institution: The National Archives
category: Marketing and Promotion
In 2016, the National Archives partnered with American Experience PBS to launch #ElectionCollection, a social media campaign that showcased the holdings of our thirteen Presidential Libraries during the 2016 election cycle. #ElectionCollection unified our various institutional parts–thirteen Presidential Libraries, regional archives, the flagship museum in Washington, DC–and raised the public profile of our institution.
Every Tuesday during the sixteen weeks leading up to Election Day, National Archives project leads Jeannie Chen (@ourpresidents) and Hilary Parkinson (@usnatarchives) posted a new challenge and invited other GLAM institutions and the public to share their artifacts and documents on that theme.
Our goals were to inspire the public to learn more about our holdings, to show the relevance of our Presidential Libraries’ holdings to current issues, and to encourage the public to share the excitement of #ElectionCollection with their personal social networks.
We planned each week’s call to action carefully. During a hot election cycle, we wanted to stay away from partisan politics and instead focus attention on the stories of Presidential campaigns. This fresh and modern perspective gave people a reason to tune in and participate.
The broad topic of Presidential campaign material allowed us to create categories that were novel and fun–and the weekly categories also made it easy for GLAM institutions to join in and stay on brand. Highlights include Buttons, Jewelry, and Stickers; Food and Drink; Wearables; and Home Goods and DIY.
We also wanted to create and strengthen connections between ourselves and other GLAM institutions. We reached out directly through emails to invite our contacts to participate and provided them with a social media kit and top-secret schedule. By the end of the 16 weeks, we had built up a community of over 108 participating institutions
The range of voices spanned influential organizations with large social media followings to smaller historical societies that posted lesser-known documents related to Presidential campaigning. These various perspectives gave greater depth to the conversation, with organizations asking and answering questions from each other and the public.
The campaign filled a need in the GLAM community to swap stories and share the visual wealth of our collections around a common topic on our social platforms. We created a page on archives.gov that linked to #ElectionCollection items that participants shared.
Six institutions, including the Princeton University Mudd Manuscript Library, the University of Oxford Vera Harmsworth Library, and the San Francisco Public Library, were inspired to create their own physical and online exhibits of historical election-related items!
We collaborated with our Education staff to create online resources for educators to use in lesson plans or classroom discussions about Presidential campaigns. DocsTeach.org highlighted over 200 items from our holdings, along with other primary source material. These items also linked to our digital catalog, raising awareness of our institution as a whole.
In addition to the GLAM institutions and staff, people on Twitter and Instagram shared objects from their home collections, from mugs to bumper stickers.
And even if they didn’t participate, they loved the concept!
We also created quizzes to further engage our audience. Over 1,700 people took the quiz “Can You Guess Which Presidential Slogans Are Real?” Education staff member Stephanie Greenhut (@docsteach) created another quiz, “How Are You Persuaded?,” aimed at teachers and students; it was taken over 1,400 times.
By the end of 16 weeks, our reach on Instagram was over 2 million, and our reach on Twitter was over 61 million! Our average weekly reach was 4 million–and on each Tuesday, our impressions on Twitter tripled.
Slate staff writer Rebecca Onion blogged about the campaign: “For the past few months, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and PBS’s American Experience have been running a Twitter and Instagram hashtag—#ElectionCollection—as a way of encouraging museums, libraries, archives, and collectors to share their election-related documents and memorabilia. The results have been glorious.”
#ElectionCollection brought the community of National Archives social media channels together and leveraged our combined influence. Over 23 NARA social media accounts worked together to lead the greater #ElectionCollection community. This digital campaign raised the profile of our institution in the GLAM community, helped the public learn about our network of National Archives locations, and resulted in high-performing social media posts that highlighted the diversity of our holdings.
See each week’s submissions on Storify
Week 1: Signs, Posters, and Brochures https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-signs-posters-brochures
Week 2: Wearables https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-wearables
Week 3: Buttons, Jewelry, Stickers https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-buttons-jewelry-stickers
Week 4: First Ladies https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-first-ladies
Week 5: Food and Drink https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection
Week 6: Transportation Not available
Week 7: Photos from the Campaign Trail https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-photos-from-the-campaign-trail
Week 8: Slogans https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-slogans
Week 9: Home Goods and DIY https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-home-goods-and-diy
Week 10: Technology and New Media https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-technology-and-new-media
Week 11: Presidents Before They Were POTUS https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-presidents-before-they-were-pot
Week 12: Everyday Items https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-everyday-items
Week 13: Caricatures https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-caricatures
Week 14: Pop Culture https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-580f4d949005a43617b70578
Week 15: Quirky https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-quirky
Week 16: Iconic https://storify.com/USNatArchives/electioncollection-iconic