For a couple of years now, at TU Delft, we have been giving staff and students the opportunity to take over the TU Delft Instagram account for a week, using the hastag #theweekof. We let them post pictures of their fieldwork, their monitoring campaign, the reveal of their project, their participation at an event, or simply their (student) life in Delft for a week, after which the account is given over to another person or team.
Used this way, Instagram is turning out to be a very nice way to tell stories about the scientific process, and the goings on behind the scenes. I’ve become a great fan of using Instagram this way, and actively try to get scientists, students and staff to make use of this platform when I hear about their exotic fieldwork or any other visually interesting research coming up.
Click on the screenshots below to get the whole story of the actual #theweekof in question – an overview page like this is also a nice way to look back on the stories.
One big advantage of using Instagram like this, is that it gives you a whole week to build up your story, to explain why you are doing what you are doing, how it is relevant and for who, the equipment you need, and the people involved. You can show the different aspects of scientific (field)work, but also – very important, I think – the ‘human factor‘, including your travels and the exotic food you get to eat. Check out the different timelines to get an idea of how our #theweekof scientists did this.
I’m finding that scientists are very happy to participate in #theweekof, not in the least because they have to commit to this social media platform for only that one week. They don’t have to tie themselves down for a longer period. Starting up your own Instagram (Twitter, Facebook, blog) account is way more daunting, because it brings the pressure (real or imagined) that you now have to post interesting stuff regularly for the rest of your life.
Some preparation goes into thinking about what story you’d like to tell during your #theweekof, how to build it up, and which pictures help to do that. But besides that, how Instagram works is relatively easy to explain, and making pictures with a smartphone and sharing them online is something most people are now very much used to.
For us communication advisors, finding out about who is going on that interesting trip in time to ask them to do #theweekof, is probably the most difficult part of our job.
Sometimes you are in luck, and you find a scientist who is also a professional photographer on the side, as was the case with Arjo Loeve who covered his week doing CSI research at a Dutch festival.
And sometimes, if you are very lucky, the fieldwork covers exactly that one week, giving you a complete story, from the packing of the suitcases and the equipment, right up to the trip home.