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Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Information Technology

Create a username for your organization's Facebook Page

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | April 7, 2021
Change your Facebook name

Why should I create a username for my Facebook Page?

Your username (aka page URL) is the link or address for your Facebook page. It is what shows up beneath your page name and in the address bar of your internet browser. It is to help people find and remember your Page. Ideally it should be a name that clearly says who your organization is.

Reasons for choosing a @username.

  1. A well-formed @username allows people to search and find you and your organization easily without a lot of hunting around.
  2. Having a @username makes it really easy for people to tag you in their posts and link to your Facebook page. 
  3. Lastly having a good @username will help your organization rank better in searches.

Don’t ignore this step. Having an appropriate @username for your page can make the difference between people finding your organization or not.
You want people to easily be able to search for your organization and using an obvious, straightforward name is one of the best ways to do that.

What to avoid naming your page:

  • @acme1858History - A name like that looks more like a weak password since no one will know it or remember it.
  • @HistoryIsFun - While history may be fun no one will associate the name with your organization unless your organization's name actually is "History Is Fun"
  • @AcmeCoHisSo - You get nothing out of abbreviating this way. No Search engine can find it and no one will ever remember it. You would be better off writing out the full name of your organization.
  • @AcmeCountyHistoricalSocietyMN - This actually is a good name to avoid confusion if your organization's name is very common like "Washington" or "Jefferson", "Franklin" or "Jackson" the four most popular county names. But if your organization's name is "Kandiyohi County Historical Society" it is a very safe bet you don't need to add the suffix "MN" to your name.

How do I create a username for my Facebook Page?

1. Click Create Page @Username below your Page's name.

2. Enter a username, then click outside of the composer.
FYI: Creating upper and lower case letters in your name (also called camel case) will help visually with your name.
However, for Facebook accounts, upper or lower case in the URL does not matter. Someone typing in "AcmeCountyHistory" or "acmecountyhistory" both are recognized.

3. If the username is available, click Create Username and you're done!

Collections Management Systems vs. Digital Asset Management Systems vs. Digital Preservation Systems

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | February 9, 2021

The following is a guest post by MNHS Digital Archivist Sarah Barsness.

Young man in black t-shirt juggling three pink balls labeled: CMS, DMC, and DAMS When it comes to creating and managing information about your collections, there are so many acronyms, software choices, and overlapping functionality that it can be difficult to know where to begin.  There are three main types of systems you need to know about: collections management systems, digital asset management systems, and digital preservation systems.  Some tools can do double- or even triple- duty, but each type of system can help you do a specific job.

Collections Management Systems are sneaky -- if you try to google “CMS,” you’ll also find customer and content management systems, which do very different tasks than what you need!  CMSs for libraries, archives, and museums, are built specifically to create, manage, and share information about your collections, but they usually don’t store digital copies of your collections themselves.  Most CMSs specialize in specific types of collections, such as museum object collections, library collections, or archives.  No matter the CMS, the goal is the same: create, organize, store, and share information about collections.

Digital Asset Management Systems, or DAMS, are almost the opposite of CMSs -- they store digital copies of your stuff, but are generally less robust when it comes to description and metadata.  Like CMSs, different products are often geared towards different use cases or different types of content.  One important thing to know about DAMS is that most function at the item level -- this works great if your collections are objects, but can be a problem if you have multipart collections (particularly common in archives).  Either way, a DAMS will help store your digital items, provide some level of information about them, and aid others in finding the digital item they want to see.

Finally, there are Digital Preservation Systems, often described as a digital archive or digital repository.  The goal of these systems is to manage your digital items on a technological level to make sure they’re accessible in the long term.  Functionality of these systems varies greatly and many tools are designed to do a single task, necessitating the use of several tools to create a system yourself.  Tools can check the integrity of each file in the system, help with backups, and even help migrate files to more stable preservation formats.

