Social media is not a substitute for a project website. However, with some planning and commitment, social media can be a manageable and powerful addition to your project outreach plan.
Looking for more guidance? Contact DH @ Berkeley to meet with a digital humanities consultant.
Should You Use Social Media?
Before embarking on a social media platform, consider the following questions:
Does your project have a web presence?
A social media account is not a substitute for a project website. If you do not yet have a project website, you should prioritize that before social media presence. For a longer discussion of project websites, see ‘Choosing a platform for your project website’.
Do you have time to maintain social media?
Whether you choose to update your social media once a week or once a month, once you have begun a social media project, you must be able to sustain a consistent engagement. An ‘abandoned’ social media page will send the wrong message about your project.
What are your outreach goals?
Who is your potential audience: private donors? scholarly collaborators? the general public?
Why are you on social media? To fundraise? To increase foot traffic or web traffic? To recruit volunteers?
Choosing a Platform
When choosing a platform, consider who your audience(s) will be, what types of content you will be posting, and how frequently your project’s social media platforms will be updating.
Twitter is a social media platform that requires users to communicate in 140 character ‘tweets’. Twitter is used by both individuals and institutions to share news and curate content by ‘retweeting’. Many people blend their personal and professional identities on Twitter, so it is suited to reaching a variety of audiences.
Facebook is ideal for reaching out to casual users, who can “like” institutional Facebook pages to receive occasional updates in their news feeds. Facebook can be used to share a variety of content types, such as: links with extended commentary, videos, and photo albums.
Flickr is a free website focused on photography. If your project is consistently engaged in digitization and distribution of rich images, Flickr may be an ideal way for users to discover your content. Flickr also makes it easy to indicate if your images are available for public and/or commercial use under Creative Commons license.
YouTube and Vimeo
When uploading media to online video sites, make sure to take advantage of built-in features for content discovery. If you are splitting a video up into multiple pieces or are gathering videos from the same event, make them easier to find by gathering them together in a Playlist or Channel.
LinkedIn’s is focused on professional networking. It is best used for maintaining an individual’s online presence, but is less suited for scholarly project outreach. During publicity drives, you might ask project collaborators to advertise events or job postings on their personal LinkedIn profiles.
Setting Up Best Practices
While may individuals have experience using social media for personal use, establishing best practices for an project or institution’s social media account will help maintain consistency over time. This particularly useful is multiple people will be contributing to social media or the social media coordinator changes from semester to semester (i.e. social media coordinated by a URAP student). Set clear standards for what is and is not acceptable content. Consider the following questions:
- What tone should be used in communications? How formal / casual? Is humor acceptable?
- When someone replies or responds to content, what team member is in charge of responding? Does the PI need to sign off on response? Should users be redirected to an email address or a contact form on your project website?
- Who has the passwords to the account? Who has the password reset email?
- For social media platforms that encourage curated content (e.g. reblogging or retweeting), what is the ideal ratio of curated content to composed content?
- What people and organizations does your project support? What organizations does your project not want to be associated with? Does retweeting or liking imply endorsement?
Template: Social Media Best Practices Worksheet
Making Social Media Manageable
While most scholarly projects may not be able to post something every day, strive to establish a regular posting schedule. An ‘abandoned’ social media platform may confuse visitors about the status of your project. With some tools and planning, social media can be planned in advance.
Establishing an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar helps ensure that your project posts consistently and meets outreach goals. A project’s social media content can be planned well in advance, but frequency may vary by project and by social media platform (e.g. blog posts for the quarter, tweets for the week, Facebook posts for the month). Once an editorial calendar is agreed upon, use a free social media scheduler like TweetDeck (Twitter-only) or Hootsuite (multi-platform).
Template: Social Media Editorial Calendar
If planning any large publicity drives (i.e. a fundraising campaign), expect to allocate more time during that period to interacting with your community on social media (e.g. retweeting comments from followers, answering questions on Facebook).
Some social media platforms offer free, built-in analytics: how many users viewed your content, how many users clicked on links, etc. Other platforms may require you to manually log information. By installing Google Analytics on your project website, you can analyze how various social media publicity drives affect site traffic.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free service that allows users to connect several ‘Channels’ (i.e. Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress) and use ‘Recipes’ created by the community to automate workflows.
- Log all Tweets on a spreadsheet in Google Drive [recipe]
- Automatically generate a Tweet when I publish a new blog post [recipe]
- Collect the usernames of everyone who retweets my posts [recipe]
Tips and Tricks:
Match Your Medium
Use writing styles appropriate to your social media platform. Twitter’s 140-character limit makes its content different from Facebook posts featuring an album of uploaded pictures. Examine peer projects to compare and contrast how the same content may be adapted to different platforms.
Optimize Graphic Assets
When creating assets such as a profile picture for Twitter, or a cover photo for a Facebook page, ensure image consistency across platforms. Understand file formats (JPEG vs. PNG vs. GIF) to make sure images are crisp and at proper resolution. Optimal image dimensions may differ from platform to platform. Search for ‘social media image dimensions’ to find the most up to date dimensions for your platform(s).