TikTok: The Future of Science Communication

This article was written by our colleague Grace, Manager, Scientific Communications.

TikTok has increasingly become an information hub

TikTok remains as one of the most popular apps with currently over 1 billion active users. A majority of these users are in the 10–19-year-old age range, but the platform has seen a recent growth in audiences of other age demographics as well. While some may brush off the platform completely as a place only for the antics of Gen Z, the app has content for every corner of interest, including science communication. 

In our last TikTok article, we discussed what the app is and its potential to become the new standard for brands. Here, we will discuss how science communication, both the good and the bad, has risen on TikTok.

Science is on the rise on TikTok

Why? With TikTok’s rise in popularity, it is emerging as a must-have tool for science communicators to meet people where they are at. And it’s easy to see how the platform works as an education tool – TikToks provide quick information and easy methods for getting out ideas or explaining complex concepts. With a vast inventory of sounds and songs and new trends or crazes emerging every day, it’s now easy to make science relatable and accessible to a new generation of science lovers.

The app has given a stage for science-focused influencers and has also allowed HCPs with a smaller following to engage directly with users on specific topics. Some of the bigger stars on the app include:

– Hank Green, an already established science communicator best known for his work on Crash Course and SciShow, is one of the biggest educational influencers on the platform with 6.5 million followers.  

– Mags4science, another big science star on the platform, combines humor with her love of science to educate her nearly 500k followers. 

– Dr. Adam Goodcoff, an emergency medicine resident doctor with 1.8 million followers, answers patients’ questions, reacts to videos and shows what it’s like in his day-to-day life in the ER.    

COVID-19 on TikTok: The good and the bad

What really sparked an interest in science on the platform was COVID-19 and the vaccine. During a confusing and often frightening time, it makes sense that people look for information from experts that will be explained in a light-hearted fashion. Numerous TikToks, like the viral fork hands video, popped up all over the platform, helping to break down the complexity of the vaccines or clarify what the newest data meant. 

When a social media app has a reach this widespread, there is bound to be misinformation on any topic, which is an ongoing problem all social platforms are trying to fix. Millions of views were given to TikToks pushing myths about COVID-19 and discouraging vaccinations using “science” as their basis – some of these videos attracted over 9 million views. And as with TikTok’s algorithm, the more a user interacts with a certain type of  content, the more of that content they will be shown. The platform tried to combat this by launching vaccine education campaigns with public health organizations and experts and pledging to remove misinformation within 24 hours of upload. Some science educators took matters into their own hands, like epidemiologist Dr. Katrine Wallace, who faces this misinformation head-on by simply talking to the camera to answer questions about COVID-19  myths using data and even explaining how misinformation is constructed to trick people and easily be spread.

Keep in mind…

TikTok is still an evolving platform. As with any form of social media or educational material, we have to be critical about what we consume. 

While we have seen its widespread reach has consequences, it’s undeniable that these short, fun videos have allowed users to access information on various scientific topics and interact with experts more than ever before. The platform has helped science educators and communicators find new nonscientist audiences around the world, and maybe even inspire the next generation. 

We’re excited to see how this rising trend may further influence how brands will educate and communicate with both consumers and HCPs.

Tell us: What science content do you like to engage with?