Who are we reaching on Social Media? – EMBL Communications

EMBL Communications

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Who are we reaching on Social Media?

In this post I share an outline of what I have learned about EMBL’s followers on social media. This is based on my observations and research, as well as third-party data about social media users in general.

Social media users are generally young, well educated and well off, even compared to average internet users. The gap in social media use between people aged 18-34 and those aged 50 and older is significant in every country surveyed. The percentage of people who use social media differs from country to country, as does which social media channels people use (Source: Pew).

Let’s look at each of our channels and see what we can say about our audiences.


Twitter isn’t outreach in a general sense; don’t expect to reach, say, kids or the lay public through EMBL’s Twitter account. For EMBLers it’s great for tracking unfolding events. It’s great for certain kinds of discussions. It’s great for finding colleagues, pinging experts, building networks. Followers of EMBL on twitter are:

  • 60:40 M:F
  • 70% 25-35
  • Interested in science news and biology


Facebook is closed system, more about personal networks but people will follow brands/pages IF the content is interesting and relevant. Audience is slightly younger than twitter’s average and video is now overwhelmingly important here. Followers of EMBL on facebook are:

  • Almost 50:50 M:F
  • 50% 25-34
  • Interested in photos and video of and by our people


LinkedIn usage generally is highest among the 18–29 year old age group, slightly more men than women, overwhelmingly university educated. Followers of EMBL on LinkedIn are:

  • 1/3 Entry level 1/3 Senior level
  • 95.5% non-Employee
  • Mainly people with a research background looking for jobs


Instagram is newer and female heavy. 80% of users are from outside US. Instagram demographics have veered toward younger generations (teenagers) since its inception, however, new statistics from the Pew social media report show older generations are starting to embrace the app a bit more. It’s all about the image and video here but hashtags boost engagement. Followers of EMBL on Instagram are:

  • Small in number but growing
  • Younger
  • They like pretty science, staff stories and selected reshares


YouTube is used in huge numbers. In less than a decade, it has become the go-to platform for content consumption in virtually any topic. When compared to news sites, YouTube receives nearly 8x more traffic on a monthly basis, and especially in 18-34 category. People who watch our videos on YouTube are:

  • 70:30 M:F
  • Mainly found through watch (they don’t follow the channel)
  • They like our how to… videos and Robin Ince


In a nutshell, EMBL’s existing audiences are science geeks, staff and alumni. EMBL’s channels are not currently an effective way to reach “the general public”.

Because similar people follow us on different channels I’ve developed some characters to help visualise the majority of people who I’m speaking to on different channels. There’s a lot more character development that I have shared with the team internally, but as a taster, here is who we are speaking to right now:

  • Derek: 43, group leader at an institute in the UK. Follows us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Follows a lot of his peers on twitter and is interested in the science going on in his immediate field and related ones plus news that might inform/affect his own research
  • Tania: 29, post-doc at EMBL HD.Follows us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While Tania uses twitter for professional reasons she is mainly  on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Tania documents her life at work and at home through social media. Her tone is upbeat and she is a keen runner,
  • Sandeep: 22, master’s student in India. Follows us on Facebook and LinkedIn. Sandeep wants to come to Europe and start his academic research career but he’s unsure where to start. He’s starting to do his research now. More shy about posting himself on public channels, he reaches out privately through messaging to ask for information.
  • Joanna: 36, EMBL alumna, group leader in US. Follows us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Joanna feels incredibly connected to the friends she made at EMBL and uses Facebook to share images and memories with her friends across the world. She shares photo updates and support for her PhD student on facebook, while she uses Twitter more for professional updates. Joanna rarely uses LinkedIn.

Not described but also worth not forgetting:

  • Science journalists. They use our twitter account as a feed of what’s going on at EMBL but won’t RT. They will reach out to our scientists directly.
  • Other labs/organisations/funders. We follow each other for cross promotional purposes. Celebrate institutional anniversaries and events and amplify each other’s voices BUT this is best done when we coordinate ahead of time.