Using social media to support Openness
The consensus was that organisations should be using social media to talk about their animal research but that there was no need to talk about how their organisation was being open. Many organisations felt it was counterproductive to post “look how open we are” on social media when they are already sharing their animal research stories on Facebook / Twitter etc. Organisations such universities have a huge, and broad, readership on their social media which makes it difficult for them to Tweet / Facebook too many things on niche topics.
There were many suggestions for increasing reach and engagement on social media including the use of specific hashtags for events, “Twitter chats”, and recruitment.
Events – using a specific hashtag before, during and after an event can bring awareness and help foster online conversations.
Twitter chats – it was felt that taking over preexisting Twitter chats i.e. beauty bloggers / cosmetics groups was not an ideal approach but instead we should be starting our own chats and invite interested parties to participate.
Using national observance days i.e. World Day for Animals in Labs (24th April) make a good starting point for social media conversations about Openness and UAR could coordinate future campaigns around this day. Using observance days for specific illness is another way to promote animal research. UAR already does this to an extent but they could be doing more to share resources.
UAR could supply resources to share via social media such as images, videos and Twitter cards. UAR could send out a call for resources that all signatories can use, and share them on the new website. The new website could also be used to share ‘best practice’ examples of what signatories are doing on social media.
We also spoke about the merits of Reddit, and how ‘Ask me Anything’ can be used to promote research / anniversaries etc. and that UAR can facilitate the entire process.
It was suggested that building stronger relationships between communication departments could lead to an increase in social media engagement. Finding social media ambassadors for animal research could also help to spread the message.
Addressing negative comments
Most organisations have experienced very little, if any, negativity via social media. The NC3Rs mentioned that they experience a “troll” who occasionally replies to tweets on their timeline, stating that animals should not be used at all. The NC3Rs have assessed this person over time and decided that they fall into the group of people who are very strongly opinionated and unlikely to shift their opinions, thus they are unlikely to ever have meaningful dialogue or discussion with him.
This lead to a discussion about ‘picking your battles’ and the majority agreed that it wasn’t worth arguing with extreme anti animal research opinions online as we are unlikely to change their mind. Instead it is more important to present the facts to people “on the fence”. When replying to negative comments from an organisation’s social media account it was felt that the best way to handle this is to reply with a factual message instead of getting personal. Some organisations have set up a generic animal research email address so that people on social media, that require more information, can get in touch.
Some people would like to see more support from other organisations when dealing with negativity online. The problem that lies here is that many people / organisations have built social media “bubbles” where they don’t always see negativity online. UAR encourage signatories to get in touch if they require assistance for dealing with comments online as they can offer support.
We discussed negativity online amongst (young) teenagers and it was felt that:
- some don’t always understand things they are “liking” online which is why education is crucial
- it’s hard to spot these negative comments due to the social media “bubbles” we have created for ourselves
- we should do our best to reply to negative comments online, however we need to be realistic about resources i.e. time and whether it is worthwhile