Using Social Media to Promote Conservation at West Yorkshire Archive Service – Katie Proctor

The use of social media at work has become a normality for most of us in the archives profession. The use of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. has allowed us to get a message out to a much wider audience than ever before.

Conservation is very visual so the sharing of processes in a visual way on social media platforms has worked well for us at the conservation studio of West Yorkshire Archive Service.

We are a team of four based in the Wakefield office of West Yorkshire Archive Service. We provide conservation and preservation for all five districts of West Yorkshire making us the largest local authority archive outside of London.

We have had a number of successful twitter campaigns here at the archive service including #ConsDiaries and #searchroomdiaries. #ConsDiaries was set up back in May 2018 and the aim was:

  • To make links with conservators already using social media and encourage those who aren’t to have a go
  • To chronicle daily life as a conservator in an interesting way
  • To develop and strengthen the conservation identity on line
  • To find out what people are interested in hearing about
  • To curate a body of tweets to help answer the question ‘what does a conservator do?’
  • To raise the profile of conservators within their own organisations and networks.

Although mostly archive, paper, book or preventive conservators, there were also participants from the specialisms of archaeology and stained glass. Institutions involved included local authorities such as ourselves at West Yorkshire Archive Service; national institutions such as the British Library and the National Archives of Ireland; and independent conservators such as Sharon Oldale and Lorraine Finch.

The chronicling of daily tasks is nothing new, and many conservators take to social media to show the world their work on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, either independently or under the aegis of their employer. The field of conservation however is often confused with conservation of the environmental kind when using search terms on line or creating hashtags to signpost users towards content. There is no one unifying hashtag so we hoped #ConsDiaries could fill this gap.

Looking at the analytics of #ConsDiaries we picked up a few essential tips:

  • Four tweets a day worked well
  • Images are a must and short videos work really well
  • Strategic hashtags also worked well and can be used to interact with different audiences
  • The accounts that tweeted the most tended to have more engagement
  • The most popular tweets also didn’t assume the reader had in-depth knowledge of the conservation field. We found it was important that tweets were clear, concise and could be understood by everyone. Some followers of #ConsDiaries were from other conservation fields, not conservators at all or were from other countries, therefore we found that tweets that assumed knowledge or understanding didn’t do as well.

Image 1 Anne Lister tweet

Another successful twitter campaign we have been involved with centred on #GentlemanJack. We conserved the Anne Lister Diaries thanks to funding from Sally Wainwright, director of the popular HBO and BBC drama Gentleman Jack. A number of tweets related to #GentlemanJack have proved very popular receiving high engagement percentages, retweets and impressions.

Short videos always seem to be the most popular for West Yorkshire Archive Service and as conservators we’ve always got a great visual.

Popular tweets have also been used to point people towards our other social media platforms. A snippet of a time lapse video of a map being placed on the map wall proved very popular. We used this small snippet to point followers in the direction of our YouTube channel where the full video could be viewed and also to our Instagram page. We noticed quite a sharp increase in followers of our Instagram page following the post of the video.

We are able to gain analytics of some of our social media platforms by the use of Hootsuite. This has proved very useful in giving us summaries of activity on both our Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is useful in highlighting our most popular tweets and posts on a monthly basis thus allowing us to target out social media for specific times when specific hashtags are being used.

Image 3 Top Tweet

Hootsuite has also allowed us to keep our Twitter and Facebook posts regular. Ideally we like to target the delivery of our posts and tweets in order to raise the profile of specific events or campaigns. Hootsuite has allowed us to queue our posts so we have regular posts even when were not at work!

We have a long way to go. We’d like to understand the analytics a lot more as they have helped us pick up on what’s popular and what’s engaging our followers the most. However, we have found that using social media certainly does take up a lot of time, so when we hit on a popular subject it certainly does make it all seem worthwhile.

Katie Proctor, Conservator at West Yorkshire Archive Service.

One comment

  1. Jennifer Hunt

    Hi Katie i have writing and working on a paper looking at success and how we m easier it in this sector. If be interested to know if you agreed with some of my theories. I’m in the process of transmitting my paper to the ARA journal but also looking at updating my research . Could I send you an email with a couple of questions about what you see as success on social media?

    Really interesting article btw


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