Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Social Media & History: Why The Digital Age Isn't Just for Techies

What would Thomas Jefferson say if he could Tweet?
 While we’ll never be able to get a definitive answer (although “I cannot live without books” is a pretty sure bet), the Twitter handle @TJMonticello keeps followers up to date on the happenings at Monticello, Mr. Jefferson’s estate located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.  This blog will investigate how having a social media presence can be a substantial asset to an organization that takes such pride in the past.

This past summer, I had the pleasure of working in the Special Events department at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  TJF is the non-profit corporation that owns and operates Monticello, Montalto, the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center, the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, and the Saunders-Monticello Trail.  In my position, I had the opportunity to work right beside the Marketing & Communications Department, gaining a valuable look into their social & digital marketing initiatives.

TJF staff enjoying the Wine Bloggers Conference (http://twitpic.com/5u8se7)
At one particular event, the North American Wine Bloggers Conference (held July 22, 2011), the guests themselves were particularly adept with these newer forms of media.  Taking this into account, we displayed information cards at various points around the house at Monticello, as well as on the West Lawn tables for the conference, with brief descriptions of pertinent information and QR codes that linked to more detail.  Additionally, we set up a Twitter board under the main tent (à la 2007’s SXSW music festival that served as a springboard for Twitter’s popularity), allowing bloggers to tweet using #WBC11.

With Monticello keeping an eye towards the opportunities in digital marketing and social media, it’s only fair to check up on similar sites, such as James Madison’s Montpelier and George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Montpelier does have a blog and Facebook page, although no Twitter handle could be found.  Mount Vernon has a Twitter account, @VisitMtVernon, with about one-third of the tweets and followers of @TJMonticello.

I do believe that congratulations are in order for my friends at Monticello; they’re keeping alive TJ’s legacy of innovation, albeit this time in the realm of social media.

Holly Bleck | @HollyBleck | BSEd candidate (graduating December 2011), Human Development and Psychological Services, Art History minor, Integrated Marketing Communications certificate, Northwestern University


  1. Great blog but make it more clear what the importance is to a marketer or to the reader. Also, establish your expertise in the first paragraph and tell us what we will learn.

    Finally, the twitter tweet was weak in that it didn't create any interest for the reader to want to click through and read the blog. It is a strong blog and deserves more readership. Also, more labels would be better

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