If you’re thinking about getting any one of these systems for your institution, it can be difficult to know where to start, but a few key considerations can help you narrow down your options:

  • What is my budget?
  • What is my level of IT knowledge/support?
  • How much time do I have to set up and customize a system?
  • What kinds of collections do I need to describe and/or share?
  • What kinds of information do I want to capture about my collections?
  • What functionality is most important to me?  What is least important?

Need more help or have questions about what might work best for you?  The MNHS Digital Archivist Sarah Barsness is available to help!  You can email her at


Producing the short historical film

By: John Fulton | Information Technology | September 29, 2020
Image from Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

A Short Historical Film (around 5 to 20 minutes long) is a great way to get a lesson or story across in a limited amount of time. A short historical film could be used to focus on one collection item or a recent research finding. Taking the opportunity to do shorter, cheaper, faster videos can be useful and rewarding.

When planning your historical film you were well-served by devoting time and attention to overall planning, research, script, budget. Turning from planning to production is the next step.

Production and post-production usually involves hiring professional filmmaking help. But this depends on goals, scope and budget. Part of the point of short historical films is to keep as much control over the film as possible in the hands of the historical organization or historian.

Basic steps toward producing a Short Historical Film:

Production. The second part of the film project marathon also begins with overall planning. Assess, collect and organize all of the parts available to the film. Historical films are often built on archival footage, interviews, b-roll to support the interviews and recreations.

Post-production. The script should need revision in light of archival assets found and interviews. Get broad agreement on the script as needed before starting to finish the film. Editing all of the film and sound elements of the film will be the main work of post-production. Editing is a form of writing itself and can transform the intent and meaning of all elements. The researchers should stay involved in this process.

Final Format. Hopefully you decided in the initial and overall planning how you want to use the short historical film. Knowing this will help determine your final format. Do you plan to upload the film to YouTube, output to a DVD, or incorporate it into a physical or digital exhibit? Each choice entails its own workflow.

If you like what you produce there are venues for short documentaries.

Website Development / Design Helpful Worksheets

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | September 12, 2017
Thinking about creating a new web site or updating your old one? Take a minute to download and review these documents, most which have been composed by us over time, to help guide you in your planning and your communication with your web developer.

MHCG: Planting the Seeds of the Green Revolution

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | April 3, 2012
On site review of the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants funded project with Elisabeth Kaplan, Head, University Archives & Co-Director, University Digital Conservancy, University of Minnesota Libraries. June 17, 2011.

The University of Minnesota Libraries received funding support to digitize the records of the principals of the Green Revolution, the worldwide collaborative effort to expand food crop production that traces its roots to the University of Minnesota in the first half of the 20th century. The project’s centerpiece is the Norman E. Borlaug Papers, which are complemented by the collections of his colleagues and mentors, including Elvin C. Stakman, John Gibler, and Helen Hart, and the Plant Pathology departmental records, and are frequently used by students, faculty, and independent scholars.

University Archives selected approximately 58 boxes of materials directly related to the Green Revolution for digitization. These comprise a variety of formats including photographs, correspondence, field notebooks, and other materials. With this project, University of Minnesota Libraries expanded use of the Green Revolution collections by creating digital surrogates of the materials, delivered via a web-based, publicly available, full-text searchable database.

The University of Minnesota Libraries received funding support to digitize the records of the principals of the Green Revolution, the worldwide collaborative effort to expand food crop production that traces its roots to the University of Minnesota in the first half of the 20th century. The project’s centerpiece is the Norman E. Borlaug Papers, which are complemented by the collections of his colleagues and mentors, including Elvin C. Stakman, John Gibler, and Helen Hart, and the Plant Pathology departmental records, and are frequently used by students, faculty, and independent scholars.

University Archives selected approximately 58 boxes of materials directly related to the Green Revolution for digitization. These comprise a variety of formats including photographs, correspondence, field notebooks, and other materials. With this project, University of Minnesota Libraries expanded use of the Green Revolution collections by creating digital surrogates of the materials, delivered via a web-based, publicly available, full-text searchable database.

Using your iPhone/iPad to Record Oral History

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | March 12, 2012
Using an IPad to record Oral Histories
Modified image Wikimedia Commons.

