Video FTW – EMBL Communications

EMBL Communications

Informing, inspiring, and engaging society with EMBL’s research, services and training

Video FTW

My first objective has been to increase followers and engagement on EMBL’s social media channels. I’ve been experimenting, creating and sharing new content to interrogate what works, what doesn’t, and who our audiences are on our different channels.

In the interests of openness, here are my headline findings.

Facebook is informal and fun but is increasingly a publishing platform in its own right. Our followers (including staff) like seeing the human side of EMBL and when we show that it gets shares. Increasingly viewed on mobile devices, our posts here should stand alone but link out to more information. Image and video posts work best and the tone should be informal. I’d like to work on sharing more people stories and behind the scenes insights.

Twitter is public and fast. EMBL twitter is the serious face of the laboratory, but our followers are geeks in the best sense of the word. They like hard core science, and stats but the occasional pop culture reference can work well. We are followed by journalists, other institutions and scientists and we should remember that prospective staff will be looking for us to see what we say and how we come off publicly. We share the science and updates that our global following need to know. Just as with Facebook, posts with images and gifs see a much higher rate of engagement.

LinkedIn is how people find out about the professional side of the laboratory but job hunters want to see what it’s like to work with us. Here I share individual profiles of staff members with images and short quotes. I’m also experimenting here with overlaying quotes on images of people. Do do this best I’m hoping to work with Tabea, our new art director, to establish some guidelines for photography and create some templates so I’m not creating images from scratch every time.

Instagram was an experiment. 3 months in it’s clear that what people really want to see here are beautiful images from the lab. Microscopy, structural models, something meaty. I would love to work more with everyone in the lab to get more of these. It might not make your paper but maybe it’s perfect for Instagram. I will be talking about this more.

One thing that became clear early on is that people aren’t lying when they say image and video is important. With that in mind I recently took my iPhone and recorded a ‘quick and dirty’ video with Jan Korbel about one of his papers. Actually, we had to record it a couple of times as I originally had my phone switched to take timelapse rather than video (sorry about that Jan). However, it turned out that the timelapse was a boon. I could make a really short snippet for twitter, and I then spent much longer trying to edit a longer video for Facebook and get all the subtitles sorted. In retrospect, neither video is perfect and I can see the positives of each one and other ways we could do this in future. Immediate thoughts:

  • The little tripod I have is convenient but it is sensitive to shaking from equipment nearby.
  • The image quality of the iPhone is great but the audio could be better. I want to look at how this could be improved with a separate mic.
  • For Facebook, don’t spend ages making subtitles on the video, make a subtitle file and upload with the video. And make the videos shorter.
  • Watch any video you make with the sound off. That’s how most people will see it.
  • Grab people early, keep them interested with steady reveals.
  • Be OK that most people won’t watch more than 3 and then 10 seconds. Get everything important at the start.

I can absolutely see how to make the next ones better but what I did saw increased engagement, and many more views and shares than normal. They also prompted questions and immediate feedback rather than simple likes and retweets. If we are meant to educate this really seemed to capture the imagination.

To put this in context though I also shared the EMBL Hamburg Mannequin challenge video on Facebook in the same week and that totally won. Yet more evidence people want to see what it’s like at EMBL or to share with their friends insights into where they work.