. Share what you are working on, including research to be presented at ACS national meetings, publications you have authored, presentations you have given (SlideShare works well for this), and blog posts you have written. Also consider sharing information regarding professional society meetings and associations you are involved with. Don’t share copyrighted information that you don’t own or trade secrets and other intellectual property. Using hashtags and other keywords when crafting your posts on social media broadens your potential audience and ultimately leads to a greater click-through rate to your scientific content.

As you increase your social media footprint, don’t forget that sometimes old-school communication tools like phone calls and in-person networking skills are invaluable for science communication as well.

To learn more about social media for science communication, join me at the ACS Northeast Regional Meeting during its Small Chemical Businesses symposium, where I’ll be presenting on this topic. Alternatively, you can contact me at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.



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