First let me admit this is not the last word on using an iPhone to record oral histories, it is just an attempt to get the dialog going, secondly you may notice the obvious omission of other mobile devices such as Android for use in recording. Omission does not mean that they shouldn't be used, they may be perfectly acceptable however the one nice thing about iPhone and iPad is that both the hardware and operating system are made by one manufacture making comparisons and quality control simpler.  I encourage others to post results they may have had using other mobile devices for oral history interviews. Lastly much of the content was excerpted from the testing and excellent work of Jeff Geerling. Check out his site if you are interested in even more in-depth information.

What a difference a couple of years can make in technology. Prices go down, megapixels and device and app quality go up.  While an iPhone/iPad might not offer all the quality control that an expensive camera or recording device can do for a large organization like the Smithsonian especially when they might be looking at reuse of the interview in a national exhibit, for a smaller museum/organization not only is using an iPhone/iPad acceptable but probably better than many of the magnetic video and audio recording devices that they were using in the past.

Key points to remember:

  • When recording, turning off Wi-fi may help to prevent background noise/feedback.

  • Turn on Airplane mode on your iPhone to prevent calls during a recording session.

  • Battery Life - make sure to fully charge your device or that it is plugged into a power source.

  • Storage - if you are going to be using your iPhone or iPad for recording video oral histories you never can have enough storage. Think about getting at least 32GB.

  • An iPod Touch can be used for recording audio but should not be used for video as the lens quality records at less than 1 megapixel.

  • I recommend using iPhone 4 and iPad 2 and above.

  • These are meant as suggestions not set in stone guidelines.

  • Having proper lighting and a recording environment still are important.

  • Technical specs for iPad and iPhone


For a recording app you might want to look at FiRe 2 from Audiofile Engineering.

The basic interface is fairly simple to use but it does have advanced features you can tap into like a variety of metadata standards, format conversion, and time markers and uploading to Dropbox or your own FTP server.


You can just use the Built-in camera that comes with the iPhone/iPad/iPod it handles different audio inputs, but without much configuration or level control, and no monitoring.

For a more fully featured camera app check out FiLMiC Pro, unfortunately it also has no audio controls.


While an iPad, iPhone, iPod is great to record on, their built in mics are not good for recording high quality audio. The biggest thing you are going to need is a good mic. There are many many different kinds of mics out their here are some suggestions:
•RadioShack 33-3013 Electret Condenser Lavaliere Microphone
•Crown Sound-Grabber-II Conference Microphone
•Audio Technica PRO88W-R35 Wireless Lavalier System
•Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone System
•Rode VideoMic Shotgun Microphone
•There are many others...

However, for all these mics you will need an Audio Input Adapter for your iPad/iPhone/iPhone - See the next section.


With an iPhone you will need an audio input adapter for most mics.


You can use a simple option and get a Monster iSplitter and plug a lavaliere microphone into each side. (Don't forget to use an audio input adapter with it)

GuitarJack Model 2, into which you can plug a stereo input source (or two microphones that go one in left, one in right channel). You can also use 1/4 inch Input without an adapter.


With an iPad in addition to recording with the headphone jack, you can also record with the iPad's Dock Connector to record two tracks (stereo) with one mic to the interviewer and one mic to the interviewee.

You'll need to have the USB adapter from the iPad Camera Connection Kit

And then, you'll need one of the following USB interfaces to translate analog inputs to the USB connection:

And finally you will need one of the following apps to support multi-channel recording and mixing


  • For out-of-the-box options for recording sound, here is one high-end and somewhat expensive solution: iM2
    (this does come with it own free app you can download from iTunes)

  • ...and one amazingly cheap and surprisingly useful solution: Flexible-mini-capsule-microphone


Tripod Mount

In order to attach an iPhone or iPad to a tripod you are going to need a lot of rubber bands and duct tape or you can try one of these solutions. Their are several solutions available.

  • Snap Mount For iPhone 4/4S - Unfortunately they are currently having a problem keeping up with demand and are out of stock.

