By Natalie Russell, History Department Social Media Intern
When I began my internship in late January, the history department was on two social media platforms; it had a strong following on its Facebook page and its blog Historians@Work. I can imagine that there are much more pressing matters for any history department than wondering how many “Likes” its latest Tweet received or which filter to use on its newest Instagram post. And who exactly could blame us for feeling this way? Twitter, and Instagram in particular, are usually reserved for brand development, news updates, and recreational posting—links to catch up on graduate student’s research work or to broaden horizons in one’s historical knowledge are not typically thought of as being the most successful posts on ether medium.
Our history department, however, sought to challenge that sentiment. We not only wanted to test the waters of an academic presence on traditionally informal sites, but we also wanted to combat the accrescent movement of millennials abandoning their liberal arts studies, especially their history degrees, in pursuit of seemingly more “useful” studies. We worked to prove to students that there remains a need for historians in the modern world, and we must make that case at their level. And thus began my odyssey—accompanied by the department’s other social media intern, Caty Frehe—to make a name for MUHistory202 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
At the start of the semester, the two of us sat down and devised a plan to revitalize the department’s social media presence. We agreed that posting content more regularly was the first step to attract a larger audience. But we also wanted the posts to capture the personality and achievements of members of the history department, to be meaningful and useful, and, above all, to engage a general audience. With these goals in mind, we brainstormed an array of subjects for daily posts that could not be exhausted within a few months and would not relate only to ourselves and our interests. After much discersion, Caty and I decided that one way to create an active following was to post content according to themed “hashtags”; we ended up creating five: #MeetUsMonday, #TakeOverTuesday, #WhyHistoryWednesday, #ThisDayInHistoryThursday, and #FunFactFriday.
Monday and Wednesday posts are intended to showcase the faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students studying history, hear their thoughts on why they chose the subject, and learn what role they see history play in their lives and the world around them. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday posts, however, are intended to find the moments in history that are unique and unexpected, to spark readers’ interest and make them think, “Huh, I didn’t know that!” The purpose of these posts are twofold: Monday and Wednesday posts are intended to reinforce the validity of a history degree to students hesitant to commit to history as a major, while Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday’s posts are created with students studying other subjects in mind—these “factoids” may inspire them to take a history course as an elective and explore their interests in the subject.
So far, the reception has been positive and our following has grown dramatically. During the first month of our “campaign,” the number of Facebook “likes” grew from 624 to 650, the number of Instagram followers soared from less than twenty to 100, and the number of people following our Twitter feed swelled from twelve to forty-three.
Future plans include interviewing Marquette history students who are currently involved in internships associated with history, such as the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Old World Wisconsin, and the like. We also hope to compile a larger blogpost for the department’s Historians@Work Blog, which will consist of the interviews we have done with students and faculty for our “Meet us Monday” posts. Ideally, these two future endeavors will impact potential students at Marquette, and show how versatile and appealing studying history truly is!
Caty and I are so excited to share our pure passion for history with our followers, and we hope that our enthusiasm is contagious. We have much more planned for the rest of the semester, and we cannot wait to see what this project does for the best department on campus.
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Natalie Russell is a History and French major at Marquette University and a social media intern in the history department. In addition to working with the Office of Disability Services and the Office of Residence Life, she is president of the Marquette chapter of StepUp!, whose purpose is to raise awareness about the Rwandan genocide and especially its impact on female survivors.