Title

Engaging in Social Paleontology: A Case Study of Instagram

Document Type

Conference Poster

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Geological Society of America

Volume

51

Issue

3

Location

Charleston, SC

Publication Date

3-29-2019

Abstract

The FOSSIL Project, an NSF-funded initiative, fosters collaborations within the paleontology community by using social media platforms (i.e. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) to provide opportunities to participate in and contribute to social paleontology. We also foster digital collaborations with our paleontological audience through the myFOSSIL mobile app and the myFOSSIL website. Since creating an Instagram account (October 2017), we have established an audience, implementing strategies to engage with paleontologists from across the continuum of expertise. The FOSSIL Project Instagram has grown to more than 1,000 followers; our team collected data throughout this period in an effort to better understand how this unique platform can be used to further engage with a diverse community, increasing participation and contribution to the science of paleontology. Our evaluation involves the application of an analytical framework that offers unique insights for defining the relationship between the nature of posts created and the response of the community. With this effort, we address the question: “What post types are most effective for generating followers and engagement with social paleontology in this social niche?” We direct our attention to a classification of posts by type (e.g. news or research) and further assess the use of specific hashtags and mentions for adding followers and engagement. Using descriptive statistics, we quantify post engagement to assess changes in level of engagement based on social media post type. Through our description of post types, we illustrate how social media can be effectively used to engage community members in social paleontology. Our results indicate that opportunity and informational posts garner higher engagement rates when compared to other types and have the potential to reach broad, diverse audiences. By purposely crafting engaging posts, paleontology educators can build and maintain their Instagram communities.

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