The Classical Association, social media and a bear named Percy
How does a learned Society communicate with members in the 21st Century? How can it use Social Media and to what end? We ask Claire Davenport, Secretary of the Classical Association for her thoughts on how Twitter, Facebook and Blogging have changed how they interact with members.
The Classical Association is a broad church. Our members span the spectrum from professors of Classics to the man in the street with a passing interest in the subject. With this in mind, we often bump up against the same problem: we have something for everyone, but how do we tell them about it?
Recent years have seen the CA make an appearance on Twitter and Facebook and also the start of the CA blog. All three media have given us the chance to interact more with our membership and with would-be members. They’re a great way of letting people have a quick taste of the CA, seeing what it is that the CA does, finding out about events and about us in general.
Our conference in Exeter this year was almost as active on Twitter as it was on the ground. There’s no substitute for being there at the conference, but for those who couldn’t make it, following the #CA2012 hashtag was the next best thing. For an organisation whose mission statement is to disseminate the study of Classics to as wide an audience as possible, Twitter is an indispensable tool.
Facebook doesn’t offer quite the same real-time interaction with people. It’s more like a notice board, a place for us to pin up details of events, interesting things that have caught our eye in the news, etc. It’s a notice board that we can be sure people will check though and sociological nature of Facebook means that its reach is almost as good as word of mouth. People who are generally interested in Classics will eventually have the CA recommended to them.
And then there’s the blog: a place for more detail than Twitter and Facebook allow and a great way of fleshing-out the stuff we post on other media and a way of encouraging some audience participation. Because social media is a real-time experience, it’s a bit less formal than a website, a bit more chatty and fun. This year we launched Percy, the CA teddy bear. He’s been on adventures, been dressed up, been spotted here and there around the conference and elsewhere, and he’s even been a fun way of telling people a little about the history of the CA.
There’s such a wealth of material in the CA archive, but we’re not really able to make it an open access resource for everyone to delve into at will. Issues of preservation, space, etc. all disappear online though. While we don’t currently have plans to digitise everything, the vast majority of the CA material is digital now, thanks to Cambridge Journals Online. Years and years of academic material is now online, preserved forever and available to subscribers at the click of a mouse. There are also groups of articles on topical themes or individual pieces which can illustrate blog post and which are free to everyone. A great way for people to dip their toes in before taking the plunge and diving into a full subscription!