3 Ways To Make History More Shareable

Laura Brown is the social media manager at the Registers of Scotland, the non-ministerial government department tasked with maintaining land and property records. She is also a travel blogger and has worked with numerous organisations in the tourism and heritage sector. In 2017, the Registers of Scotland (RoS) are celebrating 400 years of Scottish land registration and, in this blog, Laura shares 3 easy wins to translate centuries-old heritage into twenty-first century engagement.

How can you possibly share 400 years’ worth of history in just 140 characters? That was the mammoth task facing me when I joined the Registers of Scotland’s digital communications team last year. 2017 sees the organisation celebrate 400 years of land registration and it was part of my role to develop social awareness of this anniversary.

So how did we go about filtering centuries of archives and heritage into bite size, shareable snippets for our audiences (both old and new)? I’m going to run through three easy ways you can make the most of your organisation’s assets to tell its stories and boost your engagement.

One // Use photos and visuals

Using eye-catching imagery is such an easy – but sometimes overlooked – way to brighten up your social media feeds. Something I see quite often, especially on Twitter within the public sector, are links without any additional imagery. That doesn’t draw your attention in, does it?

But how do you go about getting imagery – especially if you don’t work in an organisation where you have tangible archives, materials or objects to photograph? You have to get creative. Speak to staff, discover what assets exist in the organisation, find user-generated content or seek out the snaps yourself. I’ve found that archives – digital or paper – are particularly engaging on social media and tie in really well with VisitScotland’s #HHA2017 campaign. And don’t worry about having a DSLR camera; a good phone photo edited properly will work wonders.

If you’re struggling to get in-house content, hit the licence-free libraries. Shutterstock (paid) and Pixabay (free) have good stock photography to illustrate your updates, or you can filter through Google’s image tools to find licence-free images under the ‘image rights’ tab. Once you’ve got the image you’re after, you can throw on a logo and description using Canva, which is basically Photoshop for dummies… and a godsend if you’re after a quick editing fix.

The Great Seal of Scotland
The Great Seal of Scotland © Registers of Scotland

Two // Build a blog

Although social media is ideal for sharing bite-size snaps of an organisation’s history, sometimes your audience will want a bit more. That’s why one of our key strategies is – where we can – to have an accompanying blog to sit alongside and expand on our social content. For example, we’re a big fan of finding archival material to fit with ‘on this day’ facts. Occasionally we’re lucky enough to stumble across a whole story in our registers and this merits more than just a tweet. See our recent blog on Robert Burns’ cottage for an example.

The other great thing about building a blog – which you can do easily on WordPress, getting hosting and a domain name for a reasonable price – is the SEO (search engine optimisation) benefit. Google will start to index your content and you’ll rank better on search engines, plus – unlike some social media updates – a blog can be ‘evergreen’ (or timeless) if you write it right. We regularly recycle blog content and with the changes in social algorithms, it’s worth reposting as some of your audiences might not spot your article first time around.

Three // Join the video crowd

As you’ll know, video is crucial to all good social media strategies. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are prioritising video content for their users, moving this kind of content further up their feeds and rolling it out to more eyes. It’s also a visual and engaging way to tell more complex stories to new audiences who (certainly in the Registers of Scotland’s case) may never have come across your organisation before.

We’re lucky to have a small but talented in-house video team that can create some epic content for us using Final Cut Pro software. However, you can achieve similar results on a small budget (I’ve been there…) Short Periscopes or Facebook Live videos of exhibitions or interviews with archivists; adding subtitles to a short edited clip (YouTube can do this automatically) or getting creative with iMovie on your phone are all ways to jazz up video snippets. Again, if you’re clever with the storyboarding you can multipurpose video content for months to come and really get a return on your time investment.

Finding it hard to put your finger on a unique selling point?

I know how that feels… It can be tricky at times to pinpoint exactly what content you want to share with audiences to generate the most engagement (especially if you’re in the public sector or have a very niche subject matter). What I try and do is take it back to the basics – what would someone who doesn’t know anything about your story stop scrolling and pay attention to? How do you make that shareable? Imagine that you know nothing about where you work and explore in your own mind how the stories and assets you have could be told to a new audience. And most of all? Have fun with it, because that’s what social media is all about.

Follow the Registers of Scotland on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and see more of Laura’s own social media updates on Instagram and Twitter. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

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