In 2009, the old became new again. For many preservation groups, it was their first time to use social networking to take the conversation about heritage resources online. For NCPTT, it was an opportunity to draw on three years of social media involvement to consistently deliver quality, feature-rich content for the preservation community.
In January, NCPTT adopted WordPress as the platform for its website. The open source and user friendly nature of WordPress makes it the ideal vessel to take the National Center’s message to its audience on the Web. NCPTT staff can now post information directly to the website using an interface that functions much like a word processor. This speeds the flow of information to the preservation community and also allows interaction with them through the comment feature.
Empowered by the direct-to-web publishing capabilities, the staff began publishing blogs about topical issues in their fields. NCPTT is benefiting from this collaborative approach to creating content on its website through a month-by-month increase in visitors over the course of the year.
Among the content being posted to NCPTT’s new website is the “Preservation Technology Podcast.” It is the only active, consistently produced podcast on preservation topics. NCPTT posts each podcast to its website along with a full transcript. These transcriptions provide better accessibility to the information, increase the National Center’s search engine rankings, and draw additional readers to the NCPTT website. Listeners can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
NCPTT is using online communication beyond just websites. In 2009, it began using an e-mail marketing service called Constant Contact that allows targeted mailing lists, easy-to-build newsletters and campaigns for training initiatives. As a result, the National Center ported its NCPTT Notes newsletter to an online format that reaches more than 3,500 people each month. The service allows easy subscribe and unsubscribe options, and NCPTT averages 10 new subscribers each week.
NCPTT hasn’t been alone in navigating the social space. Recognizing the launch of the WordPress site as an opportunity to use social media more effectively, NCPTT brought in experts in social media for staff training in 2009. These experts covered the basics of blogging, net etiquette and media sharing. Charles Stricklin, host of the popular WordPress podcast, conducted a session on podcasting. And the dynamic Lorelle VanFossen, who has one of the world’s most popular sites on the art of blogging and community building, helped NCPTT staff members develop their own blogs.
Though blogs and websites remain popular, the trend for online content is toward video. NCPTT has long maintained video training and research products both on its website and on YouTube. This year, the National Center began using live webcasting using UStream as another tool to reach its audience regardless of boundaries.
NCPTT’s first webcast featured its annual Preservation in Your Community event. The event is held at the end of each summer to showcase the National Center’s research, including that of its summer interns, for the community where NCPTT is headquartered. The event’s non-technical approach made it the perfect opportunity to launch NCPTT into the world of webcasting. Viewers were able to watch the event on the UStream site as well as NCPTT’s own website. This capability will be available for many of the National Center’s future events, including its Nationwide Cemetery Preservation Summit.
Though NCPTT has focused on the successful launch of its WordPress site in 2009, it continued to build its community on external social networks. The National Center’s Facebook page tripled its number of fans, who actively comment on its content. Its audience on Twitter has grown to more than 800 followers. And its photos on Flickr have been viewed more than 21,000 times. Additionally, staff continue to share information internally using FriendFeed. Each of these services are structured to work together, widely distributing NCPTT’s content with little duplication of effort.
NCPTT’s technology focus allowed it to settle comfortably into a new method of communication where many larger preservation organizations have stalled. The National Center is now reaping the rewards of these efforts with training events that are substantially better attended and more engaging. More important is the ongoing interaction the organization now enjoys with those it serves. Those relationships will continue to benefit NCPTT, its audience, and the cause of preservation, for the forseeable future.