Social media and the whole of the internet is being winnowed down to the truest essence of human experience— we know the world based on what we’ve seen. We are visual beings. Our eyes are essential to the way we learn. This is something archaeologists have long understood; however, the field of archaeology has been slow to adapt to the way this is evolving in today’s rapidly changing society.
Archaeology, especially cultural resource management, needs to take heed of how information is conveyed today. Years ago, in the 1980s and 1990s, online information was spread primarily in written format. We used to take the time to read articles, even long ones. As the internet started getting more crowded, the articles and blog posts we consumed got shorter and more easily digested. Then, came social media in the early 2000s and our attention shifted from reading articles created by bloggers and the news media to reading messages sent by our friends, families, and peers.
We really weren’t completely ready to leave the text world when YouTube (2005) and other video sharing sites hit the scene, primarily because most of the videos sucked in the early days and didn’t even come close to television-quality. Text-based social media was distilled to its essence when Twitter was launched in 2006. By then our attention only had to be kept for 140 characters. It has been distilled even more down since then.
Sharing pictures is even better than reading text. Photos shared on Twitter and Facebook get much more interaction than written posts. Instagram (2010) and other visual-based social media platforms have seized upon the visual nature of human beings, creating streamlined means of sharing visual information. We all know a picture says a thousand words. These platforms give us that chance.
Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram play perfectly into human attention spans. These days, they are very, very short. By the mid-2000s, television viewership and cable subscriptions were threatened and, today, we are rapidly defecting from cable T.V. We are choosing how we entertain ourselves and these choices are increasingly found online. People are cutting the cable cord and finding ways to entertain themselves on YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-sharing platforms. We are also skimming Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the newest social media of the day while we watch video streams. We are also using all of these platforms to connect with each other, rally around common causes, and as substitutes for the flesh-and-blood communities we used to inhabit.
Rather than being tied down by a power cord, people are interacting across a variety of media at the same time, all day long— just like we always have.
This is the sixth post in the series Personal Branding for Archaeologists. Because of the interconnectivity that social media facilitates, any archaeologist that is trying to make themselves known to the world would be remiss if they didn’t harness the power of these various social media platforms. Reasons for using personal branding were discussed in Post I. In Post II, I discussed the ways your professional identity could be furthered on LinkedIn— the world’s largest social media platform for professionals. Post III covered some of the ways your personal branding efforts could be enhanced through Twitter, which is an excellent platform for engagement and community building. Building your own website and using it as the hub for your online branding efforts was the topic of Post IV and Post V discussed the benefits of blogging.
This post series has spent much less time on the myriad other social media platforms that you could possibly use as part of your personal branding toolkit. This is primarily because I have much less experience using them to help define my professional persona. This post will discuss some of the other most-relevant social media platforms today (2014): Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Each of these platforms have unique attributes. If used correctly, they all have the potential to further your branding campaign.
Personal Branding for Archaeologists was based on a webinar presented by the University of Arizona’s Human Resources Division called “How to Build your Personal Brand Online”. The webinar was based on a live presentation given by Christine Hoekenga and Jaynelle Ramon who are social media professionals working for the University of Arizona. Learn more about their professional background here.
Hoekenga and Ramon did not discuss these three social media platforms, but I feel like they have potential to tell the world who you are, what you can do, and how you feel about archaeology as a profession. These four platforms have particular potential because they are relevant, have a large audience, and are frequently crawled by search engines, which are important for building your brand online.
(KEEPING IT REAL NOTE #2: I’ve saved these other platforms for last because I really haven’t researched them thoroughly and am not particularly proficient in their use…yet. The following tips are pretty brief, mirroring my novice status.)
(KEEPING IT REAL NOTE #3: You do not need to use every single major social media platform to build your brand. This is professional branding for archaeologists, not movie stars. You really only need LinkedIn and one other platform to get the ball rolling. Creating a website and maintaining a blog are good suggestions but they’re optional. I feel like it’s best to choose one social media platform, in addition to LinkedIn, that you really enjoy using and learn it inside and out.
Trying to keep track of dozens of social media accounts will eat into your blogging time, will ensure you never really master any of them well, and may well make you go crazy.)
