I gave a lecture to Tim Schadla-Hall’s “Public Archaeology” MA course at the Institute of Archaeology on Tuesday, and one of the focuses of my talk was upon the use of social networking sites for the promotion of Heritage. The course’s tutor has been slightly flustered that he has a fanpage on the Facebook site, and I tried to explain a bit about what the site could offer as a non traditional Heritage Marketing tool.
Until quite recently (around November 7th), one could only set up a group to promote an organisation and there had been much debate over this on the Museum’s Computer Group Network mailing list. We now have a group (around 60 members) and a page (9 ‘fans’) and several other large Heritage organisations have set up groups as well – for example the Council for British Archaeology. There’s a large amount of debate on the web about how useful Facebook is to the enterprise, perhaps some of the best stuff I have read is by JP Rangaswami who has been writing a series of pieces about the site on his blog. I won’t pick one out in general – just go and read them.
Now, you can create a page (if you are a member of their site) that allows members of Facebook to become fans of your organisation and at the time of writing, 45 museums have pages, but not many have begun to populate them with applications. For example, the Victoria and Albert Museum has had a page since November 8th, but have yet to add any content to attract people.
There’s several areas where you could add content via the use of XML either from your site or other hosted services such as flickr. Our page has simplyrss installed as an application with individual feeds from our sites added. However, if you can use simplepie‘s PHP script to combine feeds (more technical) or Yahoo’s pipes service, you could have just one feed appearing on that page. It’s far easier to have automated content, rather than having duplicated content on a range of sites. Syndication at work!
We’re now starting to see Facebook appearing more regularly in our Google Analytics referrer pages, and people seem to be sticking around for around 7 pages per visit. It’s a new door to people entering our site, and maybe one that could be fruitful; I wonder how long it will be before people start to quote Facebook group members or fans at conferences? There’s not many applications that specifically relate to the Heritage and Museum’s world – perhaps we could offer an artefact of the day image, an events calendar, latest vacancies…….
So if you want to show who you are – join either our group or become a fan at our page (remember you need an account first!) You choose to join us, you choose to opt out. It’s demonstrating a relationship with the Scheme or organisation that you affiliate with. Something that reflects real life.