  • Movie Mount for iPad 2 - I have not had a chance to try out  iPad Mounts yet but I like this one because of the ability to add a mic/lens/light to the mount.


Almost any camera tripod should work with the above mounts, however, I do have one recommendation that I have found compact and useful especially the tripod because of the magnetic feet which allows you to mount it on most metal surfaces.

iPhone Camera Stabilizer

While this might be a terrible solution for using oral histories it is great if you are recording while you are walking on a tour. One big drawback - there is no mount for a mic and I have found it quite impossible to balance the camera with a mic attached.

Scanning Negatives and Slides

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | January 6, 2012
Many historical Societies and archives find themselves with hundreds if not thousands of slides and negatives in their collections often with little or no description of what is on each of them. From a preservation standpoint color slides and negatives will suffer from deterioration over time, especially pre-1978 where slides and negatives which where made with comparatively unstable films and unlike prints, slides can be very difficult to notice fading or deterioration without the aid of a projector or light box and negatives are impossible to tell how much fading has occurred.

In order to provide better access, get a better idea of what is in a collection and  to better preserve images on fading and deteriorating film it is important to digitally scan slides and negatives and to add the proper metadata.

It's never too soon to start preserving your slides and photos, and in some cases it may already be too late.

Conditions you can find slides and negatives even if they have been in unopened boxes or untouched sleeves:

  • Slides and negatives which are stuck to their sleeves

  • Snowflake crystal-like artifacts on film

  • Film developed by drugstore-type services, fading very badly, where the same type of film processed at the same time by different vendors can be fine

  • Dark Fading or Light Fading (see below)

Clean Before Scanning

Detail showing tiny hair on slide

Detail showing tiny hair on slide

Microscopic specs of dust become boulders and tiny hairs become tree limbs when scanned at 2400 dpi. Newer scanners can use technology to "remove" the dust scanned on with the image. However the dust is not actually removed rather it is modifying the image to hide the dust. Dust and dirt ideally should be removed before scanning.

  • Wear surgical gloves when handling negatives or slides. Even if finger prints are not visible grease from fingers can cause problems years down the line.

  • To remove simple dust before scanning clean using compressed air, an antistatic brush, and careful attention.

  • For slides with serious problems like finger prints use Pec-12 and Pec Pads.

  • The best solution would be to never get the slides dirty and with careful storage dust and damage can be mitigated. However even slides that have never left their box or envelope seem to accumulate dust.

Flatbed Scanner or Dedicated Slide Scanner?

As recent as a few years ago there was a great difference in quality from a dedicated slide scanner  versus a flat bed scanner with a slide scanner attachment. However, quality of what you can get from a flat bed scanner with a slide scanner attachment has improved to the point that most are buying flatbed slide/negative scanner combinations and many slide scanner producers like Nikon have simply stopped making dedicated slide scanners. The other nice thing is that with the increase in quality there has been a corresponding significant drop in price of scanners. There still is at least a couple of companies still making slide/negative scanners and if you have hundreds or thousands of slides and negatives or are dealing with professionally taken/processed slides and negatives it would be a worthwhile expense (currently around $400) to purchase a dedicated slide/negative scanner.

One advantage of a flatbed slide/negative scanner combination is that not all negatives are 35mm and many can scan a large variety of sizes of transparencies. However you have to do the research to see just what each model supports.

While a flatbed slide/negative scanner combination is acceptable, other scanners are not. Document scanners, Microfilm Reader/Scanners and the all-in-one copier/scanner/faxing machines  either lack the resolution, the optics or both for doing archival quality scans.

Another issue is the age of the scanner. Like computers, scanners have improved to a point both in quality and price that it is really worth looking at retiring an older working scanner. The example on the left below comes from the Minnesota Historical Society's own scanner in the SHPO office. The scanner was purchased in 2001 and still works very well. However, the highest DPI is 2400 which is inadequate for many 35mm slides and the optics are far from perfect when compared to a newer 2011 model scanning at the same DPI.