Tell Stories to Friends on Facebook
I was determined to be the last person in the world without a Facebook (FB) account. I felt like it was for children and I wasn’t (and, generally, still am not) interested in what other people have to say. But, I was always secretly jealous when my wife was able to reconnect with old friends and find out what they were up to. I’d been estranged from most of my friends for years and had always wondered what’d happened to them.
The final straw was when my wife and then teenaged sister had an intervention. They told me they were sick of passing along messages from my old college and high school friends. Soon after that intervention, my mom called and told me she wanted me to make a Facebook account. “It’s the only way I get to see pictures of my little grandkids,” she said.
With my wife, my mom, and my sister standing over me, I logged onto Facebook and made an account. That was a couple years ago. I can’t say I’m a super fan of FB, but it has allowed me to reconnect with old friends as well as fellow archaeologists. I primarily maintain my Facebook for personal uses and rarely discuss archaeology or my blogging activities. However, I have connected my Facebook to Klout so the interactions I get on there do contribute to my overall social media influence.
Facebook is so ubiquitous I don’t really even need to tell you what it is. There are over a billion users worldwide. I’m not unique in the fact that my entire family (wife, siblings, mother, uncles, cousins, and friends all have profiles). It has revolutionized the way we communicate mainly because it’s one of the biggest communication arteries in the world. We used to email, which has almost annihilated the venerated U.S. Postal Service, but, today, the world sends more Facebook updates and Tweets than it does emails.
Does anyone care why you just got kicked out of your apartment?
Facebook is full of gossip because it’s a platform that is all about telling stories. Ever wonder why you stop for even a millisecond when a master “status baiter” posts some crap like this; “I hate getting kicked out of apartments. Why does this keep happening to me?”
It’s a trap. We all know it is, but so many of us feel compelled to click on the comments and read about what’s going on or write our own comment to get some answers. We all want to know the backstory. Why did this friend get kicked to the curb? Suspense kills.
Few people ever think about the reasons why we should care if some old high school amigo said they just got evicted? Unless it’s a family member or really close friend, this person’s loss really doesn’t affect us. We care about it because all human beings have an innate desire to hear a good story. We want to know what happened. Most of us thrive on mindless daily drama and that’s the real reason why Facebook exists.
If you think about it, 90% of FB status updates are mindless chatter that we don’t care about. I’d estimate another 3% is ads from companies that clearly haven’t read “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” by Gary Vaynerchuk or any of his stuff for that matter. This means we only stop to read about 7% of FB updates. And, what are those posts about? Major events in your friend’s lives and interesting stories that caught your attention. My FB activities can be limited to thumbs-upping someone that just had a kid, commenting on a news article somebody posted, or writing a little something about what’s going on in my life (mostly rants against “the Man”). It is the desire to participate in storytelling that actually occupies my time.
With regard to personal branding in the public, Facebook newsfeed, the main limitation we face is conveying our personal stories in a way that helps build our personal brand. Nobody cares about archaeology. Few of your Facebook friends are going to comment on or “Like” an archaeology article. But, they will be interested in seeing a photo of your blistered hands after digging 50 shovel probes in a day or how you had a “World War Z-Day” and almost got bit by a homeless junkie while monitoring a fiber optic cable repair. That’s news. That’s a real story. But, that’s not necessarily going to build your professional brand because most of your FB friends aren’t in your profession.
Facebook Groups are Professional Branding Platforms
The best way to build your professional brand on Facebook is to create a group that focuses on the niche in which you are trying to demonstrate proficiency. For example, if you want to show the world you’re a great 3-D artifact scanner you could create a group dedicated to artifact reproductions or something like that.
I don’t have my own FB group, but I am a member of several and I’ve noticed that the dialogue on Facebook groups is different than it is in the general feed. There are a ton of sales pitches in FB groups mixed in with a few links to current events, so, I’d say, these groups are high on branding attempts but low on engaging content that actually helps build anyone’s brand. I think the best way to make these groups engaging is to establish a firm set of rules to help guide activity. Here are some suggestions:
— Clearly state the group’s focus— Tell everyone what the group is about and who it is for. This will cut down on the number of trolls that will attempt to join.
— Ban spam— Clearly state that anyone caught dropping spam into the chat room will be purged. This should be an attempt at keeping the group more focused on archaeology and less distracted by sales pitches for books and archaeology tools.
