Anatomy of a Great Post – What makes social media ACE?

Can social media be audience-centered?

An image of a Facebook post - the post reads: Your National Park Service Site. Nevuary 35, 2020 What's a place you love more than anything else? Share a photo or story about it in the comments. Grandma Gatewood grew to love this place as she escaped from her home. Back in Ohio, her husband beat her. She survived broken ribs, broken teeth, and other injuries. But on the trail in 1955? Gatewood found a new home - a place that welcomed her, lifted her spirits, and where she was in control of her destiny. Below the text is a square image of the Appalachian Trail

(You can download this job aid as a handy, one-page reference)

Social media is inherently interactive. Everything we do there is about engaging actively and deeply with our audiences – they “like” posts, they share and retweet, and they comment and remix our content into new and meaningful messages. Interaction is the native language of all social media.

Every interpretive post you create is an opportunity to stoke interaction and expression. Visitors come to cultural institutions primarily to connect with people they care about – learning the stories of those places is secondary to the desire for social engagement. The goal of these expressive opportunities is about the visitor joining a community and putting their voice into the world, and then listening to the voices and experiences of others.

Social media has the potential to be an audience centered, resource driven experience – the resource is the battery that powers the engagement, and the visitor is the light that shines.

So – what sparks engagement?

Lead with the Ask

  • Putting a great, easy dialogic question up front can draw the visitor in and get the gears turning around their own life experiences. These Green Light questions are approachable entry points for our visitors.

Give A Concrete Way to Engage

  • How do you want to hear from the visitor? Do you want them to share a story? A photo? A poem? Explicitly telling an audience how you want them to engage underlines these aren’t rhetorical questions – we really are curious!

Share a Potent Story

  • The story helps the visitor’s own life experience reflect off of the park’s resources. These stories usually reflect off of a powerful human universal – love, joy, loss, sorrow, hope – and resonate with the interaction you’ve invited.

Keep It Short

  • Social media is consumed quickly and interactions are instantaneous. That means your resource story shouldn’t be more than five sentences. Speak in approachable, human language. And don’t worry about telling the whole story of your park in every post – less is more!

Provide a Powerful Visual

  • Because visitors aren’t in the resource, they need something besides words to help spark a sense of place. Striking photos of your park can help fill that gap. Look for colorful and well-framed pictures that draw the eye. Cropping your photos into squares can catch even more views and invite deeper engagement.

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  3. I absolutely loved this training! For someone who grew up long before social media and computers, this gave me a quick and easy to understand reference for how to take our parks social media to the next level. Hashtag so grateful!


  4. I’ve observed a number of NPS social media accounts posting a picture accompanied by a quote, then asking a related dialogic question to the audience after the quote. I think this is a really effective strategy. Short, sweet and interactive.


  5. I appreciate the concise yet helpful sheet as a great reference when making posts. Social media has the power to engage and teach, as long as we’re creating well crafted posts.


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