Thanksgiving means family time, big meals and final class projects. I’ve been asked to provide a social media strategy for the final project of my Introduction to Digital Humanities class (part of George Mason’s Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities). Before I get into how I’ll utilise social media, I’ll first describe my project.
The Life of Farmland : a Digital Mapping Project*
In 2002 my parents purchased a house in (semi-)rural Connecticut located next to a historic farmhouse. Since we moved into that house I’ve wanted to excavate my backyard. In order for such a project to be fruitful, even as a middle schooler I knew I’d have to do some research to see where in my back yard would be a good place to dig. This final class project will ultimately determine if there is a space on my parent’s property that is a good candidate for Phase One (shovel testing) excavating.
To accomplish this task, I’ve combed through the town land records and constructed a timeline of ownership back to the 1800’s. I want to demonstrate how the boundaries of the property changed with ownership. To this end, I’ve first georeferenced historic maps with modern and labeled my parent’s property on each. I’ve also constructed polygons in ArcGIS using both property descriptions and maps of the land during different occupancies.
The end product will be a webpage with the georeferenced maps, polygons and the timeline.
Social Media Strategy
There are three audiences I’m interested in engaging: Local historians, the Jewish community and archaeologists.
Local Historians: I would love for local historians to see my work, both because I think they’d find it interesting and because they will likely have knowledge to contribute. My town does have Historical Society, which mostly consists of retirees. The Society does not have any presence on social media, just a website. I think the beset way to reach this audience, given their age, is to publish my findings as a blog, since this demographic (Baby Boomers) are likely blog readers. I will advertise my blog on Facebook, which in the last ten years has since an increase in older users. I can “friend” the members of the board that I can find on Facebook as well as post my blog to the town Facebook page.
I anticipate that this audience will be the most difficult to engage. Facebook’s greatest strength is the personability possible through the platform. My hope is that microblogging on Facebook will feel more like a personal invitation. I will make these posts personable by asking the audience for any assistance they might offer the project. My primary message is that I’ve done exciting new work using some of their resources and that I not only want, but need their help for the successful completion of the project.
I can start adding members of the historical society, people who like their page, as well as the library and its followers, as soon as possible. As I work through the project, I can microblog status updates to build interest. I think it’s also important to respond to any comment, even if it’s just a “like.” That will encourage people to visit the blog itself when it goes live. My project will continue after the element for this class is complete, so I’ll be able to continue the blog and microblogging after the semester ends.
The Local Jewish Community: During my research, I learned that the farm land was owned by a promenant Jewish family in my town, the Goldsteins. Ike Goldstein, United Brethren Synagogue was built, of which he was a patron and a founding member. The Goldsteins were able to purchase the land by obtaining a loan from the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Society based in New York City. The Society’s goal was to empower landless Jews in cities by teaching them to farm, and eventually for them own and operate their own farms. The Goldsteins are a success story. It also appears that the Society owned property very near to the Godstein’s where Jews could stay for a time to learn how to farm.
My social media strategy for this audience will be very similar to that of the local historians. I’ll craft microblog posts that discuss the Goldstiens and the JAIS to Hebron’s page as well as the unofficial Untied Brethren Synagogue page. My message will be much the same as that to the local historians: I have information that may interest them and I welcome any new information.
Archaeologists: I would really like other archaeologists to see my blog to receive professional feedback. I’m already friends with many archaeologists on Facebook, so I can microblog about the archaeological aspects of my project on my Facebook rather easily. I can also post to archaeology interest pages. A Twitter account would also be good for this audience since it is heavily made up of Millennials. My general message would be to see my work and that I would value the opinions of my professional peers.
The purpose of this social media strategy is to receive insight from my fellow Hebronites and professional feedback. Thus, I will mesure success, first, by comments left on my blog. I may add a comments section to the blog to encourage this kind of communication. I would like to see comments by the end of the first week, seeing as it will likely take people a while to fit looking at my project into their lives. I would be happy to see one or two individuals from each category respond.
The second measurement will be through comments left through Facebook and Twitter. I don’t put as much stock in this kind of validation, because a “like” in no way indicates that the person visited the blog. I’ll put a greater weight on comments left in Facebook, especially those that either discuss the project directly and those that express interest in actually visiting the blog.
* Working Title