ScotlandsPlaces Social Media Successes

Kim Beasley is the ScotlandsPlaces Project Officer. Kim has very kindly written about her social media successes for the third SHSMG blog.

What do a nineteenth-century Ordnance Survey record and a seventeenth-century map have in common? Well, thanks to social media they have all been viewed by thousands of people and are some of ScotlandsPlaces biggest social media successes!

Culloden Ordnance Survey Name Book page  ©National Records of Scotland and National Library of Scotland

Usually when choosing items to post anywhere online, I go for the most beautiful: the seventeenth-century etching, a photograph of an island sunset or a drawing of a medieval abbey. Colour is always a consideration, particularly for a written record I will try to find something where the writing has been embellished in some way. It certainly is true that social media users are more attracted to posts with beautiful content. Yet the most popular tweet to date on ScotlandsPlaces, with over four hundred likes, was not colourful nor was it particularly pretty. It shows the page of an Ordnance Survey Name Book, a record which gives details about places on maps made by the Ordnance Survey in the nineteenth century. Although the handwriting is quite lovely it is otherwise unremarkable.

Breaking the rules… and following them

The reason for the post’s popularity wasn’t the image’s beauty but its content. The page gives information about the site of the Battle of Culloden, one of the most famous battles in Scottish history. Tweeted on the anniversary of the battle, the record took on greater significance, making the event seem more immediate. Using some well-placed hashtags (#OTD and #Culloden) helped the tweet be discovered by an audience who may have never heard of ScotlandsPlaces. Of course there’s no denying the so-called ‘Outlander-effect’ here which has made a large group of people interested in the period.

Shetland & Orkney Map © National Records of Scotland and National Library of Scotland

Another of ScotlandsPlaces’ most popular posts, reaching almost 25,000 people on Facebook, evidently follows the rule of choosing beautiful images for social media. It shows a seventeenth-century map of Orkney and Shetland that has been magnificently drawn and coloured with the addition of boats and the odd sea monster. It was posted on the anniversary of Orkney and Shetland becoming part of Scotland which was the reason it generated such interest. Whilst the map may have helped catch the eye the post with it gave an unusual piece of history that many people might not have known.

The secrets of success?

What both posts have in common is their use of an anniversary to promote content. However posting on anniversaries alone won’t immediately win you hundreds of followers- people have to care about that anniversary. The following questions can help boost a post:

  • Is there a connection with a certain TV show (if it’s Scottish and from the eighteenth century, then yes)?
  • Is it linked to a fun fact?
  • Do you have a stunning image to go with it or is the anniversary big enough that you can get away with a weaker image?
  • What hashtags can you use?
  • Can you tweet at, or tag, other institutions for easy retweets?

Of course success in social media is just as much about luck as it is a perfectly-crafted post. I was surprised to see just how popular both these posts were and have been equally surprised that some posts haven’t been all that popular. The joy of social media is that you can follow the rules and you can break the rules: either can produce success.


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