Facebook and Archaeology

Posted on June 20, 2011

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In this world of social media, organizations are always talking about “being on Facebook” and I really think this is a mistake for many archaeology organizations e.g. special interest groups, museums, professional societies, universities, etc. There are a couple of reasons I think this is a mistake, here are the ones that have to do with the reasons why you are  “on Facebook”:

  • Not sure why or “because everyone else is doing it” are not good enough reasons. Contrary to popular belief “being on Facebook” takes time and resources. If you are not getting something out of it then you are wasting your time. If that is what you want to do with your time, that’s cool but I doubt many bosses would think so.
  • I want to go viral like all those campaigns to save X with Y millions followers? First, Facebook has changed how it operates so events and groups can not spread that fast anymore. Second, do you think the Mesolithic rock art is going to go viral? Come on its been several thousand years and it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, you can reach an audience on Facebook but if the number of people who would be interested in the archaeology of (fill in the blank) is dozens then you are only going to get dozens of “Likes”.
  • I want to keep people informed about what is going on with my (fill in the blank). Yes, Facebook can do that through people’s Newsfeed BUT what goes up there is based on an algorithm. If your followers have not been to your page, or interacted with you, in a while then your posts will not show up in their Newsfeed. Also, if they are “Liking” 500 other pages then you have to compete against those as well. Just because you post does not mean people see it.

There are a couple of problems with mechanics as well:

  • Just “being on Facebook” does not mean your audience will automatically”Like” your page, especially in the museum sector. Yeah, everyone talks about how Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, etc. has x million “Friends” but they also have 10+ million $ ad campaigns aimed at getting them those millions of “Likes”. To reach a wide audience takes time and work, there are no free lunches.
  • Being “Liked” also means that you need to have good content. No one will like your page or website if what you are offering is crap. Content still rules and takes time to create, which I think some people forget when they create a Facebook page.
  • If you do not update/post regularly or abandon your Facebook page and people stumble upon it they will be put off. Having an underused or bad Facebook page can easily be worse that not having one at all. Again, there is a commitment of time that goes into having a page.

Finally, I would also point out:

  • The analytics on  Facebook are pretty close to useless. You have no idea who sees your posts and what they think about them. Yeah, you have 10,000 people who like your page but can you tell me what that means as far as your goals for being on Facebook. Could you even qualify it if I pressed you to? Probably not, which is not the answer you want when your spending a lot of time.

In summary, Facebook takes a lot of time to do well and may not be the best tool for your goals. Even if it is the best tool, for the least amount of work, chances are you would not be able to tell ether way. So please considering what you are getting into before you commit to a Facebook page.

If someone has a different point of view I would love to hear it.