The EnRoutes Project
En Routes: Markers & Makers in Early 1900s’ Puerto Rico will be launched as a space where audiences can establish relationships with images and literary text excerpts. I would like to share my interest in how road system projects that took place in 1900s transformed social networks in Puerto Rico.
I envision this site as a venue for scholars and scholars-to-be to interact with photographs and literary excerpts that relate to the subject of rural Puerto Rico. EnRoutes will be primarily for academic audiences, but not exclusive to them. In fact, I want to find ways to exhort members of the public, particularly Puerto Ricans in the island, as well as those who have made the U.S. mainland their home, to feel attracted by EnRoutes. Specifically, I would like audience members to include scholars interested in Caribbean and Post-Colonial studies. Regarding non-scholarly communities, I also have an interest in attracting folks who enjoy vintage postcards and maps.
The social media platforms that I want to consider to work alongside EnRoutes would have to: (1) foment interest in learning more about early 20th-century Puerto Rico, (2) engender interactions between users and my digitized collection of images, (3) direct traffic to a place where readers could get to know my research interests and professional journey, and (4) inspire students to pursue studies in the humanities. In a quest for this type of user engagement and interaction with the EnRoutes collection, I would like to implement a social media strategy that would include: Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogging.
Having a Twitter presence would be key in attracting viewers to interact with EnRoutes images.
As a microblogging platform, Twitter has been effective in allowing academics and entities with digital collections to easily post short “status” updates on their websites and projects. Ross expands on this emerging form of engagement in scholarly communities: “The simplicity of publishing short updates, in various situations and in a fluid social network based on subscriptions and response, makes microblogging a groundbreaking communication method that can be seen as a hybrid of blogging, instant messaging, social networking and status notifications.” (32)]
I would like—to a certain degree—to emulate Terras and Robertson’s methods of communicating and engaging with audiences through a Twitter account, a platform that has been used by scholars mainly to announce DH projects and publications. This platform would also be used to retweet events and projects from fellow DH scholars.
Twitter demographics are on my side for attracting users to EnRoutes. With its user base, averaged at 330 million of monthly users, Twitter has exorbitant amount of activity happening on this platform. This year alone, Statista reported the following breakdown of Twitter users by age groups in the U.S.: 38% (ages 18-29), 26% (ages 30-49), 17% (ages 50-64), and 7% (ages 65 and over). Back in 2016, the Pew Research Center stated: “Younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to be on Twitter. Some 36% of online adults ages 18-29 are on the social network, more than triple the share among online adults ages 65 and older (just 10% of whom are Twitter users).”
These figures, combined with Pew Research Center reporting on the usage of Twitter among the highly educated internet users (29%), are sufficient for me to greatly consider Twitter as an effective venue to cultivate engagement with scholars sharing similar research interests.
I would like to take advantage of this demographics by facilitating scholarly communication and engagement among graduate students. Twitter has become a “complex multidirectional discursive space”, according to Claire Ross, where participants exchange resources, pose questions, and hold debates. Ideally, I would like to see my Twitter account to serve as a venue that encourages scholarly conversations to carried out, not just by an exclusive group of individuals, but also by scholars-to-be who are looking to engage in participatory social discussions and develop a scholar voice and identity.
A main challenge of incorporating Twitter to my social media strategy would be time investment. Twitter can go from a great marketing tool, to a disastrous one, if I am not careful in making all needed considerations before investing in this type of digital platform. Due to the fast pace of tweets and retweets, I would have to commit my time and love required to be on top of the game. If I am to use Twitter to foment audience-EnRoutes engagement, I must engage myself in frequent “listening” and postings. Effectively devoting time and effort on Twitter account curation will help boost visibility and engagement by posting at the right time and frequency.
