This capstone project answers the following two primary research questions: 1) how are America’s National Heritage Areas (NHAs) using technology to share their stories, and 2) what types of information are NHAs using technology to share? Additional secondary research questions are outlined in the Methodology section.
Primary data was collected from the websites and social media accounts of each of the forty-eight active NHAs in the United States as of April 2018.
Systematic observational content analysis of the websites and social media accounts was conducted by the author. Two rating schemes were developed to assess the level of activity on four social media platforms. The number of followers/subscribers to each account was also recorded. Additionally, website content was examined to determine which, if any, of ten pre-determined technologies each NHA uses to share its stories. Basic quantitative analysis was conducted using Microsoft Excel.
Analysis of the data resulted in the the following key findings:
- All but one NHA have Facebook pages; however, only 48% (23) of them use it ‘very actively’;
- There is a positive correlation between an NHA’s level of activity on Facebook or Instagram and the number of followers each account has;
- Eighty-five percent of NHAs use at least one of the ten pre-determined technologies to share their stories; and,
- The three most common technologies are photo galleries, interactive maps, and videos.
The following management recommendations are offered to NHAs:
- create accounts on all four social media platforms, stay active, grow audiences on each;
- cross-promote content and share others’ content; there is no need to reinvent the wheel;
- invite community participation through photo contests, sharing personal stories, etc.;
- use other technologies to engage new audiences that are less inclined to read at length;
- seek partnerships with tourism agencies and educational institutions to share resources;
- assess costs and intended uses of a technology before embarking on a project; and,
- develop marketing strategies for any content created.
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