Giving It a Try: #AskAnArchivist Day

 

This post was authored by guest contributor Caryn Radick, Digital Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

In late September, my colleague and I declared this would be the year that Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives would participate in #AskAnArchivist Day! Although most of our social media outreach happens on Facebook and Instagram, taking part in #AskAnArchivist Day would would give us a ready-made opportunity to expand our social media reach further into the Twittersphere.

How we prepared:

Given our late declaration, we had to scramble. We decided to do the following:

  • Reach out to our libraries’ communications office about our participation to see if they could offer suggestions and/or support.
  • Leverage our Instagram presence by preparing posts that could go on Twitter throughout #AskAnArchivist Day using Later.
  • Look for “fun/interesting facts” to post about Rutgers’ collections throughout the day, but to set “office hours” for our participation.

The results of those decisions helped us prepare the day:

  • The communications office offered suggestions (like making videos) and promoted the chat on the Rutgers University Libraries web page and through social media.

  • Using Later let us schedule some posts, in case we got pulled away from our Twitter account during non-office hours.
  • We enjoyed gathering the fun/interesting facts, particularly making a video demonstrating how our dumbwaiter works.

During the office hours (1-2:30) we spent a lot of time interacting on Twitter, but most of our tweeting was with other #AskAnArchivist Day participants. Questions from researchers or people interested in archival life were few. This “are we just talking to each other”? observation came up on Twitter as well. I’d be curious to know which archives have high non-archivist engagement and how they achieve it.

After the session was over, we compiled some quick statistics about the day on Twitter. Our preliminary tally indicated we got about 150 likes and 13 new followers. We later learned that we had made the “What’s Trending” section of the Rutgers Today newsletter (with a tweet about President Obama’s chair from when he attended Rutgers’ commencement).

We also had three of our items posted on that day shared in the Upworthy Story about strange objects found in archives.

Lessons learned from #AskAnArchivist Day:

  • Figure out what you want to achieve and frame your day in a way that supports it.  For example, if our goal was to gain more Twitter followers and share info about our collections, we were successful. If we intended to interact with researchers and people who want to know more about being an archivist, then it was less fruitful.
  • Start planning early! This allows more time to decide upon and gather images, videos, and facts to share.
  • Think about your set-up for monitoring Twitter. We had multiple screens open and were working on two computers. Sometimes we got a little lost in the toggling, but having two people offering different perspectives was useful.
  • Vary the breadth of objects and media you plan to share. It is tough to predict what will generate the most likes and retweets, so mix it up.
  • Get a good sense of your Twitter statistics (number of followers, averages likes and retweets, etc) prior to #AskAnArchivist Day. This provides a good baseline for comparison.
  • Promote the event through other social media channels. We did this for about a week before the event and it seemed to generate interest.

What lessons have you learned from #AskAnArchivist Day? If you’ve participated for multiple years, what changes have you made since you started?

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