Social Networking

Our first anonymously contributed article, taking a look at social networking for archivists and archives.

The value of social networking in promoting archives to the wider world is debatable. Some have bemoaned the ‘echo chamber’ that many official archive social networking accounts find themselves in – often followed predominantly by other archivists and archives, they may struggle to fulfil the public outreach purposes they were created for. However from this ‘echo chamber’ there has emerged a secondary value – social media, particularly Twitter, as an effective professional engagement and networking tool for new and established archivists.

Though several archives have successful public engagement programs that use Twitter, Twitter activity has not been proven to correlate with an increase in public awareness in many cases. Furthermore, in 2010 Adam Crymble identified in ‘An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use by the Archival Community’ that the number of Twitter followers of archive accounts seemed to depend on existing public awareness of the archive, and a desire for followers to be associated with it, rather than the frequency and usefulness of tweets from the account – 3 of the most popular archival twitter accounts had never tweeted anything[1].

However Crymble also noted that archivists used Twitter to ‘promote [archival] information they find useful’, often unconnected to promoting their place of work. In my own experience this is still the case. In two years on Twitter I’ve followed conferences I did not attend, found out about a jobs I hadn’t seen advertised, kept in touch with those I’ve met on volunteer placements, discussed thesis plans, spread awareness of chinagraph pencils and wondered aloud if I could get a  jumper with melinex sleeves. Whether the general public has gained much from this I couldn’t say, but it has helped me to feel connected to a wider profession where, by virtue of often working alone or in small teams, I might otherwise have felt secluded or uninitiated.

Twitter provides a useful half-way house between the possibly too personal Facebook and the overly professional LinkedIn. While Twitter does not replace the JISC mailing list[2] for more detailed information, it can be less daunting for new users. It can also be more useful for focussing in on your particular interests. Want to know about archive events in your region but not elsewhere? Follow your local archives and the people who work in them. Wonder what that interesting conference speaker has been working on recently? Look at their timeline and see.

Left cold by LinkedIn? Prefer to keep Facebook for your friends? Give Twitter a try – and don’t worry if only archivists are listening.



[1] Crymble, Adam. “An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use by the Archival CommunityArchivaria 70 (Fall 2010): 125-151

[2] Archives-NRA from JISC M@il

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