Social media on a shoestring

A vital part of creating a digital history project is developing a social media strategy that will help drive traffic and keep interested audiences up to date and engaged. Unfortunately, much of what I have been reading from various scholars and practitioners is written from the point of view large, institutional projects.

While these are the “big leagues” to which we may aspire and wish to emulate, I wonder how many digital history projects are “lone wolf” efforts, created by an independent scholar or dedicated history enthusiast with neither the institutional support nor, perhaps, the desire to manage a massive site. In their 2006 book, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, Daniel J. Cohen and Ray Rosenzweig noted that at that point in the development of the “history web,” the number of amateur sites was greater than professional ones, but the latter were drawing “the weight of web traffic.”1 This certainly suggests that those so-called amateur sites should invest more into strategizing how to increase traffic, although it would be difficult to do so without the finances and staffing of the large institutions.

Reading summaries2 of what organizations such as the National Museum of American History have done with their social media strategies is great, but what are the lessons for small projects such as my Latvian Baptists in America? Sure, I need — and have — a social media strategy, but it does not involve a budget of thousands of dollars or a dedicated communication staff. Because of this, the social media strategy must posit measured growth for my site, at the same time being itself scalable but manageable.

The trick will be to find the right balance, pushing out enough content to remind audiences of the site’s existence without become a nuisance to readers and a burden on this staff of one.

1. Daniel J. Cohen and Ray Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 24.

2. See, for example, Dana Allen-Greil et al., “Social Media and Organizational Change,” Museums and the Web 2011, Museums and the Web LLC,