— Use a compelling title— As with anything on the internet, there is already a bunch of it. Facebook groups are no different. You’re going to want to cut through the haze with a title that piques interest. Regarding the 3-D artifact scanning group, you could call it “Artifacts in the Third Dimension” or “Artifacts: Scanners-style”. People will click on things they think are interesting just to see what it’s all about.
— Start with your current friends— You’re going to need to tell others about your group somehow. It’s easiest to start by inviting your current friends.
— Mention the group across the internet— You should also mention the group in your blog posts, your LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn groups, Tweets, and other digital dwellings.
— Do a launch— Another strategy is to start mentioning the group in public and online for a few weeks before you actually create it. This may build buzz and increase membership.
— MOST IMPORTANTLY: Keep it fresh— Starting a Facebook group is going to take time and effort. You’re going to need to make sure there is stuff for your members to read and discuss. You’re going to have to take the lead if your group members are not posting enough. Here’s where a Google Alert for your topic comes in handy (Check out Part III in this blog post series if you want to know more about how you can get Google Alerts sent to your email box.)
What about a Facebook Page?
If you’re doing the social media work for a company or university department, a Facebook Page is another suitable alternative to creating a Facebook Group. FB Pages are primarily used by businesses, non-profits, and other organizations in the same way individuals use their personal pages. I’m not too familiar with FB Pages (feel free to illuminate me on this subject), but I believe individuals are limited to personal accounts; although, they can create a FB Page highlighting their business.
For this personal branding series, I think you’re better off working your own group on Facebook than trying to build a Page unless you want to highlight your business’ activities.
Use a Video to Demonstrate your Skills on YouTube, Vimeo, or Metacafe
As I mentioned earlier, fewer and fewer people watch cable. We either stream shows over Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, or check out shows on YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe or the many other video-sharing websites out there.
To be honest, I really don’t see many huge differences between YouTube and the other major video sharing sites Vimeo and Metacafe. Vimeo appears to have a higher caliber of video and more instructional videos. Metacafe seems to be an international version of YouTube. I only have experience posting videos to YouTube and have focused most of my efforts there, primarily because it’s the biggest of them all. YouTube is also the world’s second biggest search engine, following Google, so having a presence on “the Tube” is another excellent way to improve your search engine optimization (SEO). I’ve focused on creating videos for YouTube in this post because it’s what I know; however, I’m sure you could further your personal branding efforts just as well on Vimeo or Metacafe.
Reasons for Archaeologists to Use YouTube
In my experience, creating videos takes about as much time as writing a blog post. I spend anywhere from an hour to three hours creating most of my blog posts (1,000 to 2,500 words). It would take even longer to make superb, professional-looking videos. While you won’t be saving much time using YouTube vs. blogging, creating online videos have certain strengths over creating text content:
1) It’s fully visual—A short YouTube video is much easier to consume than a blog post. As I mentioned before, humans are visual beings and we really love watching videos.
2) You can actually SHOW what you know—Creating a screencast of a conference presentation or demonstrating how you use a computer program with efficiency is a super-powerful way to tell the world what you know.
3) People readily share videos—Videos demonstrating your expertise will be shared far and wide more quickly than your blog posts. Why? See reason #1 above.
4) It helps your SEO—Videos with great, SEO-optimized titles and tags rank high in search engines and, I believe, they rank faster than text. Also, Google and other search engines allow you to single out videos from search results which means, if you’ve created the hallmark video on a specific topic, your content can remain relevant for many months to come.
5) It’s fun— Creating a video can be a welcome break from writing, which is something every archaeologist could use.
6) Everybody’s watching—YouTube gives you a chance to reach an enormous audience, including individuals that consume all of their video content over this platform.
Creating Rad Content that Furthers Your Personal Brand
There really is no right or wrong way to create a video that resonates with other archaeologists. Some of the most popular archaeology videos are wholly amateur affairs created by individuals with little cinematography experience. Unfortunately, the internet is rife with “how-to” articles, podcasts, and videos that will tell you how you “must” create videos for YouTube. Most of these are just useless ads for marketing companies. This makes it difficult to find reliable, functional information that you can use to further your personal brand via online video.
