The 5 W's of Social Media
Did you know that over 70% of adults who are online use social media? This form of electronic communication is extremely efficient, which is especially helpful to those on a limited budget. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs provide organizations with a platform for promotional material, solicitations, and public engagement. Below are the 5 W’s of starting a social media initiative or revamping an ongoing campaign.
WHO: Determine your target audience. Are you trying to reach the preservation community in your county, a broader audience, or a new membership base? Keep your audience in mind when you develop content and network with other organizations and people.
WHAT: Determine the kind of content that you would like to publish, a.k.a. “post”. Will your audience connect with the subject of your post? And, does sharing the subject matter contribute to the CHC’s mission? Is there an interesting photo you can attach to the information? You can accomplish a great deal by simply using a good image and a caption.
WHEN: Develop a schedule for getting your message across. How often will you post content? Social media works best if you are consistent; post regularly and often.
WHERE: Determine which social media platform is best for your organization. What platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) do most people in your county use? Which accounts have you already set-up and which do you know how to use proficiently? How can you direct people to your social media page? Include your social media information on brochures, emails, and your website.
WHY: Social media is an effective and inexpensive way to advertise your events, promote your successes, and interact with your audience.
Once you have answered the 5 W’s you have an outline for a social media plan. Experiment with content and platforms to find out what works best for your group. We also recommend having a designated social media chair who is responsible for making sure the organization sticks to its social media plan. Don’t forget to have fun too! Sharing your work, knowledge of local history, and photos is an exciting and rewarding experience.
Social Media Tips from CHCs
To learn how CHCs use social media, we asked the Chambers CHC and the Collin CHC a few questions about their online outreach methods. Chambers County has used social media for over a year, while Collin County just recently set up an account with Facebook.
Madeline Clites (THC): Why did your CHC decide to create a Facebook page?
Sheryl Shaw, Chambers CHC Chair (SS): There were three main reasons we decided to utilize Facebook. First, it offers an immediate and continual opportunity for exposure. Prompting discussion reminds people of the value of our heritage, and hopefully inspires people to protect it. Secondly, using Facebook vastly increases our audience. Finally, by reaching such a vast audience we can encourage support for our projects.
Paula Ross, Collin CHC Chair (PR): We wanted a better way to connect with our “coalition” of county groups. We are listed on the county website, but we can’t add anything and it’s difficult to get the county to add or change information there. We figured everyone, or at least almost everyone is on Facebook, so we all could connect with information and our members could add info about their group activities as well. I still send notices, but we’re hoping this Facebook page becomes a very active site! Also, we felt we needed to stay current. We understand that our youth need to be connected with, and learn about, the past in a fun way. We do a type of “Flat Stanley”–only we use Collin McKinney—to list historic sites for families to find through GPS coordinates, this way they can post their findings and pictures [on Facebook] as they tour. Perhaps it will inspire others to get out and find the historic sites, take a “selfie” at the markers, and post!
THC: What goals did the CHC have for the Facebook page starting out?
SS: Our primary goal in using Facebook was to share the rich history of our county with as many people as possible. We hoped that education would lead to appreciation which would lead to protection. Our other goals were to promote projects and activities, to help with fundraising, and to raise awareness of our commission in hopes of increasing our membership.
PR: The goals are to get information and pictures of events out quickly to the public, have a better presence in the community, and have our historic preservation groups connect quicker and more often.
THC to Chambers CHC: Have your Facebook goals been accomplished?
SS: We are indeed achieving our goals; Facebook allows the administrators of the page to see how many people have viewed a particular photo or posting. We have connected to 900 people with a single photo, although that is unusual; a normal number is around 130. Facebook also reports how many people your page reaches per week. It is not uncommon for our Facebook page to reach 1,000 people in one week.
THC to Collin CHC: How difficult was it to create the Facebook page and learn to post content?
PR: Not difficult at all—we have a younger member with teenage kids. Posting is something even I can do!
THC: Have there been surprising benefits or challenges to using social media?
SS: It is quite gratifying to read comments such as "keep up the good work" and "I lived here all my life and never knew this” or, see a conversation of memories sparked by a photo posted of an old building or a group of high school football all-stars from the 60's. It's been an overwhelmingly positive experience so far, and met with great enthusiasm from our audience. Facebook also makes it easy to share information with newspapers in our area and to post their articles on our site. As far as challenges, the only one I can think of is trying to represent all sections of our county.
THC: What type of social media content does the public respond to the best? Photos? Videos? Etc.
SS: The posts which seem to be most popular are photos that spark memories within the reader. I think the most popular photo we shared was the unbelievably high water at the park during hurricane Ike. Technically this is not yet an historical event since it occurred in 2008, but it illustrates that people respond to events and places with which they can personally identify. Therefore, we learned that we should find ways to help people personally identify with our history.
Thank you to the Chambers CHC and the Collin CHC for sharing their social media experiences with us!
For more information on social media strategy, read this article published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation: http://blog.preservationnation.org/2012/08/07/10-on-tuesday-10-ways-to-start-using-social-media-to-save-places/#.U-Ol5WPfXCV.