2001 Flatbed Scanner
2011 Flatbed Scanner

Dark Fading | Light Fading

Remember that resolution isn't everything. Color and contrast are equally important and dealing with older slides and negatives you will run into the issue of fading. Slides and photos will fade for a variety of reasons. All dyes have a limited lifetime because they break down because of temperature, light and chemical reactions to materials within the dyes themselves.

Dyes that fade when they are in the dark is termed "Dark Fading" and dyes that fade because they are exposed to light  is termed "Light Fading.

Light fading is caused by exposure to high intensity light such as when a slide is shown in a slide projector. Magenta dyes will typically fade the quickest.

Dark Fading occurs when your slides are not exposed to light. It is caused by a temperature and relative humidity reaction. Cyan dyes will typically fade more quickly. Prior to the mid-1980s, the Cyan dye was particularly unstable. BTW:  It is important to understand that Dark fading is not caused by darkness, Dark fading simply refers to the fading and staining that take place in a color material during storage when light is not present.

Digitally Fixing Fading

Improvements in software have made color and contrast correction remarkably easy with "auto correction" tools with are often available with the scanning software. However, true color correction and digital restoration is both and art and a science, to get the best possible results  hire a professional with experience in color correction and digital restoration.

NOTE: It is important to understand that your unmodified raw scanned image is your master image. Contrast or color corrections to the image will make it a derivative of the master image since correcting the image introduces changes that are subjective AND unreversable. However if the image needs major correcting it is acceptable to archive a corrected derivative to along with the unmodified master image so it can be used to create further derivatives.

Slide and Negative Preservation

Since negatives and slides are original source information it is important to keep them as long as they remain a viable source. With proper care and storage certain filmstocks can store unchanged for decades.  Unfortunately film preservation is out of the scope of this article. However Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. has extensive articles on slide and negative preservation. Founders Henry Wilhelm and Carol Brower Wilhelm literally wrote the book on slide and negative preservation.

Additional Resources

Cloud Computing for Small Museums

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | December 28, 2011

The majority of museums and local historical socities around the Minnesota are small organizations which, if not all volunteer, employ between 1-5 people. However they are the most vulnerable and are often run by people with limited resources and skills to be able to reap the benefits of available information technologies (IT). When they do adopt IT strategies, their potential to survive and grow increases since they are then able to participate in a larger global environment. The challenge lies with these organizations adopting the appropriate IT solution that fits their needs. Often the tools available are either too expensive or require more resources than readily available. Cloud computing offers an opportunity to support the growth of local historical societies by enabling low cost IT solutions.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud-computing services require no software to purchase and install. Cloud computing applications reside on external servers and are accessed through internet or mobile network connections. This reduces the cost of paying for IT infrastructure and applying it to suit the organization's needs. Cloud computing is a recent term that refers to both the applications delivered as services over the internet and the hardware/software in data centers in which a pool of virtualized, dynamically- scalable computing power, storage, platforms and services are delivered on demand.

Cloud-based services can be categorized into three models:

  1. Software as Service (SaS): service providers make available applications for personal and business use.

  2. Infrastructure as Service (IaS): offers hardware services which may include virtual and physical servers.

  3. Platform as Service (PaS): provides a framework and tools for developers to build their own applications.

Although cloud computing is not without concerns about security, stability, and data ownership, for small museums, cloud computing hits a particular sweet spot. With cloud services, small organizations enjoy the benefits of not having to deploy physical infrastructure like file and e-mail servers, storage systems or shrink-wrapped software. Plus, the "anywhere, anytime" availability of these solutions, means hassle-free collaboration between volunteers and employees by simply using a browser. Another feature of cloud computing is that it's easily scalable. Many of these solutions can work for a business with 2 employees or 2,000.

One of the greatest advantages is that the user is no longer tied to a traditional computer to use an application, or has to buy a version specifically configured for a phone, PDA or other device. (In theory) any device that can access the Internet will be able to run a cloud-based application.

Regardless of the device being used, there may be fewer maintenance issues. Users will not have to worry about storage capacity, compatibility or other matters.

