A lot has been made of the importance of social media for archives and libraries. In fact, I wrote a post about it here last October and, if anything, it becomes more and more important. Along with the ability to promote your organization and collections while staying in touch with your audience, different social media platforms can lend themselves to new methods of outreach depending on a collection’s contents and strengths. Interestingly enough, archives collections, especially those containing collections of individuals and families, lend themselves to some interesting projects using Twitter.
In my archives position at the American Swedish Institute, I’ve recently started a Twitter account dedicated to sharing one of our immigrant diaries with those interested in ASI, Sweden, or immigrant history. Check it out at @OlofAnderson. I’ll write a more in-depth post on that project later, but I thought it might be useful to comment on the tools I’ve found to be helpful supporting this kind of outreach project.
First of all, Twitter is an absolutely wonderful platform for archives for a few reasons. It allows them to build a web of contacts including other organizations and patrons, which facilitates rich and equitable sharing of information and commentary about it. Its short-form 140 character limit for posts really makes you crystallize your message, and is easy and quick both for archivists to write and for readers to digest and share. And then there are the all-powerful #hashtags; tagging is more conducive to fostering conversations, connecting disparate groups and information, and allowing for serendipitous discovery by those who might not normally follow your posts. Plus, those without Twitter accounts can still read posts on a Twitter feed and discover a feed through Google.
Some types of tweeting are best accomplished through Twitter itself (links, promotion, events, commentary, basically anything that is new and time-bound). Archives can also use a web service like HootSuite to manage accounts. HootSuite allows users to manage and schedule their tweets in advance. This helps archivists provide content at times when archivists can’t tweet then and there, promote events regularly, remind patrons of regular services, and generally free up archivists who might only have an hour a week to sit down and type up some tweets. The scheduler also has interesting uses for archives in particular. The @OlofAnderson project, for example, shares diary entries written by a Swedish immigrant. Traveling to America in 1855, he wrote short entries that are perfect for Twitter. Using HootSuite, we can upload these tweets far in advance, since we have both the content and the date on which it should be published (the date it was written). Here is a closeup of the advance scheduling feature:
One nice thing about HootSuite is that you can use the scheduling service with a free account, so the only cost is the staff time to type entries into the scheduler. For a project like ASI’s, it’s easy to schedule-and-forget, which frees up time while also continually delivering content to patrons. With an account already set up, it’s also a very easy project for a volunteer to do, especially one who is social media savvy. It’s important to keep in mind that bulk scheduling capabilities are not available through a free account, though; for libraries and archives that have bigger budgets or fewer volunteers, the $10 a month fee for a Pro account may be worth it. If an archives has more than one social media or Twitter account, the cost becomes more and more justified.
Along with HootSuite, another great tool both for professional and personal use is Bitly. Bitly is one of many URL shorteners available for free use. Because Twitter is short form, shorteners help you to say more and still share a link without exceeding your character limit. You can also hook up your various accounts to Bitly to post directly from it. You can read more in another post here.
There are also countless Twitter apps that can help archives hone their posts for maximum readership; this hashtags app seems especially useful for archives tweeting fixed content, in order to find those hashtags that will help them reach the broadest audience. There are lots of potential practical uses for these apps, but a lot of them just look like a lot of fun too! I’d recommend playing around a little if you have some time.
Are there any Twitter tools and apps you have found especially useful in your library or archives? Please share them!