By Joe Bagley, Boston City Archaeologist
If you have heard of the City Archaeology Program, chances are it is through our Facebook page.
While the Program I lead has been around since 1983, it has only become widely known and visible due to a commitment to social media.
As a government bureaucrat, I’m part of a team of City of Boston employees who manage social media pages, and I actively track (read: compete with) their pages to see who is most successful in building audiences and increasing interactions with users. Our growth, currently at just under 1% a week, far surpasses all other Boston city social media pages. We shouldn’t be surprised as archaeology is interesting, engaging, and fun, but not every archaeology page succeeds. I can personally account for our success for one reason: We are original content producers.
Original content producer means that nearly 100% of my posts are content that I have created and are available nowhere else on the internet. That means, people who follow our pages will be the exclusive real-time consumers of new data, and that is my, and all other archaeologists, primary draw.
Without further ado, here are my overall tips, tricks, and guidance to Social Media and you, my dear fellow archaeologists.
What platform is best for me? Well, all are actually, but we’ll get to that. Here are my pros and cons for the most popular:
Facebook: “Look at what WE did.”
Facebook pages are great for groups, programs, projects, and more-than-one-person pages. They don’t work as well for individuals if your goal is public archaeology as your friends are the only ones who see them. I could have done a Facebook page for me as Joe Bagley, public figure and City Archaeologist, but the third-person Program-title allows for less ego, and also helps if I get hit by a bus and someone else has to take over without re-titling everything. Also, Facebook is friendly to longer posts that allow you to explain who, what, when, where, and why about the topic you are sharing. You also can post events, link easily to other things, etc. It’s my favorite platform.
Biggest con: You can’t post too frequently or your posts will be punished and not shown to as many people.
Twitter: “Look at what I did.”
This can work for programs and individuals, but I find the fast-pace of Twitter quickly buries new content. Great for individuals looking to actively communicate first-person with others, but a bit less effective for programs. The platform is ideal for live-broadcasts and rapid-fire posting, especially as a page as these things are punished in Facebook.
Instagram: “Look at this pretty thing.”
This is great for all types of photos and video, but ONLY photos and video. It also interfaces perfectly with Facebook (who owns Instagram), so you can post to Instagram and have it automatically post to Facebook without weird formatting issues. Instagram is not good if you have nothing to show.
Snapchat: “Look at this short video of someone with a cat face superimposed digging a hole before it auto-deletes.”
Super popular and fun, but as all posts get auto-deleted, I can’t be bothered.
Tumblr: “I’ve got something to say.”
For me Tumblr and Facebook have many of the same qualities that I like, but Tumblr really succeeds in the long-format blog-type posts that really let you dive down deep into a topic. I’m a big fan of the podcast “Stuff You Missed in History Class.” Their Tumblr page, which combines info, images, their radio content, and links, is a perfect model for what a successful archaeology Tumblr page could be with little modification. If I had more time, this would be how I would like to increase our social media presence the most.
Pinterest: “Look at this pretty thing and save it.”
Pinterest is very visual as their user interface shows little text and the wow-factor of your images are really what drives any growth.
Okay, now that you picked your favorite, time for…
SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES
- 80% (or more) original content. I don’t need to see your shares of every single archaeology magazine post. I just want to see what you are doing.
- 95% of your content should be photos or video. Everything else is punished with new algorithms being implemented by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that only allow your content to “go out” to your followers if it is engaging. I have over 8,000 Facebook followers. If I post a text-only post to my page, Facebook punishes me by only letting 100-200 people see it, max. In other words, don’t live-Facebook the 2017 SHAs.
- Brand yourself. Come up with a short hashtag for all of your posts. Ours is #DigBOS, and we create a new one for each of our new projects. Malcolm X’s house: #DigX. Old North Church: #DigNORTH, etc. Please use/steal the #Dig___ tag idea.
- Make it personal and human. I saw a dramatic increase when I started including my hand holding artifacts in shots instead of stark backgrounds with a scale. Most of our audience is not archaeologists, and other archaeologists will forgive us if we show dirty fingernails. It may require you to avoid using the images you took for publication in your posts, though.
- Don’t cross-post content between pages. Facebook links in cut-off Twitter posts look terrible and nobody clicks them. Your images, especially with Twitter, must be “native,” meaning posted from the app/website in order for them to not appear as links. See below.
- Use the IFTTT app. I love this app. I hate posting the same damn thing multiple times to a laundry list of apps on my phone. This fixes it and is free. It connects your various platforms, but makes your content “native” so that it appears to have been posted directly from the program/app making images always appear in full. I have it setup so that I post to Instagram and IFTTT automatically posts to my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest pages. It has massively increased my interactions and followers on Twitter as I post mostly to Facebook, but now I can easily post to everything at once. Total game-changer for me. Bonus: If you aren’t interested in babysitting a ton of social media platforms, get IFTTT, create pages for all of the above platforms, and use it to auto-populate posts and updates and increase the social visibility of your program, project, school, etc.
- It really doesn’t take that long to post, 1-2 minutes per post, max. If I can posts 5+ times a day while managing a field crew of 10+ volunteers, many with no experience, all while providing impromptu interpretive tours to hundreds of visitors a day, you can too.
- Don’t give up! I’ve been at this for four years, but it took me almost two years for my first 1,000 followers.
Happy to follow up with any questions you may have and good luck!