Cloud-computing fees  are typically subscription-based. The vendors usually charge on a month-to-month or annual basis.

Pooling resources into large clouds cuts costs and increases utilization by delivering resources only for as long as those resources are needed. Cloud computing is particularly beneficial for small and medium organizations, where effective and affordable IT tools are critical for helping them become more productive without spending a great deal of money on in-house resources and technical equipment.

PROS of Cloud Computing

  • Fast Deployment

  • Lower cost/No Capital Expense

  • Reduced IT maintenance

  • Elastic and Unlimited Scalability

  • Energy Efficiency

  • Reliability (service & data)

  • Better Resource Utilization

CONS of Cloud Computing

  • Information Security

  • Physical Security

  • Long Term Offline Storage

  • Bandwidth Bottleneck

  • Potential Vendor Lock-in

  • Lack of control during downtime

Free or low cost Cloud Services

Here are some suggestions for you. Feel free to add to the list in your comments below.

Web Site Services

Looking for a free web site or time to up date that old site then look at these options...

Free|Basic services
If you are a beginner and hate the idea of getting technical, then go with Weebly. Their drag and drop system makes it amazingly simple to get started.
Free|Basic services
If you are looking for a web site with scalability as your web presence grows, then go with  It utilizes the same WordPress software that anyone can download from  With, the hosting and managing of the software is taken care of. In the future you could move your web site with ease to another hosting service if you wanted more control - something not done as easily with Weebly.

Google Sites
The ease of use in Google sites and collaboration abilities make it suitable for team work and collaboration; Its easy setup and limited design makes it suitable for small personal sites or group participation like club sites.

Free (limited service for Non-profits)
Do you want more control of your web site, are more advanced, want to customize your site? You might want to consider signing up on Dreamhost which offers free web hosting to 501c3 non-profits.

Other Services

Mail Chimp
Free|Basic services

MailChimp has a lot of great features, however, most of these great features come at an extra charge to the regular cost of service. Their general pricing structure can works great for small businesses but can get pricey for larger organizations or larger mailing lists.

Google Docs
The most widely-used cloud-based productivity suite, Google Docs is efficient, provides document collaboration and tight integration with other Google functions. Plus it's more compatible with Microsoft documents than other online services of its kind.

Google Apps
$50 per user per year (A free version of Google Apps for Nonprofits is available)
If you want to integrate Google Docs into a collaborative workspace, complete with email and calendaring, Google Apps is the way to go.

$4.99 - $49.00 Direct
Dropbox is a file synchronization and sharing solution that can also function as an online backup service. It works by letting the user simply drag and drop their files and folders into a Dropbox folder.

Free|Basic services
LogMeIn Free offers free remote access to your desktop so you can open files, check your email, run programs and stay productive from yourmobile device or any computer over the Internet and it's user-friendly enough for non-techies.
Free|Basic services is an online accounting service that fits light accounting needs, such as tracking income expenses and tax obligations. However, it is new and lacks features like invoicing, credit card payments (with a merchant account), account management, and check writing that are available in other cloud based accounting services.

Digital Imaging Guidelines for Small Organizations - Part 1

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | May 23, 2011
DIY Book Scanner- original on Flicker, by Hardware Hank

DIY Book Scanner- original on Flicker, by Hardware Hank

The creation of digital assets in order to preserve and create access to collections is confusing enough for large libraries, museums and organizations. This audio podcast - (covers of the first half of the document) and PDF document is based on the Western States Digital Imaging Best Practices (PDF) but  has been simplified and edited down and is aimed at the smaller museum/organization in their quest to digitize their own collections. Interested in feedback and suggestions for version 2.0 of the guidelines. Please leave your comments!

Download PDF of the Guidelines

From Ice Cream Socials to Social Networking

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | December 7, 2010
...Or how to get Liked instead of Licked on Facebook


There is a deep desire to be social. There is a deep and sometimes urgent desire to raise cash. There is a deep desire to eat ice cream. The ice cream social for over a century has, more or less successfully, has attempted to fulfill all those desires in one amazing event.

