Saa11: Session 605

Acquiring Organizational Records in a Social Media World: Documenting Strategies in the Facebook Era
For my last session at SAA yesterday I heard three presenters sharing their experiences using social media to connect with undergraduates.

Tim Pyatt’s “Not for the Uninitiated Documenting Secret Societies” conveyed how he has captured these organization’s records through Google searches, Facebook queries, web captures and yearbook images. It turns out these secret societies are not so secret after all!

Jackie Esposito’s: Facebook Me: Documents Student Organizations Using Social Media centered around her experience capturing the records of an annual dance marathon held at Penn State. By finding a student in the organization interested in becoming a student historian or archivist, Esposito trains these students in basic archival practice and follows up with the student before the end of the semester to be sure all relevant content has been recovered. Esposito uses a web caching software to harvest the data posted to the dance marathon’s Facebook page. Using the same appraisal practices as with analog records, Esposito picks and chooses the content that gets saved by selecting out of the 2,500 pictures that gets posted, 4-6 daily posts with 175 replies to each, and over 33,000 followers.

The final presenter, Janet Olson from Northwestern University presented her experiences titled: "140 Characters in Search of an Author or: All A-twitter in the Northwestern Archives." After the library administration striped the archives of its blogs during the summer of 2010, Olsen decided to reach her users through establishing a Twitter account. One of the blogs was a "on this day in NU history." The administration allowed Olsen to tweet using only this theme. She's not allowed to retweet or reply to a tweet. For the past year, Olsen has tweeted once per day and has amassed 489 followers, 90% are in the NU community.

While listening to Olsen I became intrigued by the fact that while 489 users follow the NU account, they only follow 295 users in return. Olsen's rationale for this decision is that she wants to reach users/students through their activities on campus, not as individuals.

I believe this practice will ultimately stunt the growth of this outreach method. As long as Olsen can't retweet, or reply to a tweet, she's missing the opportunity to engage her audience in a conversation. As of now these tweets are pushed out as one-way communication. By choosing not to follow individual students, Olsen may be missing the chance to connect with her primary user group.

As a twitter user, I tend to "unfollow" organizations or individual users who do not follow me back. I view twitter as a two way street of communication- both sides must be open to that exchange.

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