Registered nutritionist Dr Laura Wyness has been touring universities across the UK providing lectures to nutrition students on how to communicate their knowledge professionally on social media.
She explains why it's so important and yet quite difficult to know how to use these platforms professionally.
“I think everyday people are using social media a lot more frequently now to find dietary information and there are a lot of influencers online providing information that isn’t necessarily correct or evidence based," she says.
"So I think it’s important that nutrition professionals join the conversation on the different social media platforms to bring some balance to the conversation.
“Many professionals in the field are quite nervous to use social media to provide information as they may simply be unsure of how to get started but they are also up against a number of other difficulties.
"Whilst an influencer can say whatever they want, a registered nutritionist has to provide accurate and evidence-based information and they have to provide references for the evidence and this can all be quite time consuming!”
Top tips for social media success from Dr Laura Wyness:
- Always bullet point information and use appropriate emojis here and there to help break up your text
- Use new paragraphs for each new point you make. Create a break between the title, main text, references and hashtags using the return key
- Formatting with spaces and new paragraphs can be difficult within Instagram so create your text and format it in your notes app before pasting into the Insta caption
- Use multiple trending hashtags (at the bottom of the post) in order to gain as much interest as possible but don’t use more than 10 as it can start to look desperate. Use words you’ve seen trending on your feed to ensure your post is viewed by a larger audience.
- Connect with, ‘Like’ and engage with other professionals to help build your network and increase awareness of your account – even if this is simply giving someone a compliment on their information/advice.
- Try to post at regular intervals rather than filling your followers’ feeds with several posts in one hit, then going quiet for days.
- You can schedule some posts using a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.
- Try to include images with tweets in order to catch the eye of those scrolling through feeds
Dr Wyness points out that social media posts rely on imagery to catch people’s attention.
“Our attention spans are so short and this is all the more the case when it comes to scrolling through news feeds so it’s worth finding or taking attractive images.”
Whilst this is easy enough for influencers who can quickly snap a photo of themselves eating their breakfast, for example, a health professional isn’t likely to want to be the face of their nutritional information.
The nutrition expert says stock imagery can be used but it can be tricky due to copyright concerns as well as worries about causing offence or feeding into stereotypes if the images include people.
Dr Wyness admits that she can find the amount of misinformation being shared, on Instagram in particular, very frustrating. Explaining how she has engaged with posts providing incorrect information, she says she has simply commented with evidence-based facts and provided the sources of these then left the conversation there.
“I think it’s important not to get involved in any sort of argument. Often when people have strong opinions they are unlikely to like being contradicted so you may not get a positive response when you provide counter-information but it’s best to leave the information and let people do what they want with it.”