Social Network Services

Technology Description

A social network service enables the creation of online communities of individuals who share common interests or activities. Social network services are typically Web-based but can be accessed from mobile devices. They typically include:

  • Member profiles
  • The ability to add other members to a contact list
  • Tools for facilitating interaction between members

There are a number of different types of social network services. They include:

Social network services are used by members to

  • Communicate and socialize with friends
  • Network with professional colleagues
  • Discover information
  • Post messages
  • Collaborate with others
  • Share content (both third-party content and personally created content)

Social network services are changing the way that people interact, both online and offline. They provide new venues for communication and facilitate the spread of information.

Archival Applications

Social network services are extremely popular with young people, and archivists need to utilize them to distribute information about our collections and the many services that we offer. Archivists can also utilize social network services to connect with one another professionally and to collaborate on projects. Archivists can achieve these aims by

  • Creating virtual instances of our repositories in places like Second Life
  • Posting events occurring at our institutions in social network services
  • Creating groups to connect:
    • Users of our materials
    • Students interested in archival work
    • Archivists looking for professional connections
    • Individuals interested in supporting the archives financially or otherwise

These are only a few of the opportunities that archivists should be actively investigating.

Case Studies in Archival Applications

Russell D. James, “Using Facebook to Create Community: The SAA Group Experience”

Mary W. Elings and Arcadia Falcone, “Bancroft 2.0: Utilizing Web Technologies to Improve Access to Archival Materials”


Many individuals and institutions are participating in social networking services. Below is a sampling of some of the projects undertaken by institutions. For an extended list, check our implementation listing at

If your institution is developing a social network presence project and would like to appear in the list, send a bookmark in using the tag for:interactivearchivist.


Wikipedia. “Social network service.” Wikimedia Foundation. (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).

Boyd, Danah M. and Nicole B. Ellison. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communcation 13, no. 1 (2007), (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).

LeFever, Lee. “Social Networking in Plain English.” Common Craft. (accessed Apr. 24, 2009).