I’m no YouTube video expert, but I do believe the following advice is important if you plan on adding video to further your personal branding efforts:
1) Make sure your videos are fully branded—You need to include your website URL and create a title that jives with the keywords you’re targeting (Learn more about targeting keywords in Post IV of this series).
2) Use a photo of the video when sharing on other social media— YouTube videos posted directly to a Facebook or Twitter feed can get transformed into a simple URL, which makes it less likely that your followers will click on your content. Rather than inserting your video directly into the post, insert a screenshot of the video with an attached hypertext link to your blog post. You should also insert a text link to the video in text of your social media post.
Why double up on the links? Photos are less likely to get reduced to a URL in the social media feed. Also, people are more likely to click on a picture than a random URL. When your followers click on the picture, they will be redirected to your blog where you can tell them more and provide a better link to the video.
If you’re lucky and they click on the URL text, they’ll be directed to your YouTube video. Either way, your video will get seen.
3) Make sure your video is keyword optimized— If there’s anything I want you to know about online branding it’s this: Keywords are everything. If you don’t use the proper keywords, you’ll never get found.
Here is the best recent video that describes techniques to SEO optimize your YouTube uploads:
4) Cross pollenate with other social media— In addition to search engine benefits, YouTube videos are easily shared on other social media platforms. Make sure you create a blog post describing the video on your website or blog and spread the word about your video on your social media platforms.
5) You can go as deep as you want with this— YouTube is a relatively unscathed segment of the internet for archaeologists. There are few archaeology vloggers out there, so you have a great chance of being a trailblazer if you decide to go the video route.
If you decide to base your online personal brand primarily on video, you’re probably going to want to create a higher caliber of content than most of the YouTube videos out there. Here’s a pretty good podcast episode that will help you along the path toward creating excellent videos:
You might also want to check out the Vimeo Video School. Here, you’ll learn how to refine your cinematography, sound work, and video editing. Enjoy.
Share those 1,000-Word Photos with Instagram
I’ve had an Instagram account for months, but really only started using it while I was writing this blog post series. It is really easy to understand why Instagram can help build your personal brand. First, the platform is focused on mobile upload and viewing. You can upload content anywhere, anytime as long as you have cell reception. Second, it’s really good at making your crappy cell phone pictures look really good. Third, its main demographic is Millennials and the unnamed generation that is currently in elementary school– the folks who are most likely to be paying attention to personal branding online anyway. Finally, it’s on the upswing. There are over 300 million registered users (in mid-2014) who have uploaded over a billion photos so far. Over 2,000 photos posted each hour on Instagram and almost all are shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Interestingly, Instagram is primarily used by women. Nearly 70% of accounts are held by women. I’m not sure how this effects personal branding, but that might be because I’m a man.
Although I’m an amateur Instagrammer, I can easily see how this platform is similar to Twitter. It also seems like many of the same recommendations for Twitter might apply (see Post III of this series for Twitter tips):
A) Instagram is fuelled by hashtags— Your posts are mainly seen by others interested in the same hashtags you’re using. This means Instagram is susceptible to trendjacking (see Post III for an introduction to trendjacking).
Unlike Twitter, however, you’re free to overload your Instagrams with hashtags. Five or six hashtags are not uncommon on Instagram.
B) You can build followers by searching for hashtags in your niche— Look for the hashtags others are using and follow Instagrammers that frequently use those hashtags.
C) Follow active users to build followers— As with Twitter, the people you follow can see what you post. If they find you interesting, they’ll follow you too.
D) Go native— Nobody skims Instagram looking for stock photos and ads. They’re on there to see cool vignettes of other people’s lives. Give Instagrammers unique, native content (unstaged, natural with or without filters) and you will be seen as more sincere.
E) You can cross-pollenate— Instagram allows you to simultaneously post to multiple social media platforms. This is huge if you’re working multiple platforms because you can knock out two or three birds with one stone.
While Twitter and Instagram have parallels, there are some huge differences too:
1) It’s a closed loop— While you can cross-pollenate from Instagram to other social media platforms, your photos redirect viewers back to Instagram instead of your website. This makes it more difficult to use Instagram images to drive traffic to your website or blog.
2) No character limit— Instagram allows you to add much more than 140 characters to your posts. In addition to hashtag-bloating your Instagram posts, you can also write a short blog post describing them. You can add URLs to this post, which allows you to link with your website/blog.
