Last month Instagram overtook Twitter, with 300 million active users. It’s one of many new breeds of social media services that are causing seasoned social media networks and Internet services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo to sit up, take notice and start acquiring.

Instagram is a photo and video sharing service. It was started in 2010 and was aquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Its users are sharing over 70 million photos and an average of 2.5 billion “likes” every day.

I’m converted ‘gramer’ for the simple fact that the only things that capture my attention these days on Facebook are images and videos.

It’s something we continually point to during our Social media and Web 2.0 workshops – images are what capture people’s attention, which is half the battle on social media.

At the same time images need to look real. We are likely to ignore stock photos with science actors smiling as they look down a microscope than we are of photos of ‘real’ scientists squinting down a microscope or better yet acting like they normally do.

Although I don’t hold the answer for how to use Instagram effectively to communicate science, I am impressed by how the following have taken to Instagram:


American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History @noaafisheries

John Encarnacion, a geology professor

John Encarnacion, a geology professor @a_geologist


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries @noaafisheries

Of course it helps when you’ve got rockets, animals and cool artifacts to show off, but still they at least increase people’s exposure to science.

Closer to home, and on a much smaller scale to NASA, the Illawarra Intrepid Landcare group are building a nactive Instagram community. It’s coordinator, Megan Rowlatt, says the photo sharing network appeals to her younger audience.

This brings me to another lesson we continually preach – choose the right media for the right audience.

The majority of Instagram’s audience, at the moment, are younger than 30. Even though it is the new ‘hip’ tool, doesn’t mean you should jump off Facebook, Twitter or traditional media like TV and newspapers. These other tools are still more popular among older audiences and, apart from Twitter, still appeal to larger audiences.

The same goes for other up-and-coming services (listed below) who’s figures still pale in comparison to Facebook’s 1.35 billion monthly active users, but the new kids are climbing quickly.

Other New Kids on the block include:


Whats App
Whats App, an internet based messaging service, recently announced that over 700 million users actively use its service each month.

This makes it the most popular mobile messaging service around the world, even more popular than Facebook’s Messenger service and is part of the reason why Facebook bought it for $22 billion last year.

This form of communication will one day overtake text messaging, which is a popular communication channel for communicators in Asia and Africa.


Tumblr has followed Instagram to become one of the fastest growing social networks. It’s a microblogging platform that sits very much between Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013, the site is pulling in over 300 million monthly users. Although these figures have been claimed to larger than the real exposure it has, the service is the fourth most popular in Australia with 4.5 million users.

Once again the majority are younger than 30. Still there are a number of cool science accounts with large audiences.


SoundCloud describes itself as the YouTube of audio. Is an online audio distribution platform with close to 300 million users who can upload, record, and share audio including music and podcasts.

After an unsuccessful acquisition in 2014, Twitter partnered with SoundCloud to let users listen to music directly through tweets.

We show scientists in our workshops how easy it is to upload lectures and or/audio from presentations and embed this in a blog post with a SlideShare presentation, providing more context for their slides.

What new media tools are you using to communicate science? @RobbieMitch