Toward a Dynamic—and Virtual—Public Archaeology
In my mind, public archaeology involves reaching out and interacting with different audiences, ranging from…
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
Happy to follow up with any questions you may have and good luck!