A Civil War Letters Project’s Social Media Strategy

One audience is scholars interested in digital and visual representations of historical documents. This audience may be reached using Twitter and blogging. I wish to illustrate an example of a new (DH) methodology to communicate research on a traditional source – the text of a soldier’s correspondence – visually. Scholars may be directed towards my book on these letters, or to the open-access digitized copies of the letters, for their own projects. If I set up a Twitter account devoted to this project I can track followers and retweets of information I tweet about (including a link to my project). My tweets may include among links, images, quotes, and original comments. Blogging allows me to invite and track comments. If I monitor these two platforms throughout my work on the project and up to a month afterward it can allow me to have a sense of how many and which scholars this project is engaging. I’m not sure what a realistic measure of success of this strategy is. I plan to blog weekly and post twice a day on Twitter. I preliminarily plan to measure success in terms of five visitors to the blog and an average of three liked tweets and at least one retweeted tweet per week.

A second audience is Civil War history buffs – non-academic historians, who may be reached via Facebook and Twitter. The message to this audience is to convey a new topic in Civil War scholarship, the story of Union soldiers who were not “good soldiers.” This message connects with audiences ambivalent about compulsory military service, and possibly “big government” generally, as well as people interested in the Civil War who may be surprised that some northern soldiers disagreed with the Union cause and wrote openly about desertion. Lay historians may be directed towards my book on these letters. If I set up a Twitter account devoted to this project I can track followers and retweets of information I tweet about (including a link to my project). My tweets may include among links, images, quotes, and original comments. A Facebook page devoted to the project will allow me to invite other Civil War-oriented Facebook pages to like and follow mine, allows me to post images and commentary about the project, and allows visitors to the page to leave comments and share the page on their own or other pages. If I monitor these two platforms throughout my work on the project and up to a month afterward it can allow me to have a sense of how many and which Civil War history communities this project is engaging. Facebook, additionally, offers Insight analytics under Posts and People that shows profiles of people who read my posts and engagement information. I would like a lower ratio of female viewers and a lower age cohort of viewers than what research shows about the most typical Facebook user. I’m not sure what a realistic measure of success of this strategy is. I plan to post daily on Facebook and post twice a day on Twitter. I preliminarily plan to measure success in terms of an average of five likes per Facebook post and an average of three liked tweets and at least one retweeted tweet per week.

A third audience is scholars of military history, particularly the “new military history,” focused on the perspective of individual soldiers. This audience may include both military historians and people with military experience, including veterans and their families. Social media tools employable to reach this audience are blogging and Facebook. The message to this audience actually conveys the content of letters selected for the project and interprets the letters in their social (as opposed to their geographic) context: basically, excerpts from my published book on a soldier who served but did not agree with his duty. This audience will be encouraged to leave feedback, particularly about their own military experiences as veterans or as a relative of a veteran. A Facebook page devoted to the project will allow me to invite other military history and military veterans Facebook pages to like and follow mine, allows me to post images and commentary about the project, and allows visitors to the page to leave comments and share the page on their own or other pages. Blogging and Facebook will allow me to invite and track comments, and Facebook allows “liking” as a less revealing but quick way to track connections with audiences. If I monitor these two platforms throughout my work on the project and up to a month afterward it can allow me to have a sense of how many and which scholars this project is engaging. Facebook, additionally, offers Insight analytics under Posts and People that shows profiles of people who read my posts and engagement information. I would like a lower ratio of female viewers and a lower age cohort of viewers than what research shows about the most typical Facebook user. I plan to blog weekly and post daily on Facebook. I preliminarily plan to measure success in terms of five visitors to the blog and an average of five likes per Facebook post.

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