It seems like everybody and their mother (well, not my mother) uses social media: babies arrive on Facebook within minutes of their birth, drool-worthy recipes are pinned and re-pinned endlessly on Pinterest, and news breaks on Twitter far faster than NBC can get around to showing it on television.
It’s no different for preservation activists and organizations. A social presence is close to a requirement -- potentially daunting for those of us who love all things historical more than all things technological.
The good news is, doing a little bit of planning now can pay dividends for your cause later. Over the coming months, we’ll have tips and tools for using a variety of different social sites to advance your preservation goals. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, here are 10 things to think about before you start using social media to help save places.
First, some questions to ask:
1. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you advocating to save a single building? Are you trying to raise awareness of a historic neighborhood? Are you trying to influence local (or national) policy? Knowing what you want to do will help you decide which social sites to use.
2. What does success look like? Having a clear, measurable goal from the outset will guide the choices you make and let you know when your social program is officially working. Not sure where to start? Here’s a handy primer.
3. Where is your audience? The old saying “different strokes for different folks” applies in social networking, just as it does in other areas of life. Knowing who uses what can steer you towards the right social channels to meet your goals. A great resource for demographics is the Pew Internet and American Life project.
4. What’s your budget? There’s a common misconception that social media is free. It’s not. While Facebook, Twitter, etc., are free sites, they come with options (such as Facebook ads) that are not. In addition, don’t forget the human resources cost, because having an effective social media program requires staff time.
5. How much time do you have? It’s possible to have an effective social media program with an hour a day or less, but it does require a consistent, daily commitment. And, of course, the bigger your goals, the bigger the time commitment required, so plan accordingly.
6. What kind of content -- and content creators -- do you have? If there’s one thing social media requires, it is content, so know what you have at your disposal before you start. This will help you select what social media sites to use as well as plan your posting schedule. Some questions to think about: Do you have a blog or website with stories you can share? Are you comfortable finding and sharing stories from local or national news outlets? Does your team have someone with a particular talent for photography or video? Play to your strengths!
7. Do you need a social media policy? If you’re working on your own to save a place, probably not, but if you’re part of an organization -- even a casual or ad hoc one -- having some ground rules can be helpful (so long as they’re not overly restrictive). Your colleagues who are using social media already can be the best ambassadors for your cause if you let them. Not sure how to get started? The Policy Tool for Social Media offers a step-by-step wizard to create a customized policy that meets your organization’s needs.
And now, a few things to think about:
8. Don’t default to the intern. But don’t disregard the intern, either. It’s a common cliché that interns handle social media, because as “digital natives” they understand it better. What many interns don’t know, however, is your organization and its culture, which can make it hard to find the right voice online -- or a consistent one, as internships tend to be finite. Social media can be an ideal opportunity for two-way mentoring, with newer and more experienced staff working together to build an online presence.
9. Don’t forget the offline world. It can be exciting to think of connecting with supporters online, but it’s unlikely that all your stakeholders will be online. Don’t use social media as an excuse to abandon your tried-and-true offline engagement.
10. Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. With so many options available, it’s easy to feel like you need to have a presence everywhere, when in reality, it’s far better to have one or two vibrant social communities than a bunch of haphazard ones.
Are you using social media to save places? Tell us how it's working for you!
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.