Vicki Tobias 2015-04-01 11:04:58
As an academic archives with limited resources for outreach work, social media platforms have been essential in helping the University of Wisconsin (UW)–Madison Archives connect with the individuals who use our collections, whether for research or outreach, and potential donors of historic material, both on and off campus. When we began using social media in spring 2011, we had three main objectives: to increase awareness of our mission to collect, preserve, and provide access to materials that document UW history; introduce our services to an entirely new audience of students, faculty, staff, and alumni; and to build community around our shared campus history. Tumblr has allowed us to share the longer stories that can’t be shared on Twitter, as well as to include multimedia and linked elements. Of course, our Twitter account is also a valued part of our social media presence, allowing us to start and participate in conversations. Here are some Tumblr and Twitter strategies that have worked for our archives. Tumblr http://uwmadarchives.tumblr.com Our Tumblr blog features longer stories about our work or campus history. We often share interesting discoveries from a recently acquired or processed collection. (What archivist hasn’t proclaimed, “Holy cow, look what I found!” through the course of his or her daily work?) We aim to share our excitement with a larger audience, especially those on and beyond campus with an interest in UW history. We post a new story once a week, sometimes detailing a cool discovery or relaying a vignette that complements a recent campus event, such as our basketball team’s trip to the Final Four in 2014, or a more general theme, such as the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. A typical post includes at least one photo or an embedded audio or video clip, links to additional information, citation information, and text directing patrons to our website for more information. We have five hundred Tumblr followers, including other cultural heritage institutions, UW campus units, and historians. We actively follow about seventy history-related blogs. A particularly unique reference question or finding a hidden gem in a seemingly mundane collection often inspires the best blog posts. Well-timed posts with evocative images also result in high engagement from our followers; an image of the 1911 UW toboggan run posted in conjunction with the 2015 UW–Madison Winter Carnival resulted in fifty-four reposts and comments. One post that told the story of four UW students who won a nationally televised quiz show, UW College Bowl of Champions (1965), resulted in two of the four original participants contacting the archives to share additional stories about their time on the College Bowl circuit. While this may not have been our most widely shared post to date, it provided an invaluable opportunity to connect with UW alumni and collect reminiscences. Tumblr has been particularly useful in helping our student staff to become more engaged in our social media presence. We regularly encourage our student staff to blog about their processing, reference, or digitization work. Tumblr allows this work to be completed quickly and professionally, without requiring knowledge of HTML or other skills necessary to update our main website. Students gain a byline and a webbased project to share on their résumés or with potential employers. Twitter @UWMadArchives Approximately 3,100 accounts follow @UWMadArchives, including students, faculty, alumni, UW departments and colleges, other cultural heritage institutions, historians, and history-related publications. On average, we tweet twice a day during the work week and regularly use hashtags to join in on campus-related conversations and events (#BattleforBascom, #UWFoundersDay, #UWRightNow, etc.). Our tweets and posts are crafted by multiple staff members and sometimes require a final review to fact check and ensure a cohesive voice. We tweet facts about well-known campus figures in the news, such as a Nobel Prize nominee or published author, or share intriguing facts about campus history, sometimes related to an anniversary date or in conjunction with a department’s anniversary or celebration: On this day in campus history, Charles Van Hise became @UWMadison president! #tbt On occasion we’ll pose a question to engage our followers: #Badgers! Back in 1930, Rennebohm’s was located on #StateStreet. What’s there now? Share a photo w/us! #tbt Our most popular tweets use humor to illuminate some aspect of campus history, especially those with links to historic photos that depict a common experience, such as dormitory life, student recreational activities, campus traditions, or well-known campus locations. We actively participate in Throwback Thursday (#tbt), a widely adopted practice of tweeting anything related to the past. We also experimented using Twitter as a collection development tool. On October 12, 2012, President Barack Obama visited UW–Madison. By following #UWObama, the campus-designated event hashtag, we leveraged Twitter to collect photos from this extraordinary event. We identified tweets that included an intriguing image and sent a direct message to the account owner requesting permission to collect the image. In some cases, we requested additional metadata or a betterquality TIFF image. By actively monitoring the hashtag throughout the day, we collected approximately fifty well-composed, high-resolution images that documented President Obama’s entire day in Madison. While our goal is to foster engagement, we did not anticipate patrons tweeting reference questions to our account. We monitor activity during the work week but are not as active after hours or on the weekend. On occasion, our response to offhour inquiries may not be as instantaneous as expected in an environment that assumes constant contact. We use Hootsuite, a social media management tool, to manage our Twitter account. Besides providing an environment for drafting and scheduling tweets, Hootsuite allows us track individual tweets and hashtags which, in turn, helps us understand what content best resonates with our intended audience. We regularly use Hootsuite to monitor communications with other Twitter accounts that pose questions or comments to @ UWMadArchives. Best Practices In general, we follow a few basic best practices when posting to any of our social media platforms. First do no harm—present a positive image of the archives and UW– Madison. Be thoughtful about content and potential audiences. Think (and proof) before you post or tweet. Whether humorous or more reserved, always maintain a professional voice. And, finally, participate actively in the larger campus or archives-related social media community. Don’t just post, be part of the conversation! UW–Madison has a substantial and highly successful social media presence, and we are fortunate to be part of this extensive network that connects so many diverse entities related to the university. Since initiating our social media accounts, we’ve seen a measurable increase in in-person and emailed reference requests from within the UW community. Often, our most successful efforts on social media are those discovered and shared by other campus entities with much larger audiences and reach. We measure this success by the amount or quality of engagement created by a tweet or a post. It’s particularly gratifying when this outreach inspires a follow-up reference request or a visit to the archives, or a request to reuse content discovered on our social media sites.
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