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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Open Educational Resources Promotions Guide: Blogs and Social Media

OER Promotions Guide by Janet Swatscheno as part of the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program

Blogs and social media platforms are often free to use but it takes time and personnel to use them effectively and to create original content. A compelling social media post on should include a brief announcement and description of the new resource, a link to the resource, and a high-quality photo (textbook cover, author, etc.). Blog posts can include more detail about the project and information about the author. Similar to press releases, a blog post will be more effective if it includes quotes from the author and students. Authors might also choose to write about the experience of creating open content which has the added benefit of encouraging other faculty to create OER. Timing is another aspect to consider. Twitter and Facebook are good for promoting a work for a short period of time, especially when a resource is first published, while blog posts have a long lifespan and can be found and read years after written.

 

The most important and potentially difficult aspect of using social media is identifying where the communities you are trying to reach communicate and who is influential in those communities. Some communities are very active on Twitter, while others communicate more frequently on other platforms such as Google groups. The author is almost always best positioned to promote their own work on social media, but they can benefit from a coordinated effort with the publisher. Authors and publishers should work together to develop social media content to make the most of the platforms.

 

Library publishers should also consider the overall library social media strategy to determine the best way to promote a new open resource. Does your publishing program maintain its own social media accounts or do you use a general library account? Are there other units on campus that would promote your post? Does your library have a social media style guide? It is important to coordinate with communication professionals and others engaged in social media in the library to make the most of the platforms.

Expert Opinions

All of the experts mentioned social media as an inexpensive way to promote a newly published OER, but they emphasized the importance of developing a strategy for using social media.

I’m a Twitter user and so a lot of things that I do, I send out on Twitter. That’s almost the first thing I do if I’m trying to get awareness out there about something, I will talk about it on Twitter

- Anita Walz

Developing a blog can be really helpful. Twitter is a really instantaneous thing... a blog is a lot more permanent and can be more thoughtful but it also takes a lot more thought and a lot more planning. So you really have to think what makes sense for this particular product… It depends on your resources. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Don’t try to be on all platforms for everything. Facebook might work for some things. Blogs are good because they’re more permanent. People can find your blog post two or three years later.

- John Warren

 

Karen Lauritsen from the Open Textbook Network emphasized the importance of working with communication professionals in the library and on campus:

I think it makes a big difference to have people dedicating themselves to marketing and communications if you want to get the word out about stuff because it takes a long time. It takes follow-up and you have to find different angles to promote things

- Karen Lauritsen

Both Sarah Cohen and Karen Bjork talked about leveraging national level organizations’ social media accounts such as the Open Textbook Network or SPARC Twitter communities to let others know about new open educational resources. Sarah said that the OTN’s social media strategy is “built around highlighting the work of members, highlighting the success of our members, highlighting the challenges our members are tackling”. Bjork mentioned that the OTN tweeted about a number of the open access textbooks published at Portland State. She stated “I think that’s where we’ve gotten more engagement is having the national organizations tweets for us rather than just specifically here”.

Example Twitter Accounts

Expert Opinions

Thinking Outside of the Box

Sarah Cohen from the Open Textbook Network described that in a previous role at California Polytechnic she printed out and purchased open textbooks and put them in the reference section of her library. She worked with another librarian to find creative ways to make students aware of the open textbooks. They branded their program Open Access Textbooks for Students (OATS), and purchased huge boxes of instant oatmeal and put OATS stickers on it. This type of playful engagement really caught students’ attention :

That was an example of trying to bring out these books to our students. I think that that almost playfulness, especially when you’re working with students, but I would actually would say also potentially with faculty. I think that’s something that the commercial houses do. I was just at a presentation at the Hawaii Student Success Institute… and the publishers are up in front of the room and they’re throwing these foam toys out and they’re making it very fun and playful.

Sarah went on to explain that she understands why librarians take a more serious tone with faculty than commercial textbook publishers, but that it might be something worth trying in order to get faculty and students excited about the open content faculty are writing and libraries are publishing.

 

John Warren described an interesting way of engaging with a community of scholars on Twitter about a commercial book published at George Mason. The book, Playfair: The True Story of the British Secret Agent Who Changed How We See the World, is about William Playfair, a Scottish historical figure and inventor of statistical graphics. The press created a Twitter account under his name. Warren then identified scholars on Twitter who are interested in data visualization, targeting his tweets to those community members. Warren said the campaign has been successful without requiring a large marketing budget: “I identified some big influencers in the sphere, which I knew he was known in that area, so I identified people in that area and started tweeting at them… it has been really successful without a lot of money put into it.” While this promotional strategy was used for a for-profit book, this type of creative engagement with a potential audience translates well to OER, especially history-focused OER, mapping projects, or other types of interactive OER.

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