In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries made headlines in the English-speaking world by announcing its word of the year: Selfie. The selection was, in part, an indication of the world’s focus on publicizing itself – largely through social media.
Across the pond, Merriam Webster chose a seemingly stark contrast for its 2013 word of the year: Science.
During this time, Idaho National Laboratory was pressing forward with its unique efforts to combine the two – using social media to spread the word about the laboratory’s innovative science and energy research.
Today, INL uses several social media platforms to reach a variety of audiences with articles, images, news releases and announcements relevant to the laboratory’s work. With official pages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn, INL reaches thousands of social media users.
“Social media allows us to share information all over the world,” said Sarah Robertson, Stakeholder and Media Affairs lead. “With the click of a button, we can reach audiences near and far to let them know about the innovative research and development we do at INL.”
In the last five years, INL has tripled its Facebook following with more than 10,000 people who have liked the lab’s page. On Twitter, INL has increased its Twitter followers nearly tenfold, with almost 14,000 users who follow the lab’s feed. INL’s videos have had more than 255,000 views on YouTube. The lab’s Flickr feed has more than 500 photos. And on LinkedIn, INL connects with more than 9,000 followers. The lab also established a presence on Instagram.
These pages provide avenues for sharing different types of information. On Facebook and Twitter, INL shares links to articles on the lab’s research, news releases, photos from high-level visits, historical facts, and videos showcasing research and development. INL uses Instagram to provide photos and brief text showcasing research capabilities, current events, and what it’s like to work at the laboratory. The lab uses YouTube to share official videos, Flickr is a public repository for INL photos, and LinkedIn allows the lab to share information on career opportunities.
INL has also leveraged partnerships with other national laboratories, industry partners and universities to spread the word on social media. One viral campaign in 2016 with the hashtag #ActForNuclear had a Twitter exposure in the millions. Another campaign for the Advanced Nuclear Summit reached 2 million Twitter accounts and had a Twitter exposure of more than 10 million, with the hashtag #NuclearSummit. INL was also a trending topic on Reddit, when the lab hosted its first Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Shannon Bragg-Sitton. In the forum, Bragg-Sitton, an INL researcher, talked about hybrid energy systems.
And this information isn’t restricted to an external audience. Employees are also encouraged to find and follow INL’s official social media pages. “When employees follow INL’s Facebook feed, for instance, it gives them an easy opportunity to show their friends and family the big picture of the work we do here,” said Robertson. “With a quick ‘share,’ the lab’s posts can be shared on an employee’s individual Facebook page.”
And now, INL plans to use this wide net to serve another purpose: keeping employees and the public updated during emergencies. Many organizations – including police departments and universities – use social media to update the public during emergencies. INL will continue to update its traditional methods to share information by publishing news releases on the external website and sending iNotes messages and news releases to employees. But to help share accurate, approved information more quickly with a larger audience, INL will also be sharing information on official Facebook and Twitter feeds.
You can find links for all of the official INL social media feeds at the links below.