Innovative Social Media for Archives – Jennifer Lightbody

Thursday 23rd May saw the Innovative Social Media for Archives conference at the University of Stirling, organised and hosted by ARA Scotland (@ARAScot).

This conference seemed like the perfect opportunity to pick up some tips and guidance, and to learn from those who are masters in the art of social media…

The conference covered a broad range of topics, advice and experiences so this blog distils out the parts of the day which resonated most with me. On writing this blog, I realised that there was so much advice to take away that it was impossible to do it all justice – the hashtag #ArchiveSocialMedia gives a great flavour of the whole day and covers many aspects I cannot!

Talking Heads and Telling Stories – Stewart Hardy, National Library of Scotland

Stewart spoke of the two main drivers of conversation and personality, to get people involved with your organisation’s posts, and covered a number of examples of these including their #Talking1980s campaign.

A conversational approach has been shown to increase monthly engagement, rather than just describing items shared. Stewart also advised us to experiment and try new approaches, and to get excited about our collections so that our followers will too.

One approach to both generating conversation and letting our personalities shine through is to make “frenemies”, to spark some sibling rivalry. NLS’s Christmas tree battle with the Bodleian library, and the friendly competition between Edinburgh and Stirling Castles as highlighted by David McLeod later in the day, can initiate that conversation and widen the audience of both organisations involved.

Stewart also spoke about the benefits of having a unique hashtag, such as their recent #noncreepypeepy thread on an 1835 peepshow of Edinburgh. This allows the posts to stand out and also allows engagement to be measured easily.

Stewart Hardy spoke about one of NLS’s recent threads, and its unique hashtag of #noncreepypeepy (Image with kind permission of David McLeod @ScotHeritageSMG)

My key points to take away:

  • Share your excitement about your collections with your followers – both existing and potential
  • Strike up conservation and have fun with the collections (surprise people, reveal the “behind the scenes” and use different media)

Materiality on Instagram – Dr Johanna Green, University of Glasgow

Johanna posed the question to the conference of what happens when we encounter our written history digitally… This allows for a whole range of sensory experiences, no less valid than the analogue experience of interacting with a manuscript, as we are finding new and different ways to connect with material.

Digital access is so important for those who are disengaged with archives, or for whom physical access is just not possible, and allows us to balance accessibility with care.

What was particularly interesting was the way Johanna spoke about this digitisation, that the results of photos taken on our phones, with our hands forming part of the image, are very different from a professional digitised image of a static artefact. Everyone’s interaction with the digital image will be personal and unique, from the areas on the image we choose to zoom in on to the personal connection we each have with that image. As Johanna pointed out, all the images she posts are of manuscripts she has personally handled, and her interaction becomes part of the artefact’s story to which we each then add.

My key points to take away:

  • Social media is a great tool for shared experiential learning
  • Think about people who cannot get easy access to material – how can we invite them to interact with material?
  • Recognise that everyone will have different experiences of the material being shown and hence different expectations of it
Johanna Green describes the crispness of manuscripts and the story of the many skins which are combined to make each book (Image with kind permission of Samantha Case @sn_case)

Social Media by ARA Scotland – Julie Devenney and Ravana Eagleheart, ARA Scotland

Julie and Ravana covered past and upcoming social media campaigns by ARA Scotland, including #Archive30 and #ArchiveZ, and the new ARA Scotland Instagram feed.

#Archive30 gave broad hashtag topics for archives to post on each day, and demonstrated a reach of over 3 million, whilst #ArchiveZ allocated a week per letter to post against, with freedom for organisations to choose anything from their collections to highlight.

The broad nature of the hashtags meant that it was suitable for all archives to take part and it was possible to link to other hashtags to widen reach even further. Julie recommended planning posts in advance, and using visuals to make posts appealing.

There are a number of upcoming campaigns that archives can join, including International Archive Day and What’s in the Archive Box? in June. Ravana then spoke about the new ARA Scotland Instagram feed – this will have feature weeks each month where specific repositories will be responsible for preparing that week’s material, on set themes per day. This will result in many benefits including increased visibility and presence for each repository featured.

Ravana’s MSc dissertation research into archives’ use of Instagram showed that the posts of most interest for followers were digitised items and collections, in-depth items and collection highlights, and “behind the scenes” work. The new Instagram feed will allow users to post on these themes and share their love for their collections with a wider audience.

My key points to take away:

  • There are lots of different ways to get involved, and we can choose the approach and/or level of commitment that suits each organisation or individual
  • Look at other organisations’ social media feeds for inspiration
  • Think about posting on “behind the scenes” activities to allow followers to see what really happens in an archive!
Julie Devenney and Ravana Eagleheart from @ARAScotland spoke about the #Archive30 campaign and the new Instagram account (Image with kind permission of Stewart Hardy)

Scottish Museums Day – David McLeod, Scottish Heritage Social Media Group

David covered the Scottish Museums Federation (SMF) social media campaign of Scottish Museums Day, which has run for the last three years on October 3rd.

This has been used to highlight Scottish museums and their collections, and its success has been influenced by a number of factors. David spoke of the importance of getting buy-in from both individuals and organisations, as large organisations with wide followings can instantly increase reach. There was also a strong engagement from non-museum organisations.

The first year of the campaign saw a reach of over 2.8 million, which increased in year 2. Unfortunately this reach fell in year 3 due to a number of factors. Thunderclap which had promoted the campaign in years 1 and 2 was no longer available in year 3, and organisational buy-in wasn’t as strong, both of which impacted on the time required by SMF for planning and delivery.

David spoke of how this was addressed by splitting the effort across the SMF team, rather than relying on one individual, especially for posting and responding over the course of the day. This showed a great example of how we need to be responsive to change, often to factors outwith our control such as the demise of Thunderclap. I look forward to seeing the posts from this year’s campaign!

My key points to take away:

  • Tone and humour used in posts must be appropriate for the organisations represented and the content shared
  • A quiz across the course of the day can keep followers interested
  • Recognise that a focused day will be onerous
David McLeod of the Scottish Heritage Social Media Group presenting on Museums Day (Image with kind permission of Johanna Green @codicologist)

Thank you to the ARA Scotland team for organising the conference, and to all the speakers for giving such informative and interesting talks.

The power of social media in our industry can be summed up in one tweet, by our fantastic host for the day, Freddie Alexander (@FredRAlexander): “You know you’re at a social media & cultural heritage event when someone mentions “that sheep”, and EVERYONE knows what you mean. #ArchiveSocialMedia”

Jennifer Lightbody, Archives & Collections Assistant, The Glasgow School of Art

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