Ice cream, if you pardon the pun, was a hot commodity in the beginning of the 19th century as commercial Ice Cream Gardens appeared around America and England and offered a variety of sweet treats in a garden like setting and some even offered music. These gardens gave way to Ice Cream Socials as the cost of ice cream became less expensive and churches duplicated the ice cream gardens to use them as fundraising events.

No one back then called it an “Old Fashioned" Ice Cream Social. Ice Cream Socials in the good-ol'-days were innovative - marketing genius. I am unsure just when the words "Old Fashioned" were regularly added to "Ice Cream Social", probably when it ceased to be innovative.

However, ice cream socials as mentioned at the beginning, if done correctly could satisfy a community's social, monetary and sweet tooth needs. Note that Ice Cream Socials far out numbered Brussels Sprout Socials, Broccoli Socials and Castor Oil Socials combined. Something about a sweet treat just spells out success and a guaranteed ability to attract people (Lutefisk Socials however have always been a mystery to me).

An ice cream social was an easy if not tasty way for the community to show its support.

But an ice cream social was indeed a "social" event too not just a way to raise cash. Otherwise ice cream without the social is simply as fundraising oriented as selling Girl Scout Cookies or Fuller Brushes. "Social" provides a chance for the organizations members to come together and "Ice Cream" provides the key ingredient.

I know organizations where they actually loose money on the Ice Cream Social and still consider it a success. That is what is called a loss leader. You loose money on the event/product but gain it back in sales of another product or increased memberships or simply in the difficult to monetize - strengthen of community bonds. In military terms - you may loose a battle but win the war.

In building an organizations presence on Facebook, folks could learn a thing or two from ice cream socials.

Provide real content: It is not good enough to say you're having an ice cream social only to surprise them by making them sit through a two hour long seminar on the legacy value of leaving your organization in their will when they do their estate planning before they can get their miserable little scoop of ice cream and yet amazingly that is what organizations do when all they do is use Facebook  like a press release feed. Content is king with social media and historical societies and museums often lucky enough to have an embarrassing amount of content.  You want to lead them back to your web site. Social networking does not work until you start producing things on your web site that people want to go to.


Provide a sweet treat: It is one thing to get someone to "Like" you it is another thing to balance your posts so they don't "Unlike" you or even worse simply "Hide" you from their news feed. So what you provide not only has to be original content but the content you provide has to be relevant to your audience. But what is relevant? Relevant does not necessary mean good for you. Remember, Ice Cream Socials are way more popular than Brussel Sprout Socials. So it is content that is simple, tastes good, easy to eat, fun and appeal to a wide audience.

I am not saying that you should not go ahead and post your organization's fifty events at once or post your research article  Effects of the Disappearance of the Rocky Mountain Locust on Biodynamic corn Production in the late 19th Century American Midwest, just that the Facebook "News Feed" that appears when you log in posts does not list the most recent posts. Instead it is a complicated algorithm that aggregates posts Facebook thinks you will find most desirable  based on things like the popularity of the post - or of posts similar to it; Do your friends like the post?; Have you "Liked" a post from that organization before?; How many times has your organization posted in the last hour, etc, etc...

That is why it is important to space out your event postings and why things like "Object of the Day", "Guess this Object",  "Then & Now", This Day in History and. They are easy to view and easy to "Like"


Be Social: I have never heard of an "Ice Cream Business Networking" event. An Ice Cream Social may not be the best time to pass out business cards and it simply may wind up annoying any potential customers, it is a time to kick back, relax and get to know your community through ice cream.

As with social media, now is not the time to put on your professional face. Carefully crated posts in the Chicago Manual of Style may win the hearts of traditional media for your press releases, but frankly it is dull, formulaic and frankly now is chance to give your brand a little personality. Many of the social media sites are a chance to get to know your followers (admirers).

Your Turn!

What are you doing to build community on Facebook and other social media sites? Are you really engaging? What are you doing right that others can learn from? What do you find most difficult in building and engaging with your community?


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