3) It’s for the pretties— This platform is all about creating pretty pictures for the world to see. There is a particularly artistic aspect to Instagram that you will need to harness if you want to build a following.
4) Can’t be scheduled— You can add your Instagram account to your HootSuite, but it does not look like you can schedule photos on Instagram the same way you can on other social media platforms. You still have to go into HootSuite, search for the hashtags you’re targeting, and comment or repost them one-by-one. (You can schedule Instagram posts on a pay program called ScheduGram, but that costs money and requires you to manage a separate scheduling program. Lame.) The fact that you can’t schedule Instagram posts can turn it into a time slurper. You’ve gotta post Instagrams in real-time, which opens you up to the time suck that social media is well known for.
5) Stories still matter— Although you’re just filtering photos and posting them on a social media platform, telling stories through your pictures is still relevant on Instagram. People love stories and the right pictures can tell a tale better than hundreds of words of text. Ask any 4-year-old son. If it doesn’t have pictures, it gets no play before bedtime.
The best thing for archaeologists interested in using Instagram is: Our profession is highly visual. The places where we work and the things we recover are fascinating to a lot of people. This makes archaeology uniquely positioned to leverage this social media platform. (WORD OF CAUTION: Make sure you aren’t breaking any company social media rules or posting site locations through the photos you upload. I’d hate to have to help you find a new job because of something you read on this blog post).
As with all social media platforms, you need to stay active. Try to post at least one photo every day of something related to your niche. You need to be posting things about archaeology and stay active because that’s the personal brand you are trying to self-identify with.
What about Pinterest?
I’m very ambivalent about how Pinterest can help further one’s personal brand as an archaeologist. In case you didn’t know, Pinterest, founded in 2010, is a virtual bulletin board where members can share links and images (i.e. “pin” them) on thematic pages. It is smaller than the previously mentioned platforms with 70—80 million users and is also dominated by women (70 percent of users are female). Finally, Pinterest’s goal appears to be so similar to creating an online scrapbook, which I really don’t care about.
Basically, I don’t get Pinterest. I understand the ability to pin stuff from your personal and professional life in order to round out your professional brand but I think the other social media platforms I featured in this blog post series can do a better job of defining your professional brand. Most of the Pinterest accounts I’ve seen look like a hodgepodge of food recipes, cat photos, and things somebody wants to buy. I really haven’t seen too many boards that were loaded with usable information.
Instagram uses images too, but it’s a lot easier to skim other Instagrammers’ feeds without feeling like you’re in a knick-knack emporium. Instagram pictures also have the power to convey the feel of a place or event in a manner Pinterest just doesn’t seem to have. I’m allergic to cats and don’t like cooking so pictures of kitties and gourmet meals just don’t resonate with me.
I understand how it can be fun and entertaining to stroll through Pinterest, but I do not see how it can further an archaeologist’s personal brand. Please, somebody tell me I’m wrong (write a comment below or email me).
Don’t Try ALL of This at Home
These six blog posts have presented a wide range of online pathways to personal branding, but I must reiterate: Do not try to use each and every one of these at the same time. You will spend too much time spinning your wheels without gaining traction. Also, it is difficult to convey a succinct version of your professional brand across these different platforms because each of them have different attributes, users, and memes. Plus, creating content on all of these platforms would take serious time and effort. It is only recommended for someone that is interested in Archaeology Niche Domination—A topic I will describe in the next post.
I use all of the aforementioned social media platforms, but I do not try to use them all at the same time and I’m not very good at using them all. Blogging mixed with Twitter and LinkedIn is the backbone of my social media strategy and I use HootSuite to schedule my posts throughout the week. Even still, a significant portion of my time is spent managing all this content creation/posting (about 2—4 hrs./week writing blogging and 2 hrs. scheduling social media posts). Unless you’re willing to spend at least that much time working on your online branding, I’d suggest you start slow and ease your way into it. To start with, just create a completely filled-out LinkedIn profile and connect it to your personal website.
Using video and photos to further your personal brand is the future. Blogging can be fruitful and rewarding, but the archaeology blogosphere is getting crowded. I believe it is easier to cut through the online haze by blazing a new pathway using photos and videos.
Write a comment below or send me an email.
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