On Tuesday 29 January we held a workshop at the Institute of Historical Research for postgraduate students and early career researchers. The main aim of the event was to learn from best practice in the archives and library sector, and to help historians develop skills and gain confidence in the use of social media. We had three wonderful speakers, Laura Cowdrey (The National Archives of the UK), Julian Harrison (British Library) and Isabel Holowaty (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford), who spoke, among other things, about social media strategies, the importance of knowing your audience, what makes for successful blogging, and keeping on top of information overload. These themes were picked up in the subsequent break-out groups, which addressed five questions: 1. Why do researchers need to develop a social media presence? 2. How can you balance the personal and professional online? 3. What are the best ways to build relationships/community online? 4. How do you deal with negative feedback/interaction? 5. What are the best social media platforms for communicating historical research, and why?
The first question was felt to be rather a leading one by some attendees – should we assume that a social media presence is necessary? – and some of those present were undoubtedly sceptical of the benefits of engagement with social media. Scepticism is one barrier to the effective use of social media, but general anxiety about getting it wrong seems to be more significant. Reassurance from peers who have taken the plunge, and have concrete examples of social media helping with their research and/or career development, is enormously helpful in overcoming this nervousness. A small workshop is an ideal forum for exchanging knowledge and experience, and I think we inspired at least a few people to take their first steps.
A summary of the discussions has been published using Storify http://storify.com/ihr_history/social-media-knowledge-exchange-workshop, with links to other useful information included.
This blog post was first published on the Social Media Knowledge Exchange website.