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PeerJ. 2019 Apr 24;7:e6795. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6795. eCollection 2019.

Likes, comments, and shares of marine organism imagery on Facebook.

Author information

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Chauvin, LA, United States of America.


Several calls to action urge scientists and science communicators to engage more with online communities. While these calls have been answered by a high percentage of scientists and science communicators online, it often remains unclear what are the best models for effective communication. Best practices and methods for online science communication can benefit from experimental and quantitative research addressing how and when users engage with online content. This study addresses with quantitative and predictive models a key question for the popular, but often-ignored in science communication, social media platform Facebook. Specifically, this study examines the impact of imagery through quantification of likes, comments, and shares on Facebook posts. Here, I show that a basic quantitative model can be useful in predicting response to marine organism imagery on Facebook. The results of this online experiment suggest image type, novelty, and aesthetics impact the number of likes, shares, and comments on a post. In addition, the likes, shares, and comments on images did not follow traditional definitions of "charismatic megafauna", with cephalopods and bony fishes receiving more interactions than cartilaginous fishes and marine mammals. Length and quality of caption did not significantly impact likes, comments, or shares. This study provides one of the first quantitative analysis of virality of scientific images via social media. The results challenge previously held conceptions of social media scientific outreach including increasing emphasis on imagery selection and curation, notions of which taxa the public connect with, and role of captions for imagery.


Facebook; Science communication; Social media; Virality

Conflict of interest statement

Craig R. McClain is an employee of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and the State of Louisiana.

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