As I develop a digital project examining Latvian Baptist immigrants in West Philadelphia, consideration must be given to a social media strategy. The project could exist without the use of social media, but then that’s all it might do — exist, but not grow. To succeed, the project requires the involvement of the public. Social media provide an effective means to accomplish that.
The project will be targeted to at least three distinct audiences: descendants of the immigrants, the wider Latvian diaspora, and historians. I plan to use at least three social media — Twitter, Instagram, and blogging — to reach them.
Twitter will allow me to publicize the availability of the project, plus provide updates on progress in gathering biographical data. As such, Twitter will be used primarily to reach historians and the broader Latvian diaspora. The goal is to create awareness of the project and to encourage interest in restoring and preserving the history of the West Philadelphia community. The increasing importance of images in Twitter posts suggests that as items are added to the digital collection, they could be highlighted in posts, resulting in repeat visits to the project website.
Twitter is somewhat ephemeral, in that posts may quickly recede in a user’s feed. For that reason, I will turn to Instagram as another venue for posting images and driving traffic to the website. Because of its reliance on photography, Instagram offers a more stable platform for highlighting and allowing the exploration of images.
The intention is to use my existing Twitter and Instagram accounts, rather than creating new ones dedicated to the project. Because the project will exist on my personal website, which is part of an overall goal of creating a personal brand, it is important not to decouple the Latvian Baptist project from the other work that I do — at least for now.
Blogging will allow me to explore broader issues related to the Latvian Baptist project. For example, monthly progress reports that highlight what has been accomplished with the immigrant biographies — and giving credit to contributors — would provide readers with greater insight. I would expect that the descendants of the immigrants would have the greatest investment in seeing the project evolve and thus would be the primary readers of the blog.
The blog also could be used to develop a “to-do” list, allowing potential contributors know what work needs to be completed on the project (for example, missing biographies or the need for images and documentation).
Ideally, this social media strategy should be measurable. However, it may be impossible to do so without knowing the size of the potential audience. Would a handful of retweets be significant? That depends on who retweets — and to whom. Perhaps a realistic goal would be that during 2017, as the project goes public, I am able to elicit contributions from at least 10 descendants of the original 72 Latvian Baptists pictured on the photograph that will be the focus of the digital project.