Missives from the Bat Tower

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Thing 4 – social networks: useful or useless?

Thing 4 of RHUL’s 23 Things Project asks us to reflect on our own use of social networks and what, if any, value they have in a professional context.

Before I came to RHUL (just over a year ago) I hadn’t used social media or social networking in a professional context. Despite the fact my interview presentation was on archives’ use of Twitter, I’d never actually sent a tweet – professional or personal.

I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, which I find very useful as many of them live in different parts of the country, but I’ve always kept my Facebook account personal rather than professional – no one at work needs to see me in a fancy dress outfit on my friend’s hen do. I do also have a Twitter account but I never tweet from it, despite which Barack Obama is following me (does this mean I’m on some sort of watch list??). I use it almost entirely to keep up to date with celeb gossip and find out what the Nails of the Day are on HelloGiggles (the koala bear ones are my favourite but well beyond my capabilities to recreate).

Koala nails

If a (real – as opposed to celeb) news story is breaking you can be sure that Twitter will have more details (mostly true) of what is going on than dedicated news sites and it was through Stephen Fry’s tweets that I discovered Fitzbillies – home of the best Chelsea buns. In the world. Ever. If you’re ever in Cambridge be sure to try them!

I currently tweet using the Library’s Twitter account to promote the archives (in particular our items of the month) which means I get a ready made batch of followers. I think this is more productive than having our own archives Twitter account as I really want to reach the people who don’t already have an interest in the archives and hopefully raise awareness of our service. I use hashtags to garner more interest and even tried (very unsuccessfully) to get a celebrity re-tweet to boost the usage stats on our website. This is the only social networking I do in a professional context, the Archives and Records Association has a community area which basically consists of discussion boards but I don’t really think it’s worth using as the JISCmail listserve kind of serves the same purpose and has more people on it. I’ve never felt that using LinkedIn would be worth it for an Archivist (although happy to be proved wrong if people find it useful to create links and contacts with people), it seems to be more for business people hoping to be head hunted for new jobs.

After seeing a friend build up her blog about eating out in Oxford through her Twitter account and eventually ending up with a spot on BBC Radio Oxfordshire (see the blog here) I can certainly see the power of the Internet to reach people outside your normal sphere. Overall, I can definitely see the benefit of using social networks in a professional context especially as services like Twitter are a lot more fast moving and up to date than traditional websites but I think it’s probably more useful for the Archives Service than the Archivist.

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