I was thrilled when I was asked to provide introductory remarks to this month’s DASER discussion on the topic of “Museums in the Digital Age.” DASER—D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous—is a monthly discussion forum about the intersection of art and science.)
For nearly a decade, museums have been using social media to communicate and connect with the public. As social media become more ubiquitous in museums and ingrained in our visitors’ everyday lives, old questions reemerge: How can a cultural institution best connect with a variety of audiences online?
A few weeks ago I checked something off my bucket list: get up in front of a theatre full of your brilliant colleagues and attempt to be more entertaining than the beer in their hands and the long lost pals they just reconnected with at the bar while simultaneously prodding a few serious thoughts out of their brains all the while remembering what you’re supposed to say in the brief-as-a-Beatles-song 5 minutes you have to race your words alongside slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. In other words, I gave an Ignite talk.
I don’t know what it is about giving an Ignite talk but it is anxiety-inducing, mortifying, and thrilling all at once. And it was the kickoff to the 2013 Museum Computer Network conference so we were expected to knock it out of the park.
I spent a lot of time trying to memorize my bits—which included practicing on the plane ride with a copy of my slide notes and an iPhone recording. My visuals were all based on popular memes and, unfortunately, I forgot to print the notes WITH the visuals so I was forced to draw them while in transit. This is the sad result. (Can you guess which one is Grumpy Cat? Pepper-spraying cop? Y U No guy?)
In the end my efforts were all a bit of a waste in comparison to the magical wonder that is Don Undeen’s one-act play featuring a mask-wielding hacker, a pipe-smoking curator, and the undeniably reasonable (and lovable!) Digital Humanities Unicorn. Watch that performance, and several other incredible Ignite talks, right after mine (which starts at 15:03).
Tweeting, Tumbling, snapping photos–how can we turn typical teen behaviors in the museum into meaningful learning experiences? At the National Gallery of Art, thousands of middle and high school students visit each year. Most are not pre-registered, do not participate in formal educational programs such as tours, and are set loose on their own to explore the museum. To reach and engage this audience, the Gallery created a printed guide to the permanent collection (called #atNGA) that encourages looking carefully at works of art, making connections between art and life, exploring art as historical and cultural expression, and reflecting on the creative spirit. What makes this guide different is that each work of art is paired with a social media prompt such as: take and share a photo (via Instagram), craft a text response (via Twitter), or ponder a question with a friend. By explicitly inviting and helping to shape teens’ social media interactions with the Gallery, we hope to turn what might otherwise be a frivolous encounter into a learning experience. This presentation will share the results of our evaluation research and discuss the broader challenges and opportunities of connecting with teens via social media.
No matter where you are in your organization, or where your museum is in its digital evolution, you can play a leadership role in developing a meaningful digital strategy. But to do this well, you’ll need to think first about people: Who are you trying to serve? Who do you need to communicate or collaborate with? And how can you best converse with those people? Maybe you have a formal strategy in place, but you need to be better at communicating it to leadership and your colleagues. Perhaps you’re working on a digital strategy in the absence of a larger institutional plan. Or maybe you’re just getting started in thinking about how to tackle the strategic planning process. There is no one right way to build a digital strategy, but there are frameworks, tools, and tips that can make the process smoother and more collaborative.
You know best the unique stories your collections have to tell and work hard to preserve those collections for future generations. But how do you take collections care activities from “behind the scenes” to front and center, engaging and educating the public? This was the central question addressed by a four-part series of webinars for small museums and libraries on the topic of collections care outreach. The series was hosted by Heritage Preservation‘s Connecting to Collections Online Community.
My session focused on the strategic use of social media for outreach related to collections. I talked about how to set goals, select the right platforms for your audience, create compelling content, and evaluate success. I showed examples of how organizations can leverage tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and Google Hangouts to connect with today’s audiences and engage them in meaningful conversations about collections.
