Crystal Rodgers 2018-01-19 13:24:16
Social media is a major component of the outreach activities at the Labor Archives of Washington (LAW) in Seattle, a repository dedicated to the collection, preservation, and accessibility of the records of working people in the Pacific Northwest. As a curatorial area within the larger Special Collections Department at the University of Washington Libraries, having our own social media presence allows LAW to tailor content for those specifically interested in labor history and to raise awareness about labor-specific collections, exhibits, and events. It also keeps us connected to those currently active in the labor movement, a community on which LAW relies heavily for support. LAW’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have been in use since our founding in 2010, primarily as a way to promote activities to the community. Contributing content to the Special Collections’ blog, Pacific Northwest Features, enables us to provide more detailed information to readers. In September 2016, we also created a Labor Archives Instagram, a platform ideal for showcasing photographs, ephemera, and other visually appealing material from our collections. Social media can be a means of connecting with slightly younger audiences, although, as Joshua Hager points out in his assessment of archives’ Facebook use, this platform is “‘graying’ as its users age” and may no longer be the best way to reach these groups. (1) A Multi-Platform Strategy When I joined the LAW staff, labor archivist Conor Casey and I met to develop a formal social media strategy, discussing ways to create a more consistent presence, continuity across platforms, and regular promotion of our collections and access tools. Most importantly, we set a goal for the number of posts per platform, committing to at least one post per week on each. Posting regularly increases visibility to followers and generates more traffic on our pages. In terms of project management, having a schedule also helps us integrate social media into our weekly workflows. This doesn’t discourage posting more frequently on any given week; however, it keeps the task of generating new content manageable. This is essential for anyone using multiple platforms. In addition to following a schedule, we also cross-post the same content as much as possible. Most social media platforms have the ability to link different accounts to each other. This way, when I post to Instagram, it automatically posts the same content to the Labor Archives’ Twitter page. We also have an account with Hootsuite, a web-based service that allows us to manage all of our pages in one place and select which accounts we wish to post to. The ability to cherry pick is useful because some content is more appropriate for a specific platform or the platform, such as Twitter, restricts the length of posts. Using these tools is not only an incredible time-saver, but it also instantly broadens the reach of our posts and increases traffic on our other accounts by linking to the original posting. Connecting to Collections It’s our hope that social media efforts not only increase the visibility of the archives, but also increase the collections’ use. Linking to newly created finding aids, subject guides, and digital collections databases connects people to access tools of which they may not be aware. The Labor Archives uses recently completed projects as a way to regularly promote collections. For example, when we update legacy finding aids with more detailed descriptions, we advertise this collection and new finding aid on the Pacific Northwest Features blog, linking to the post on Facebook and Twitter. To catch peoples’ attention, I draw connections to the relevancy of archival material to current events whenever possible. For instance, after updating the finding aid for records of the Instructors’ Association, an organization of faculty at the University of Washington in the early 1900s that investigated and advocated for faculty needs, I highlighted the similarities in issues faced by faculty then that educators are still grappling with now (see https://.pnwblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/labor-archives-collection-highlights-instructors-association-records/). Instagram is another effective tool to promote collections. Using the hashtag #WorkingWednesday, each week’s post. spotlights an item from our collections. By attaching this hashtag to every post, we alert followers to anticipate labor-specific content every Wednesday. Additional hashtags such as #Archives, #SpecialCollections, and #LaborHistory are also attached to posts, providing another link to our content. Rather than physically pulling collections or photographing new items weekly, we use already digitized material as much as possible. We also select posts that highlight the contributions of women and people of color to the labor movement as well as anniversaries of historically significant events, such as the Seattle WTO Protest in November 1999. When I come across such events in our collections, I take a photograph (if not already digitized) and schedule a reminder in my work calendar to create a post on these days. Another way to engage with users is by participating in seasonal trending hashtags with other cultural heritage institutions. For instance, we posted a holiday poem written by a labor leader for December’s #LibraryWinterWonderland and a flyer from the 1999 WTO protest for October’s #PageFrights. This is a great way to connect people to an aggregation of primary sources from across the country. It also demonstrates that archival materials aren’t just for serious, scholarly pursuits but for fun as well! Building Community Although we strive to reach new audiences through our efforts, social media can target specific audiences, particularly the labor community. We host a Facebook group for Friends of the Labor Archives, an organization made up of labor historians, university faculty, and members of labor organizations who provide financial support and advocate for LAW’s activities. This page operates as a Facebook group with members posting directly to the main newsfeed. Although Conor and I share similar content to what we post on our institutional Facebook page, we tailor our wording and post using our individual accounts as a way to cultivate a more direct, personal relationship with members, many of whom we are collaborating with in person on a regular basis. We also make a point to follow and like the pages of other organizations, including those in other regions, such as labor union locals, state AFL-CIO chapters, labor history associations, and other labor archives and libraries. This gets the word out that LAW is a valuable resource and connects it with cultural heritage institutions that are also documenting working people. Additionally, it’s a way to promote exhibits and events we are involved in, such as the Washington State Labor Council’s MayWorks or the annual Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies Awards Banquet. These efforts demonstrate our view of the community as a partnership, not just a means to an end for collection development and funding. It also shows supporters that we’re actively caring for and engaging with our collections. Refining Strategy Developing social media strategies is an ongoing process, and LAW is continually looking for ways to improve. We are spearheading efforts with others in the Special Collections department to better track and report social media analytics. One goal is to use these analytics to track whether or not social media is effectively leading followers to our online access tools and, ultimately, inviting them to use our materials for research. We also meet with other librarians at the UW Libraries who manage social media as a way to share successful and unsuccessful strategies and better promote each other’s content. As social media evolves, with new platforms taking the place of current ones, it will also be important to monitor whether our chosen platforms are continuing to reach the audiences we want. Finally, follow us! You can find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/laborarchives/), Twitter (@LaborArchivesWA), Instagram (@laborarchiveswa), and Wordpress (https://pnwblog.wordpress.com/). Notes (1) Joshua D. Hager, “To Like or Not to Like: Understanding and Maximizing the Utility of Archival Outreach on Facebook,” The American Archivist 78, no. 1 (2015): 26.
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