Social Paleontology on Social Media

The FOSSIL Project, based at the Florida Museum of Natural History, fosters collaborations in the paleontological community. FOSSIL Project members include amateur paleontologists who are members of fossil clubs and professional paleontologists who work in museums. Amateur and professional paleontologists’ relationships center on the idea of social paleontology: understanding the natural world through the collection, preparation, curation and study of fossils and the science of paleontology. Social paleontology takes place in museums across the country, yet before the efforts of the FOSSIL Project, the connections among amateurs and professionals had not been formally networked nationally. FOSSIL uses both Twitter and Facebook to interact with the community. Since the development of our social media in 2013, we have established best practices and strategies for engaging with amateur and professional paleontologists. Engagement in the community via Facebook is theoretically based in technology-mediated socioculturalism, with users’ likes, shares, and comments embodying participation, inquiry, and dialogue. In order to engage with our audience, we developed an intervention using the FOSSIL Project’s marketing plan, coding of post types, and strategic posting. We analyzed the FOSSIL Facebook community using social network analysis as well as content analysis of Facebook user’s comments. Current social media engagement theory rests on the idea of 90/9/1: 90 percent of social media participants are lurkers, nine percent of users contribute sparingly, and one percent contributes the majority of content. While results are still preliminary, we have found that the FOSSIL network of users might not reflect current theoretical ideas of participation on social media. Preliminary content analysis of Facebook comments also reveals that the structure of comments varies depending on post type. Our findings reveal patterns for encouraging citizen participation in museums as well as best practices for effective social media use for museums that obtain externally funded grants. Speaker(s) Session Leader : Lisa Lundgren, Graduate Student, Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA