|SPR Facebook page, 17 March 2017|
I have been responsible for the social media presence of the Society for Psychical Research since their inception – Facebook in February 2010 and Twitter in July 2013. My aim when selecting items has been threefold: provide a general source of information on the field; promote the SPR’s activities to reach as wide an audience as possible in order to stimulate interest; and encourage visits to the website, with the aim of demonstrating the Society’s value and hopefully turning casual visitors into members. Together, the Society’s Facebook and Twitter presence helps to assist the educational remit which is part of its charitable function.
I have tried to post a steady stream of material, and do so as a volunteer activity. My sources are various – google alerts; an extensive blog reading list; YouTube subscriptions; Facebook and Twitter themselves; messages sent through those mechanisms or to the website; and of course personal contacts. Scanning these is time-consuming, but something I was happy to do if it translated into increased membership. Unfortunately it has become clear that my efforts have failed to make a substantial difference to the membership figures. This is surprising as, at the time of writing, the Facebook page has 11,233 ‘likes’ and the Twitter feed 3,086 followers. Clearly many people are interested enough in the subject to look at posts, comment, like, and recirculate them, but are not motivated to pay a membership subscription.
Therefore I have decided to scale back those broader efforts and concentrate on aspects of the subject related specifically to the SPR, rather than post links of a general nature. This is not to say I shall ignore completely psychical research information not directly relevant to the Society, but I shall no longer seek it out. In addition to Facebook and Twitter I shall continue to put significant news on the website (www.spr.ac.uk).
I am always happy to receive news, and book suggestions (another function I perform is reviews editor of the Society’s Journal), and these can be sent through any of the mechanisms I have mentioned, plus tom.ruffles@firstname.lastname@example.org. I have enjoyed finding items of interest, and seeing the debate they generate on Facebook and Twitter, but looked at in terms of costs and benefits it is not a productive use of my time.
Despite this reduction in effort I shall continue using Facebook and Twitter to urge those interested in psychical research to visit the SPR’s website, and to become members if at all possible. If they do they will have access to a far greater body of knowledge than is to be found on social media.