How other charities do … social media videos to promote research

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In this blog, I’ve collected examples of how medical research charities have used video to promote their research on social media. 

Why video?

There’s plenty of reasons why videos are good for social media. The public love video and that means so do marketers. Social media posts with video get more engagement and shares than those with text. And for charities, videos – particular self-filmed – are a great way to share stories and connect with supporters, as Nikki Bell makes clear in her article on the subject.

I think there’s a strong argument for using video in relation to science and research too. For a lot of people, science is an abstract idea. They might have studied it in school years ago, but since then don’t have any involvement in it. The word may conjure up images of white guys in lab coats playing with test tubes, or ‘mad professors’ making monsters in their underground lairs. Or, less dramatically, it might just leave people feeling a bit cold. 

But a video with real people doing science brings it to life in a completely different way. Think of why supporters love going on lab tours. They get to see the research they’re supporting in person. Video is another way to show them the difference they’re making. 

Different techniques

‘Video’ means different things to different people, and can include any of the following formats:

  • ‘documentary’ or ‘interview’ style – someone talking to camera (or to an interviewer out of shot), with cut-away footage
  • Self-shoot – either a true ‘selfie’, with the subject looking directly at a phone camera, or filmed with a camera on a tripod 
  • Animated slide shows – images and videos (often stock) overlaid with text, created using something like
  • ‘Audiograms’ for promoting podcasts and other audio with video, created with something like Headliner or Audiogram

Clearly some of these formats are easier to achieve than others. You can pay a lot of money to have a professionally produced video made. You can also make a video on your smartphone for free. The effect they’ll have may be different, but neither is automatically ‘better’ than the other.  

Different types of content by charities

Below I’ve gathered a few examples of how charities have promoted their research using video. I’ve focussed on promoting research on social media, particularly Twitter because that’s where I hang out a lot. But there are also a few other examples from YouTube as well. 

Explaining a research project or theme

I’ve touched on this in my blog about how to make research project webpages exciting. One example of this kind of video is this from The Brain Tumour Charity, explaining a specific research project:

Other examples include:

Talking more broadly about research

Videos can also be a useful way to answer common questions and talk about a broad research topic. 

Parkinson’s UK shared the video below answering the question “When will there be a cure for Parkinson’s?”

Other examples:

Insight into life inside the lab

As mentioned earlier, a video can be great way to show what science is really like, giving a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of medical research.

Cancer Research Demystified is a YouTube channel that does what it says on the tin. Run by two scientists, their aim is to tell people with cancer about what research means, and how they can get involved. An example of this is below:

Other examples:

Updating on some news, recent discovery

People get a lot of their news from social media, and video can be great way to share the latest updates. Cancer Research UK do this really well with their short ‘slideshow’ style videos about a recent news story, such as the one below:

Other examples:

Reporting from a conference

I’ve written before about how charities can report from conferences, and yet again, video is a great way of doing this. Organisations like eCancer get experts and speakers on camera to talk about presentations at the conferences. Charities can do the same.

Diabetes UK share some breaking news from a conference in this video below:

And MND Association whet the appetite of their audience in this video about an upcoming conference.

Bringing beneficiaries and scientists together

Some of the videos I love the best are when charities bring people from different worlds together. It’s a great opportunity to show the difference that research makes and make it more tangible.

A powerful example of this is a video Worldwide Cancer Research filmed of a meeting between a person with ovarian cancer and the inventor of a drug they’ve benefited from:

Other examples:

Other great uses

  • “Audiograms” are a nice way to promote podcasts with video, like this lovely example from Breast Cancer Now
  • How can Alzheimer’s Research UK promote their science image competition? By stitching together the finalists’ entries into a breath-taking slideshow, of course.

Links to other resources

Video is a popular topic among charities. I’ve collected a few articles which delve further into the subject. These are mostly focussed on longer-form videos and films, but many of the tips are still relevant for short-form videos for social media. 

Got any good tips and advice for making videos for social media? Get in touch with me via email or on Twitter (@DrRichardBerks)

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