Forum Bulletin

Social Media Tips for Promoting Your Endangered Places List 

06-08-2011 00:00

Ever since the National Trust launched its first list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1988, dozens of state and local preservation organizations have developed and publicized their own lists of threatened historic places. Until recently, most organizations mainly held media events, distributed press releases, and hosted special events to draw attention the sites on their lists. Today, thanks to social media, many organizations are expanding their outreach even further, quickly reaching new audiences in exciting new ways.
Social media, like other forms of communication, is about making connections. So when considering these tips, remember to adapt your text for different audiences and vary—not duplicate—the messaging across channels.

Plan ahead to build momentum. While social media is often about an unfettered and immediate reaction to issues, when releasing an endangered places list it is important to treat social media as another communications tool. Create a master schedule, which will make certain that you reach lots of people without overwhelming them. And by mapping out when and what each tweet and post will say, you will ensure message consistency throughout the announcement.

Form partnerships. Thousands of organizations, both local and national, use Twitter, Facebook, and other tools for their communications. Identify like-minded organizations and alert them to your upcoming announcement of threatened sites. When you release your list, these colleagues can share, re-tweet, or promote it on their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. While you might not go viral, your announcement will reach more followers. This is especially true if the sites listed make use of their own networks and social media accounts to spread the word.

Note: Do not link your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Otherwise, when you tweet, it automatically goes out on your Facebook page and you will be reaching individuals twice with the same message. Also, by limiting all your posts to the 140 characters dictated by Twitter, you are missing an opportunity, since Facebook allows for more text and visuals than Twitter.

1. Go beyond text. Visuals help illustrate the importance of the sites on an endangered list, showing conditions and details of a structure or landscape. Social media sites such as Flickr and YouTube can serve as a handy storehouse for images and videos that can be shared not only with your supporters but also with other media outlets. By allowing easy access to multimedia resources and extras (such as the B roll—ancillary footage that is not a part of the main footage in a video) you can increase and expand on the amount of material that can be shared with a wider audience.

2. Map it! It is also beneficial to put the sites in geographical context. A map can reveal, for example, the nearby communities that will be affected by the loss of a particular place. What to use? The common tool for mapping is Google Maps which has an easy interface to mark a site with color-coded pins to showcase relationships between locations.

3. Call for action. Endangered lists are about bringing attention to sites that are in poor repair or are facing a significant change or encroaching development. Encourage constituents to do more than simply reading an article about these sites. Getting followers more involved solidifies their connections to your organization and its mission of saving places. This can be as easy as inviting them to send a message to a city council member (if applicable), attend and bring others to a related event, or make a donation. Urge your members and friends to share stories or memories about the endangered places online. This user-generated content helps to show that these places are important to diverse members of the community.

4.  Don't just create, curate. Endangered lists can—and should—have a ripple effect with blog posts and tweets created by outside writers. Use social media channels to get information to other writers, then share what they post with your constituents. Overseeing and collecting the information for others to use is an easy way for you to spread the word about the importance of the list without having to do the heavy lifting (writing) yourself. Which leads us to the next tip...

5. Editorialize. Don’t just pass along the links to outside articles and blog posts. Make sure to put your own spin on what has been said, explaining why this link matters, and what story it tells about your endangered list and the threatened sites.

6. Make capacity. Many small local and statewide preservation organizations simply do not have enough staff to take full advantage of social media channels. Look to your member base for a volunteer; perhaps there is an individual with enough experience and drive to help implement a social media communication plan for your endangered list.

7. Manage the conversation. Once your endangered list is released, you will need to pay attention to what others are saying about your list and be prepared to offer clarifications and commentary. It is especially important to monitor the conversations on articles and websites that you have overseen. The goal here is not to play the moderator, but, like the user-generated content mentioned earlier, to interact with community members who have a stake in each of these projects.

8. Be prepared to lose control. Your role as the initiator of the list is to start the conversation and advocate for the places on the list. People have opinions, so it is important when responding to not get defensive or to antagonize anyone. Getting constructive feedback, regardless of the form it takes, can be a good thing for the program. Be prepared to follow the conversation in whatever direction it may go.

And finally some resources: For great primers on using social media and on developing and promoting endangered lists, see “Social Media Challenges for Preservation Organizations” by Alison Hinchman (Forum News, November 2010) and “Embracing the Endangered: Making the Most of Statewide Endangered Places Lists” by Erin Kelly (Forum News, May/June 2007). For more information on creating a list of endangered sites and on developing a more-traditional public relations plan, check out the Preservation Books Threatened Treasures: Creating Lists of Endangered Sites and Building Support through Public Relations: A Guide for Nonprofit Preservation Organizations; both can be ordered from

#ForumBulletin #SocialMedia

Author(s):Priya Chhaya