Three social media pros, four University of Rhode Island undergraduate interns, 30 years of tick research, and one @TheTickguy and his team aim to prevent tick-borne diseases — like Lyme disease — by engaging diverse audiences via new media: blogging, newsletters, relevant social media platforms, search engine optimization, blogger/media relations, and live events.
Smashing traditional internship models, the Harrington School’s Social Media SWAT Team leveraged digital and social media to squash ignorance about the disease-carrying, scary, and hard-to-look-at tick. With the social media pros as their mentors and strategic thinkers, these paid URI student-interns took on social-media agency work.
Professor Tom Mather of the Tick Encounter Research Center sought help from the Harrington School to boost its brand awareness via social media. It was a bold experiment: could undergraduate students learn about social media for science communication and deliver measurable results?
With leadership from social media expert Suzanne McDonald, over the course of 4 months, a team of undergraduate students who formed the SWAT team gained 890 new social media followers, created a year’s worth of “Ask The Tick Guy” blog posts, regionalized e-newsletters, boosted visits to the TERC site via Pinterest 664%, Facebook 190%, Twitter 103%, and 689 visitors from various guest posts on existing blogs between April 1, 2013 and September 1, 2013. Traffic to the TERC site increased by 234% during this time period (April 1, 2013 to September 1, 2013) from nearly 83,000 to nearly 277,000, compared to the same dates a year prior. Percentage of new visitors increased by 3.4%. Google is now increasingly favoring the TERC website — referrals rose by 444%. Traffic from Bing and Yahoo! are also up by 49% and 55% respectively.
Thanks to the work of the Harrington School’s Social Media SWAT Team and Dr. Tom Mather for helping create real-world learning experiences that use social media for science communication.