What's Old Is Marketable: Creating a Social Media Plan for Special Collections and Archives

What's Old Is Marketable: Creating a Social Media Plan for Special Collections and Archives

Leigh Rupinski (Grand Valley State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8097-3.ch012
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This chapter will provide direction to special collections and archives looking to craft a social media strategy by including steps to guide archivists and librarians through the planning process. It will provide an adaptable approach to engaging special collections and archives' audiences with the unique treasures in the collection holdings and in initiating conversations about the opportunities and challenges associated with social media at their respective institutions. This chapter will also assist archivists and librarians in creating a practical framework to make informed decisions for their social media accounts, in crafting goals that advance their organizational mission and values, and in making social media outreach sustainable by considering questions of purpose, audience, platform, messaging, tone, content, and assessment.
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Background: History Of Social Media In Special Collections And Archives

In recent years, special collections and archives have begun to pay increased attention to the importance of dedicated marketing and outreach, which has led to the rise of positions with these responsibilities interwoven in their makeup. Palmer and Stevenson (2011) noted the increasing role of outreach in everyday archival workloads, while simultaneously acknowledging that these kinds of activities “can often be undertaken in an ad hoc and nonstrategic manner” due to limited budgets and available expertise (p. 4). While outreach has recently been considered integral to maintaining successful archives, few archivists had the time, background, or funding to create strategic, sustainable, ongoing outreach programs.

Archivists have long argued for treating outreach as part of an archivists’ normal workload rather than “a series of haphazard short-term projects undertaken as time and money permit” (Ericson, 1990-91, p. 115). In fact, outreach supports all other facets of the archival workflow, including acquisition and description (Ericson, 1990-91, p. 115). Successful outreach activities may increase awareness of the purpose of archives at an institution, which in turn aids archivists in bringing in new donations or transferring material from institutional departments. Posting photographs or documents on social media can help identify people or interpret difficult-to-read handwriting, which in turn improves archival metadata. In truth, outreach encircles the entire archival workflow, supporting it from start to finish.

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