At SAS it is our role to promote and facilitate research. As part of a one-year JISC-funded SMART project, the central communications team has been working closely with staff across SAS to expand and develop the social media presence of the School and its 10 institutes as part of a broader communications strategy. One of the aims of the project is to increase awareness and engagement with the impact of individual research and research-related projects at SAS through integrated and focused social media activity. We are hoping to use social media channels to encourage a community of academics, subject specialists and members of the public to engage with the School’s projects and their outputs.
We defined a 3 step approach to using social media to create impact:
- Communication: We wanted to enable our academics to share real-time commentary on their projects and assisted by offering training sessions on blogging.
- Sharing assets: For the first time we shared multimedia research materials (i.e. images from the Miller Archive) on our Flickr page.
- Social bookmarking: Throughout June and July we shared our content and assets via Twitter and Facebook to find and engage subject specialists and key organisations who could help amplify our message.
A Case Study
One of our recent attempts as part of this initiative was the promotion of the exhibition ‘Theatrical Lives from Vienna to London: Treasures from the Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Archive‘ at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. Our involvement with the project began just before the launch of the exhibition. Two members of IGRS worked closely with us in the creation of online content and promotion strategy.
So how did we do overall?
Blog & Twitter
We created a specific category on this blog to ensure the posts were easily found: The Miller Archive. We learned that it is possible to report about this academic event/exhibition in a variety of contexts from factual blog posts by the institute’s administrator to more thematic posts by the leading archivist of the project.
We used Twitter and Facebook to encourage user engagement and drive back traffic to the blog and found that Twitter currently seems to be the best medium.
The high rate of clicks from Twitter is mainly due to our targeted tweets at relevant institutions, academics and specialists, which is currently not possible on Facebook. As you can see below, we managed to start a dialogue with relevant stakeholders and are still in the process of fostering these relationships. In particular the Archives Hub actively engages on Twitter with institutes like SAS that offer researchers archive materials.
Sharing digital assets on Flickr
As explained in the beginning of this blog post, we recently set up a Flickr page to share our digital assets with the wider public. This process was led by the lead archivist Clare George. So far the set has received many views and we will be adding more factual context in the next few weeks. The second set of the exhibition launch event can be found here. Images generate a higher engagement rate on social networks, so we also shared these images on our Facebook timeline.
When the project started, we were also going through a transition on our Facebook page. We could see right away that sharing visual material created more user engagement on this platform and we will continue to use Facebook in this way. The post on the right has been number 5 in our top 5 Facebook posts in June and to date has had a total reach of 429, which is above our average.
Insights from our first attempt: was it worth it?
We have learned that it remains a challenge to help academics overcome the hurdle of finding their blogging voice and setting aside time for blogging. However, given sufficient training and support, academic staff can write engaging content, which introduces research in an accessible manner. It only takes two or three blog posts by the experts to enable a Communications team like ours to create engagement on Twitter with relevant stakeholders, or encourage user engagement on Facebook. The biggest challenge for us is still to identify a useful project management strategy and content scheduling.
We also found that social sharing of digital assets such as images and audio files can help us to introduce otherwise specialist subject matter in an accessible manner to the wider public. The physical Miller Archive at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies might only be visited by researchers of exile studies, yet the digital versions on Flickr can be of interest to anyone. The digital images can also be used to create media rich timelines for websites such as Facebook.
Finally, using social networks for communication and sharing can create participation in the physical – such as build an audience for an exhibition. We have had questions about the launch event on this blog and, in general, a positive reception on our social media platforms.