Events & News

Social Media Essentials: Tips For Sharing Preservation History

June 6, 2019 | Cristiana Peña, Social Media Strategist

Did you “gram” that beautiful house? Did you “at” your local council member on Twitter? Who did you “tag” in your latest Facebook post?

Social media is equally frustrating and fruitful, annoying and necessary. Through social media channels, a small organization or a grassroots campaign can broadcast its mission, keep stakeholders updated on progress, share its own history, and expand the reach of its message. In the past, having a profile on Facebook and Twitter and posting semi-actively as content arose organically was enough. But as the number of users on each of these platforms has multiplied—and let’s add Instagram in, too—simply being online is no longer enough.

It is essential to have a thoughtful social media strategy, scaled to account for your organization’s capacity.

I enjoy collaborating with organizations and individuals to develop online communities that resonate with a given client’s mission. As a freelancer since 2013 and, before that, working in the Bronx and on the Upper West Side for site- and community-based preservation organizations, I have begun to pin down the strategies that work well when advancing messaging in the historic preservation realm and its allied fields. “Begun” is not used haphazardly: social media platforms and the larger landscape of available platforms change constantly, and it is important to remain nimble and open to ideas about new ways to leverage these tools in service of your mission.

Pick a Platform

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are the three platforms I recommend most often for consideration. Each has its own strengths and limitations. Pick your platforms with staff/ board capacity in mind. Every organization or campaign need not be on all platforms to successfully leverage an online following. Determine which platform is best for you based on whom you want to communicate with online and what materials or assets you have to put forward. 

Do you have great images to capture attention? Are there examples of egregious additions to a historic rowhouse on a notyet-designated street? Does one photo help tell the story of an entire preservation campaign lost to history? Is a key aim of yours to connect with a younger demographic? Instagram may be your ideal venue for social media engagement.

Are you sharing links that relate back to a campaign or project website with regularity? Are you looking to inform your constituency over time with articles and relevant content? Facebook is the largest of all the social platforms and has the most content flexibility, so your message might be best suited for that platform.

Twitter can be a thorny place. It is the social network most trafficked by the politically active and savvy, but it also presents terrific opportunities for real-time communication and engagement with thought leaders and the media. Use Twitter to speak directly to the press on issues that are important to you; spark a dialogue with professionals in your relevant field.

Manage Your Presence

Doing this all takes time. Correction: doing this all effectively takes time. None of us can afford to be chained to our devices or platforms all day long, so scheduling is key. Use built-in features (Facebook’s scheduling is incredibly easy) or third-party platforms (HootSuite, TweetDeck, Later, and more) to streamline social media planning. Schedule your daily or weekly content in batches, watch it roll out automatically, and free yourself to engage in comments and discussion organically. Or, allow yourself to focus on something entirely other than social media!

Do it with Style

Are you assertive or laid-back? Are you high-contrast or washed vintage? Are you “me” or “we?” Decide what your tone and visual aesthetic will be, especially if your channel is managed by multiple people at once. And stick to it! People are drawn to channels with personality as much as channels that share great content, so give them both. 

Be Reliable

Four posts per day or one post per week? Use whichever route makes sense for your organization, commit to it, and deliver. You want to build an expectation among your followers as to what and when they can expect to hear from you. There is no magic number for how many times per day one should appear active online. It is different for every organization based on audience and goals. Whatever is manageable for your organization, be sure to deliver on it dependably.

Make Friends & Collaborate

Your organization’s social media channels aren’t bulletin boards for you to push out content: they’re two-way communication tools. Talk to your audience and be prepared for them to talk back! Ask questions and make time to engage with responses. But go further than that: be the one to initiate a dialogue on another account’s post. Doing so announces your presence to that organization as well as their followers, and leaving thoughtful comments offers a preview of what a visitor can expect from your own organization’s channel. Once you’ve made friends, collaborate. There are so many voices reaching out to us via social channels that it is a relief when someone we recognize as authentic tells us his or her opinion.

Check Those Analytics & Insights

All of these tools have built-in performance metrics to help you evaluate and adjust your posting strategy and style in response to your community’s online behavior. Don’t take these tools for granted! Learn when your audience is most active online (hint: it’s likely around noon to three p.m., when folks are distracting themselves online during lunch, or six to nine p.m., on their homeward-bound commutes.)

Cristiana can be reached via her history, design and cat-heavy filled Instagram @crisapena, or at