I also suggested the following key questions to consider when developing a social media strategy:
- Why are you using social media? What do you hope to achieve?
- Who are your target audiences? (Tip: “Everyone” is not a useful audience segment.)
- What content can you use to connect with and engage audiences? What existing assets can be repurposed? What new content needs to be created?
- What do you want to sound like? (Tip: Try creating a list of contrasting values that illustrate the tonal qualities you want to use as guidelines. For example, “friendly, not cutesy” or “clever, not snarky.”)
- What does success mean for you? How might you find evidence of success?
The presentation deck is chock full of great examples from museums and libraries—from the Brooklyn Historical Society to the Shakespeare Library. Take a peek at the slides below or watch the webinar recording on the Connecting to Collections website for the full experience.
Have you seen other great examples of social media being deployed by cultural institutions to connect with audiences about the care and appreciation of collections? Please share in the comments.
How can museum studies professors—and educators of all stripes—incorporate social media into their teaching? How does social media help us enhance learning and open up access to expertise? I was invited to give a brief presentation on this topic for COMPT (Committee on Museum Professional Training) at the AAM (American Alliance of Museums) 2013 annual meeting. My talk covered the social dimension of learning, how social media has changed museums and its audiences, and examples of social media tools being incorporated into the curriculum.
- Learning is social – Knowledge is socially constructed – Social media supports the learner
- 3 Cs of Social Learning: Consume, Communicate, Collaborate
- My favorite example of museum studies, social media, and social learning: musete.ch, which blends wikis, podcasting, and blogging to provide students direct experience talking to experts around the globe and the ability to share their work with the world through open access.
What outcomes are you hoping to achieve with social media?
Are your social media practices engaging online communities to their greatest potential?
How do you know if you are achieving your goals?
How can you take your social media initiatives to the next level?
These four key questions were explored during the “Engaging Visitors with Social Media” workshop I presented at the IMLS WebWise Conference (March 6, 2013).
Participants saw and heard about:
[li]Inspirational case studies from inside and outside the museum and library sectors[/li]
[li]Pursuing marketing, education, crowdsourcing, and advocacy goals through social media[/li]
[li]Organizational models for social media management[/li]
[li]Optimizing social content through data analysis[/li]
[li]Taking your efforts to the next level with a paid-earned-owned mix of activities[/li]
We discussed and brainstormed about:
[li]Defining the value and goals of social media for your organization[/li]
[li]Identifying desired outcomes[/li]
[li]Setting the right tone and voice for your organization[/li]
[li]Overcoming fear and risk-aversion[/li]
Hands-on activities helped us explore:
[li]How content goes viral[/li]
[li]Connecting social tools to organizational strategy and capabilities[/li]
[li]Determining which social media platforms are right for your target audiences and goals[/li]
Platforms covered included:
This poster presentation was co-authored with Megan Yarmuth, Jennifer Wayman, Sarah Temple, Ann Taubenheim, Ph.D., for the Digital Health Communications (DHCX) conference in February 2012.
To educate women about heart disease and prompt action against key risk factors by empowering women to spread The Heart Truth® via social media tools.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) launched a national social marketing campaign—The Heart Truth®—in 2002 to increase women’s awareness of their #1 killer and prompt them to take action to reduce their risk.
In 2007, The Heart Truth® campaign began to utilize social media to disseminate messages, foster online community,
and promote events and resources to reach and motivate women to lower their personal risk for heart disease. Each year, social media efforts have been expanded to include new channels and tactics in support of the NHLBI campaign and key events such as National Wear Red Day® and the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show.
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Learn what it takes to develop a great National History Day project from some museum staff members who have judged the national level in the past. National History Day is an annual competition that engages students in the past through their own well-researched projects.
[li]Listen to the podcast (Interview with Dana Allen-Greil about what makes a good Web project begins at 15:30.)[/li]
[li]Check out some of the student Web entries from the 2011 National History Day competition.[/li]