Associate Professor Culum Brown
Associate Professor Culum Brown

Fish feelings go global

In a fantastic example of how our research stories can be ‘amplified’ by social media, the Media & Communications team shared a link to Associate Professor Culum Brown’s latest paper Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics on the self-proclaimed ‘front page of the internet’, social aggregation site Reddit.

It quickly proved popular and was propelled to the front page of the website, exposing it to international media outlets including the BBC, NBC, and popular science networks like I F****** Love Science.

“A friend of mine in South America emailed me at 1am to say I was super famous making it onto the front page of Reddit,” says Culum.

“I had a quick scan through some of the comments and its really varied. But there are all sorts of folks balancing different sides of the arguments… it’s kinda cool to watch.”

The spike in international and Australian media – bolstered by further amplification in other social networks such as Twitter – directed more than 7000 readers to the Macquarie newsroom story about Culum’s work and made his research paper’s Altmetrics score the highest ever recorded for the journal it was published in.

“Some of my Twitter followers have substantial numbers of followers themselves” says Culum, “often in the thousands. It all adds up.  Days later and people are still retweeting the original tweet I sent out about this paper. Obviously if the uni shares it too then that opens it up to even more potential followers.  It’s like a snowball, once you get it going it can really take off.”

Media outlets are always trawling social media and aggregation sites like Reddit for the next big story, so ensuring that Macquarie has a presence in these spaces directly supports our strategic priorities.

“These relatively new ideas of amplification and aggregation in social media are part of an emerging strategy our team is adopting, based on ideas our new team members have developed in other universities and industries,” says Media Manager Joanna Wheatley. “This major success in the early stages is exciting to see.”

“It’s not something that will happen for every research story” she cautions, “but it’s something we are keen to work on with more researchers – and other areas of the University that have a story to tell that supports our goals – on not only amplifying for you, but crucially, helping you amplify your own work too.”

Tips for amplifying a research story in social media:

-       Contact the  media and communications team early, (ideally when a paper is accepted for publication), to develop a distribution strategy and check out the University’s tips and tools for social media.

-       Keep your online profile up to date in relevant spaces – especially your faculty website profile – but also in channels like ResearchGate, GoogleScholar and LinkedIn. When people are looking for expertise (especially from different timezones), you need to be easily found!

-       Think about the ‘quirky’ angles of your research: did you use an interesting method, or have great pictures? Perhaps you have a great headline in mind like Culum’s.

-       Share successes with those around you, so your department can get a sense of the social aggregation sites that suit your research best.

-       Start following some of your favourite experts on the platforms they use – see how they do it, and share your stories with them.