Notorious for demystifying the microbiome, the company Seed is rooted in probiotics and doesn’t view education or beautiful art direction as disparate things. Tessa Mu, the brand’s vice president of marketing, and her team aim to create digestible science-based content through words, design, art, typography, animation, sounds, emojis, and merch. Their singular Instagram mission? To shift perspective, translate science, and make learning (about bacteria, the microbiome, human biology, and health) as accurate, accessible, and engaging as possible.
Here, Mu explains how Seed’s Instagram lifts the veil on science, health, and the products we put in our bodies. She discusses the challenges of scientific translation and how to get a follower to engage with their feed.
When it comes to Instagram and Pinterest, what is most important to Seed?
Fostering community, inspiring curiosity, and advocating for evidence over evangelism is most important to Seed. Earlier this year, we launched Seed university on Instagram as an antidote to the immense amount of misinformation present on the Internet around science. Our approach is to rethink what the medium can be used for, and push the boundaries in how we harness it to educate.
PLANOLY is about making lives easier for social media users and organizing their content. How do you strategize your feed and stories?
We don’t obsess too much over the grid—most activity and engagement happens in the feed, so it’s much more consideration of how we’re value-adding content at an appropriate time or moment. In January, for example, when everyone is spurred by ‘new year, new you’ messaging (but also abandoning their resolutions within two weeks), we’ve scheduled a content series that counterprograms, diving deep into the science of how we make choices in the first place. If we can better understand that, perhaps we’ll all be more successful in stewarding the goals we want to achieve in 2020.
We use Stories largely as a channel to bring our community and our ecosystem to life. But given its tap-ability and vertical nature (like a book), it’s also an excellent medium for more in-depth educational content—we use it for research recaps and roundups, coverage of guest speakers at our office, screen-shottable wallpapers, and full-on educational courses.
What are your best social photography or editing tips for beauty bloggers and brands?
Most of our assets are created and finalized in Photoshop, but for on the fly resizing, I’m a fan of the InShot app.
What are the biggest challenges for Seed’s Instagram?
Scientific translation can be a challenge. But it’s also our greatest opportunity. When you can marry words and images and design into a moment in the feed that someone interacts with and learns something from—that’s impact, and that’s the most meaningful to us. But to translate with integrity, you have to create the right metaphors that explain why your gastrointestinal system is actually outside your body (by telling people they are a donut) or what dehydration means (through a urine chart inspired by Josef Albers) or what happens when honey bees go extinct (by time-shifting into a dystopian future), or even to take a stance when human rights are being called into question. It takes time, understanding, synthesis, and an inordinate amount of creativity—luckily, our team is wildly talented.
What is your average engagement, and how did you initially grow on Instagram?
…I think that having something to say and saying it well. People spend an exorbitant amount of time scrolling through social—how do you stop someone in the feed in-between the memes, cat photos, and get-ready-with-me makeup tutorials to get them to read more than a few words and learn something? Our hypothesis came naturally out of our commitment to education, and it has continued to prove itself out—that if we built a home for learning, we can ignite curiosity in our community, keep them engaged, and truly remake science into something interesting and actionable for all humans.