Cite this as: Wakefield, C. 2020 Digital Public Archaeology at Must Farm: A Critical Assessment of Social Media Use for Archaeological Engagement, Internet Archaeology 55. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.55.9
Digital public archaeology is increasingly exploring social networks as platforms for online outreach initiatives. Despite a growing body of literature concerning archaeological engagement on social media, there are few examinations of such applications in practice. This research critically assesses the current discussions surrounding archaeological social media use before exploring commercial digital outreach at Must Farm, Cambridgeshire. Quantitative examinations of the project's Facebook metrics and qualitative comment analyses are employed to assess whether audiences were meaningfully engaged by these online strategies. The research concludes there is substantial value in using social networks to communicate archaeology and provides recommendations for future applications.
Corresponding author: Christopher Wakefield
University of York
Figure 1: The excavation uncovers the 'wood mass' of well-preserved debris and contents from the pile-dwellings. Image: Cambridge Archaeological Unit
Figure 2: The Must Farm Archaeology Facebook page
Figure 3: Examples of a daily progress post and Site Diary link
Figure 4: Facebook Metrics: 6 Oct 2015 to 8 Aug 2016 (Daily New Page Likes, Total Page Likes, Daily Page Reach and Daily Engaged Users)
Figure 5: Negative metrics: 6 Oct 2015 to 8 Aug 2016 (Feedback, Unlikes)
Figure 6: The percentage of Post Clicks that translate to Reactions, Comments and Shares left during the final months of the project: 13 Apr 2016 to 8 Aug 2016
Figure 7: Facebook Metrics: 6 Oct 2015 to 8 Aug 2016 (On-Page Post Likes, On-Page Post Shares and On-Page Post Comments)
Figure 9: Coding results of all on-Page Comments received on the daily updates: 6 Oct 2015 to 8 Aug 2016
Figure 10: A selection of users' content and general questions
Figure 11: A selection of user Interpretation Comments
Figure 12: User Interpretations identifying a wooden artefact soon after it was excavated
Figure 13: A selection of Comments displaying Excitement, Compliments and Humour
Figure 14: A selection of user comments responding to Must Farm's digital outreach
Table 1: Glossary of Facebook terminology
Table 2: Outlines of the coding categories into which User Comments were sorted
Table 3: Must Farm's ten most successful posts. Total Reactions, Comments and Shares incorporate off-page metrics including Comments and Likes on shared posts
Table 4: Averages of key metrics. Multiple averages are presented including/excluding particularly high or low periods of traffic
Table 5: Interactions received on 121 Posts from 13 Apr 2016 to 8 Aug 2016. Figures include interactions received on off-Page shares
Table 6: Stats from 119 Posts from 13 Apr 2016 to 8 Aug 2016. A total of 121 Posts were made, although two were Reshares and do not include Share data
Table 7: The stark contrast in Must Farm Archaeology's Facebook metrics between the last active month and the Page a year later
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