Statistics have shown that one of the main reasons users go to Twitter is to get their news. This means, that tweets that receive the most attention tend to be those that relate to news stories. And so, as a scholars seeking the attention of users, I would dedicate my time on postings that reflect new collections added to EnRoutes, or aspects that are in constant change or going through new developments. Also, since one of my goals is to increase traffic to EnRoutes, it might be a great idea to attract users by using trendy hashtags. I created a Twitter account years back when I was doing STEM librarianship, but I have not curated it in the past few years. I would have to change my approach to this account and update it with new postings and followings.
An image-sharing platform, such as Pinterest, can serve to both educate about the EnRoutes collection and to attract more visitors (academic and non-academic) to the website. With its user base averaged at 265 million active pinners), Pinterest is known to be a great channel for directing high traffic to other websites. It can also be a valuable platform in terms of representing content that are highly visual and inspirational. The EnRoutes project, is visually pleasing and inspirational in nature, which will align well with Pinterest’s visual character. This project also evokes a sense of melancholy, an attribute which can be perceived as a collective and aesthetic experience. I can picture Pinterest users getting inspired by the EnRoutes collection, whether a scholar is looking for new ideas to write about and research, or a Puerto Rican who exited the island is seeking for ways to remember or connect with a more idyllic past. Pinterest users are looking for the elements of discovery, beauty and inspiration, and so stumbling upon the EnRoutes images might entice them to continue their “journey” by visiting my collection in a non-mediatic way.
I want Pinterest non-academic users to pin EnRoutes images on their boards, to share them with family and friends, and to take a turn to EnRoutes for a more in-depth experience. The idea would be for them to be able to see some of the connections they can make between the images and some of the classic literature written about the spaces depicted in the images.
As for scholarly communities, I would love for academics to also find my pins and boards useful, to inspire them create their own collections, to generate virtual venues for them discuss topics with their students, to create assignments for them, and to incite them to create new boards. It would also be a great opportunity to get students inspired to work on scholarly activities, including: (1) research projects related to early 20th-century Puerto Rico, (2) group projects where they collectively create a board with the use of EnRoutes and related images, (3) virtual field trips where students could “travel” to Puerto Rican rural past, or even (4) collaborative storytelling.
If I am to rely on Pinterest, I must ensure that the EnRoutes website and my blog are just as inspiring as the visually-heavy approach I used in my pinned collections or “boards”.
If I, as an academic scholar, were not to have a central hub like EnRoutes, then Pinterest will not be a good fit as part of the social media strategy. Since Pinterest will mainly drive traffic to blogs, websites and other virtual venues, my EnRoutes and blog sites must be completed prior to curating a Pinterest account.
There are a couple of challenges I could face by relying on Pinterest. If my target demographic of your blog or website was to be male, then there is no question I should not rely on Pinterest as my sole social media channel. We’ve seen in statistics by Statista that the large majority of pinners are women. But since I am open to all kinds of audiences, I am not as worried about which gender pins my images. Another challenge was highlighted by Shelley Bernstein in her “Social Change” article, which is the lack of controlled engagement I would have with Pinterest. As I mentioned earlier, it is a non-mediatized social media platform, which is OK by me. The main idea behind making use of Pinterest is to inspire audiences to learn more about the images they discover, and to hopefully direct traffic to my sites. I personally enjoy my current Pinterest account, which focuses on crafts, and inspirational travel destinations. But I would create a new account that with a very different goal and focus.
After learning that more than half of American internet users were reading blogs monthly and that more than 400 million people actively read them. (“A History of Blogging”), I feel very encouraged to start a blog that will speak of the EnRoutes project. This is statistic that has risen to more than 500 million this year, according to hostingtribunal.com website. The popularity of this form of communication aligns with all the benefits that Matt Phillbott has highlighted of having my own blog. According to him, a blog can serve as a venue to:
- express my research ideas and to publish them faster than through traditional channels
- Promote my research to peers
- Comment on current events related to similar projects and to relate them to my own research focus
- Tell the audience what it is that I do and what things I find interesting and important
The EnRoutes project is one that would greatly be enhanced by curating a blog that contextualizes the images and literary excepts to be contained in its collections. My readership demographics points me to 46.74% of Americans, from ages 18-29 (SEOTribunal.com), a relatively young demographics. Luckily, gender would not play a role in determining the creation and maintenance of a blog, but the fact that “the average top blog has 45% female and 55% male readers” (Pingdom.com), will create an almost equally divided composition of readers.
