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Social Media as a Crucial Actor in Archival Conferences

15 Oct 2020 10:00 AM | Anonymous member

As online academic and professional conferences are now becoming the norm rather than the exception, Claire Williams and Jasmine Charette reflect on the importance of social media in the planning, development, and organization of conferences, and on the use of social media to share crucial information during the course of the 2020 ACA conference.

Social media is a fantastic tool for engagement and promotion, which the ACA Communications Committee has harnessed over the past several years to advertise and showcase the annual conference.

The ACA Communications Committee recently reinvigorated its presence on Instagram - this coincided promotion of our ACA 2020 annual conference. Originally, the plan had been to have Claire Williams, Communications Committee member and Host Team member, take awe-inspiring photographs of the beautiful Vancouver for conference attendees to see. However, as the COVID-19 situation developed, we quickly began to realize that the photogenic Vancouver would have to be saved for another year. Instead, Instagram was used to advertise many of our wonderful sessions and plenary speakers, as well as how-to's for registering for the conference and downloading the WHOVA app. Together with Alexandra Alisauskas from the Programming Committee, we crafted a schedule of highlights to share with potential attendees on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It was wonderful watching the ACA Instagram account grow in size as attendees, organizers, and speakers engaged with our conference program.

When it finally came down to the week of the conference, we saw followers and likes pour in as we posted about TAATU, the SIS meetings, ‘All Shook Up: The Archival Legacy of Terry Cook’ book launch, downloading the virtual poster sessions, and our amazing opening reception talk with Leslie Weir. We had no further to look then sharing the amazing programming through the conference, as the first and second full day of speakers and sessions began.

When it came time for our closing plenary (all too fast!) we shared just one of the amazing quotes from Michelle Caswell’s talk on Feeling Liberatory Memory Work. All-in-all Instagram proved to be a great place to share our first ever digital conference and we look forward to promoting the amazing work of our ACA community on this visual platform as we all learn to see archives differently.  

Given the exceptional nature of the conference, our Twitter and Facebook response evolved as well. While many major updates are communicated to members by email and through our website, our Twitter and Facebook presence (and recently, Instagram), has allowed us to further promote the conference to non-members of the ACA and other interested parties. Thanks to the wonderful visuals cross-posted from Instagram, our Twitter and Facebook page audiences grew significantly in the lead-up to the conference, allowing us to share these posts to a larger audience than in years past, furthering discussion of new theories and great thinkers in the archival field.

Since not everyone can attend the conference, even with our record-breaking numbers in 2020, we have previously live-tweeted from specific sessions, using and promoting hashtags such as #ACA2020 to add to the stream of conference tweets. This allows for anyone interested to follow along at home, and attendees can read recaps from sessions they may have missed. However, we decided to take a step back from active tweeting during sessions this year and instead highlighted, through retweets, what attendees found engaging and thought-provoking from various sessions. In addition, through our use of Facebook Live, we saw high engagement with the book launch of ‘All Shook Up,’ as the launch was open to the public.

We are grateful for the impact social media has done to increase engagement with the archival field, presenting new ideas, and keeping us on our toes for how to move forward in these novel times.

Claire Williams and Jasmine Charette

ACA Communications Committee

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