Science communication on social media

Examining cross-platform behavioral engagement


  • Amanda Coletti University of Connecticut
  • Rory McGloin University of Connecticut
  • Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch University of Connecticut
  • Emily Hamlin University of Connecticut


social media, science communication, user engagement, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram


Social media is a popular channel for scientists to communicate with the public. Still, it remains relatively unclear how social media users perceive and engage with scientific content across various platforms. Therefore, this study sought to examine how users engage with scientific content on different social media channels to help scientists and science communicators gain a deeper understanding of how audiences may be perceiving their posts. A quasi-experimental survey methodology was conducted with a snowball sample of social media users. Participants (N = 237) were exposed to social media posts containing three scientific content areas (biology, social science, and engineering) across three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). Results from this study found that biology content on Facebook had higher behavioral engagement than other platforms, and there was no significant difference in content comprehension between social media platforms. Implications for scientists and science communicators using social media platforms to share knowledge and research findings are discussed.

Author Biographies

Amanda Coletti, University of Connecticut

Amanda Coletti is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include science communication, training and development, and narrative storytelling. Amanda also has experience programming and delivering storytelling workshops related to developing science communication skills.

Rory McGloin, University of Connecticut

Rory McGloin, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut and is also the owner of RPM Communication Consulting, LLC. His current work is focused on the use of communication best practices in organizational training and development programs. Rory’s research mission is centered around the improvement of employees’ communication skills through an increased value of communication.

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, University of Connecticut

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch (PhD, The Pennsylvania State University) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut, where she conducts research in the Human-Computer Interaction lab. Her research focuses broadly on the use of social media for information sharing as a form of communication. Specifically, her work investigates the effects of using social and mobile media to engage with news, health, and science content.

Emily Hamlin, University of Connecticut

Emily Hamlin is a doctoral student in the Communication Ph.D. program in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include organizational communication, particularly relational development in workplace environments. Emily also has experience collecting data on the effectiveness of organizational training and development workshops. 


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