Last night I was lucky enough to be on a panel of experienced users of social media for the Australian Science Communicators SA event ‘Social Media for Science Communication’. Hosted by Heather Bray, also on the stage were Sarah Thomas, Mal Chia, Petra Dzurovcinova and Simon Divecha. An archive of twitter activity around the event is available here.

As a freelance science writer, I spoke about my use of twitter for live tweeting and hashtag chats, using storify as an archiving tool, and for connecting with others across Australia and internationally.

But now in the 24 hours subsequent to the event, I’ve had all sorts of thoughts on just how I could have presented the value of social media better to an audience of scientists and communicators some of whom appeared quite apprehensive about its real value. In particular, I’m not sure I managed to convey how much of an impact social media has on my daily thought processes.

The bottom line is that social media links me in with social and academic communities that would otherwise be beyond my reach as a solo operator.

Here are some details:

My office is at my family home.

Each weekday morning I leap out of bed before my children stir, and read the news. Not in printed form – I open my computer, and scroll through pickups of key-words (known as ‘hashtags’ – for example, #tdf for tweets on the Tour de France, #scio13 for those on the 2013 Science on the Web conference) I’ve set up in my social media dashboard HootSuite (Tweetdeck is also good). Tweets from @abcnews are also handy. Any links that look enticing, I open and read.

Within Hootsuite, I also operate my morning ‘water cooler’ conversations – I check the columns set up for public and private tweets directed straight at me, and pan lists of my most entertaining and tried-and-true twitter pals to see what they’re reading, sharing and creating. Some are scientists, many are not. If I catch someone online at the same time, sometimes we have real-time banter.

Around 6.30am, I’m on duty for porridge cooking, sandwich making, hair braiding, shoe finding and uniform ironing. From 8am to 9am, I’m chief of transport. Then I have a coffee and get on with work tasks  – current clients include The Robinson Institute, BioInnovation SA, COSMOS magazine and my former employer Bridge8. In between, I tackle the mountains of washing that breed in my laundry and think about what kind of bookshelves would really work on that wall in the living room which has been empty for 3 years. When I need fresh air, I run.

And I’m on twitter and Facebook constantly. I post links to what I’m reading. I post questions about who I can contact to help me write a story on specialist topics. I tell everyone I need new ankle boots. I whinge about my toddler’s tantrums.  I retweet cool stuff that others post – science , current affairs: anything well-written, really. I let people know about my latest piece of writing. I make coffee appointments with other science communicators. I tell Lance Armstrong that I love him.

From 2.45pm, I’m back on duty with my kids: talking through the ills of the day, overseeing homework, ferrying to and from sports and getting dinner on the go. Whilst flipping fish fillets, I usually check twitter and Facebook again, getting a feel for what my colleagues and friends have achieved and experienced that day. Evenings often include social media too, sometimes frivolous stuff but also the private Facebook group I’ve set up for our school’s Parents and Friends Association. It’s a fantastic way to add to the community experience of being in a school environment: we swap news and views, confirm times and dates for sporting occasions, double-check exactly which uniform the kids are supposed to wear on Friday.

About once a fortnight, I run away to a science event in the evenings, like Research Tuesdays at the University of Adelaide, or Sprigg Lectures at the SA Museum.

In reality then, I’m using social media intermittently for 12+ hours every working day. It informs me, it connects me, it markets me. That’s my take-home message.

[photo thanks to Heather Bray]

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