Survey Results — Social Media Use in Archives and Special Collections

Survey Results — Social Media Use in Archives and Special Collections

I was just sent a link to this fascinating survey, Social Media Use in Archives and Special Collections: The survey was conducted by Rebecca Hopman and her results are posted under a Creative Commons license so I can discuss them here. Rebecca received 185 responses during the 2 weeks the survey was open. She created the survey to “to find out what kinds of archives and special collections use social media, as well as how and why they use these platforms.”

Rebecca states right in the introduction that, “From the results, it is clear most archivists and special collections librarians are still trying to figure out whether social media works for their repository, and how best to use it.”

Some highlights:

116 (63%) of respondents use social media but that leaves 69 (37%) that do not. That seems like a huge number that don’t. (On the positive side this creates some potential jobs for future librarians/interns!)

Of the institutions surveyed the overwhelming majority were academic (61%), then there’s a huge jump down to 17% that were non-profit. This is ahead of the public libraries that responded, at 11% (20 institutions), which I found surprising. I wonder how accurately this reflects the larger picture outside of the survey. Public libraries seem to be the most proactively using social media in my mind but perhaps that is skewed to my own bias J

Other interesting facts and figures show that the majority of all institutions only have 0-2 staff members. Some of the longer comments also reflect that the low levels of staffing impact social media plans/implementation and basic maintenance. The top two reasons for not using social media were lack of time and lack of staff, which go hand in hand. One commenter said, “Time spent versus attention received is out of balance,” and another said, “I’m not given enough time to really develop a strategy and use social media to the fullest. It’s not a priority for my bosses.” These two comments seem typical and lend insight into why social media uptake is relatively slow in some institutions.

On the positive side, 35% (41 institutions) reported that their social media usage was a success and 49% (57) said it was too early to tell. Perhaps if the latter group turns into a positive then that would be a large number finding success! Would make an interesting future survey!

Of the successes, commentators said that social media was helping to get their archive known, was promoting discussion, was fostering growth and interaction with community members, generating a higher number of web site visits, and promoting better search results/findability in search engines. Some institutions reported receiving increased donations because of social media.

So it seems that when social media is done well, actively and thoughtfully there can be meaningful results. But from some of the comments it seems that many organizations are still a bit hesitant to delve into social media, or, once they’ve set something up lack the time and staff to maintain it in a meaningful way. I found this survey very revealing and also in the light of our social media plan, it shows that solid implementation and ongoing activity are really key to successful campaigns!


5 thoughts on “Survey Results — Social Media Use in Archives and Special Collections

  1. mcnabbarchives

    Great post! I remember when Ms. Hopman was doing this survey and I couldn’t participate but was interested to see the results. It’s heartening that so many institutions believe their social media use is successful. I really think archives need the social media visibility the most out of LAM organizations, since most of the public doesn’t even know what an archives is, let alone whether there is one in their area or why they would want to visit.

    I suspect these results will be very helpful for some of us who are creating social media plans for archives- particularly the examples of successful campaigns, as well as how they are assessing success.

    BTW, I had a hearty chuckle when I saw that 59% of the repositories do not archive their social media output!

  2. cybrariansam

    Thank you for sharing the survey results and social media guides. Those seem particularly useful to look over as we form our social media plans.

    It’s no surprise to me that the investment in social media pays off meaningfully for institutions by increasing their website visitors and donations.

    The number of institutions you cited as not leveraging these benefits for themselves is promising as you said, due to some potential for future jobs.

    1. Deborah Cooper Post author

      Yes, I really got the impression that the negative responses were in institutions where social media was kind of forced on unwilling employees. I’m sure a common scenario is “we must do this, make it happen” but staff are already overwhelmed with work and see it as one more thing to do. I think some kind of presentation about “why” the institution wants to use social media would probably be helpful!


  3. Lori

    The survey does show potential for the archives world; as funds dry up everywhere, they are as at much risk of funding cuts (many have already experienced staff reductions) so I would think they would want to be as active in advocating as public libraries. Too little time…and agreeing with Barnaby, it is truly ironic that they don’t archive their social media.

    Reminds me: Did anyone participate in Anil Chawla’s Spring 2013 SLIS Colloquia lecture: The Next Major Challenge in Records Management is Already Here: Social Media (MARA guest lecture)?

  4. Christy Confetti Higgins

    Very interesting results – thank you for sharing and bringing this part of the information world into our discussions!


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