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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 82, May 2015

Special topic: Public relations activities

Using social media to build our election ephemera collection

By National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia collects Australian printed ephemera as a record of Australian life and social customs, popular culture, national events and issues of national importance.

The Library aims to collect federal election campaign materials as comprehensively as possible, including one copy of all published leaflets, handbills, posters, policy speeches, press statements, pamphlets and how-to-vote cards—that is, anything produced by individual candidates, political parties and lobby groups in the lead-up to the vote. In previous years, the election collecting strategy was limited to individual letters sent to candidates and parties.

In 2013, the Library employed varied communications channels, with a strong focus on social media, to seek community involvement in collecting federal election materials.


< Election-related items as part of the library collection >

For the 2013 federal election, a focused social media campaign was developed to complement pre-existing collecting strategies and expand the reach and accessibility of the Library's message, 'Wanted: Your 2013 Election Ephemera.' A media release and a blog post were the campaign's foundation messages. The campaign used direct email and phone calls, traditional radio and print media, the Library's webpage, its e-newsletter (sent to 42,294 subscribers), and social media, including blogs, Facebook (more than 28,952 people reached through organic and paid posts) and Twitter (more than 14,000 followers). These platforms were populated with content developed from across the Library, with the campaign staged progressively throughout the election. Stages of the campaign were targeted towards particular audiences, including the Australian Electoral Commission's official list of candidates. Lobby groups were targeted by addressing high-profile election issues through Twitter, as well as high-profile media. Proactive communications were followed up by a reactive social media presence.

The Library's use of #AusPol and #AusVotes enabled messaging to appear among general federal election conversations on Twitter, engaging a broader audience than is represented in the Library's followers. Third-party print media incorporated into the campaign included metropolitan, local and regional media. Library employees also assisted with campaign promotion through internal communication tools, Microsoft Lync and Yammer.

The campaign resulted in the highest yield of federal election material in the Library's collecting history. Early direct replies and positive responses from candidates helped with the immediate campaign and filled collection gaps from previous years. Media work and Twitter posts resulted in others taking up the cause, including media personalities. Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) analyst Antony Green promoted the campaign on his blog—and also donated his personal papers to the Library's collection. Even a life-size cut-out of one candidate was sourced through Twitter. Some election candidates targeted were found to be published authors leading to other collecting activities by the Library.

For the 2013 federal election, the Library's collection now holds more than 7,000 individual items filed into 945 categories and housed in 63 boxes. This represents a 40% increase from the previous 2010 election collecting campaign. Statistically, there was a 10 to 15% increase in Twitter followers throughout this campaign, much higher than previous month-to-month figures.

The campaign also reached new audiences active in the political space and educated people about the Library's role as a collecting institution. It demonstrated an important opportunity for social engagement with the public and promoted a strong sense of community involvement.

For the Library, the campaign demonstrated the success and importance of collaboration through social media in collecting, preserving and sharing the history of Australia. Future historians will gain insight into the political landscape in 2013—how the election happened, what the important issues were, how the campaign was conducted (officially and unofficially) and who was active in the debate—and be able to compare it to Australia's political collection stretching back to 1901. (See also the "AUSTRALIAN EPHEMERA COLLECTION FINDING AID")


< National Library of Australia staff holding a selection of posters acquired in the 2013 election collection campaign. >


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