The blog will be devoted to both scholars who share research interests, but it will be inviting to non-scholars, attracted to EnRoutes by the images pinned on Pinterest boards or tweeted via Twitter. I will take inspirations from blogs, such as Melissa Terras: Adventures in Digital Cultural Heritage and by Digital Harlem Blog: News & Analysis of the Web Site “Digital Harlem: Everyday Life, 1915-1930. Both blogs are devoted to postings on DH projects, and to curating biographical and professional profiles. If I am to establish myself as a DH scholar (it doesn’t hurt to dream a little), then creating blog content on publications, career moves, presentations, and some personal adventures would be of great interest to me. There would be a clear EnRoutes link that would take my readers the project website for a chance to view collections. There would also be a link that would take my readers to my Twitter and Pinterest pages.
Blog postings related to publications will give readers a chance to see how one can contextualize EnRoutes images and other data, while those related to project updates would announce new collections added. Each one of my postings will carry out the main message of inviting audience members to: leave constructive comments, visit the EnRoutes collections, and make use of my Twitter and Pinterest accounts to find other ways to engage with my work (and with similar projects).
Let’s be SMART about measuring the success of my social media strategy
It’s always good practice to consider using SMART goals when working with projects. And when it comes to social media, it is imperative to set out and achieve strategic objectives to enhance projects, such as EnRoutes.
With the use of platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest, my goals are to increase the following:
- Awareness of EnRoutes website and blog
- Engagement and promotion of blog content among current and new followers
- Loyalty from readers and followers
- Authority as an aspiring DH
For my Twitter account, I would like to specifically keep track of the following engagement metrics on a quarterly basis:
- Number of new followers
- Number of retweets and shares
- Number of likes and hearts
- Number of comments and mentions
For my Pinterest account, I would like to measure the following aspects, on a quarterly bases:
- Number of Pinterest referrals to the EnRoutes site and blog
- Number of shares made from EnRoutes or blog
- Number of boards created with the most repinned pins
- My best in search pins
For my blog site, I would like to measure the following (monthly):
- Traffic coming from social media outlets
- Overall blog visits
- Traffic source breakdown (direct traffic vs indirect)
- Number of blog posts (easy)
- Top view posts
- Average views per post
- Average comments and shares
- Email subscribers
Some attainable goals for all three social media platforms include:
- Write at least three blog posts yearly (Blog)
- Write at least one post per month (Twitter)
- “Listen” and respond to posts as needed (Twitter)
- Increase followers and mentions by 10% quarterly (Twitter and Pinterest)
- Attain at least one share per post quarterly (Twitter)
- Increase mentions by 10% quarterly (Twitter)
- Increase repins by 25% quarterly (Pinterest)
Bernstein, Shelley. “Social Change.” BKM Tech (blog), April 4, 2014.
Phillpott, Matt. “Uses of Blogs for Historians.” Blogging for Historians (blog).
Ross, Claire. “Social media for digital humanities and community engagement.” In Digital Humanities in Practice, edited by Claire Warwick, Melissa Terras, and Julianne Nyhan, Facet Publishing, 2012.
Shannon Greenwood, Andrew Perrin & Maeve Duggan. “Social Media Update 2016.” Pew Research Center. November 11, 2016.
Seth Fiegerman, 2012. “Twitter now has more than 200 million monthly active Users,” Mashable (18 Dec).
Stone, Brad, 2012. “Twitter, the startup that wouldn’t die,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek (1 Mar), pp. 62–67.
“Top Twitter Demographics That Matter to Social Media Marketers”. https://blog.hootsuite.com/twitter-demographics/