AAM 2013 Roundup


A Storify roundup of highlights from this year’s American Alliance of Museums Meeting in Baltimore.

“Everything that’s wrong with society”? Facebook Home in museums


A woman struggles to keep her eyes open and her mind alert during a tour of an art museum. A woman’s eyes grow wide and light up as she makes a personal connection with a sculpture in that same museum. Why the difference? According to a new ad from AT&T, it’s an HTC phone running Facebook Home (an app that fills the home screen with a steady stream of Facebook posts) that makes all the difference.

The story of this woman’s museum experience caught my attention. But I’m an art lover, a museum educator, and a social media geek. What does the rest of the (perhaps less-invested) world think of this TV commercial? I turned to the social Web to find out.

Before I share what I found, you should take a moment to view the 30 second spot for yourself.

. . .

So? What do you think? Is it a provocative take on how technology might bring museums to life by honoring the personal interests and experiences of visitors? Or a depressing documentary on how nothing–not even the rare beauty of great art–can earn appreciation and attention in a world obsessed with the immediate?

Caitlin, who blogs at Sass and Precision, calls the ad a fail:

Quote from Sass and Precision blog

The Twitterverse had a few choice words to share on the subject, as well:

Perhaps fittingly, Facebook was the platform boasting a more considered and varied conversation on the topic. AT&T posted this to its Facebook page earlier this month:

AT&T HTC Facebook post

A selection of the 100+ comments shows that many viewers had a strong reaction to the ad . . . but those reactions run the gamut:




Finally, the comments on the YouTube page for the ad generated some interesting debate as well:


There’s nothing like a provocative piece of advertising to spur people into diatribe mode. While AT&T may simply be trying to push some HTC phones off their shelves, I can’t help but be grateful to them for airing something that gets people talking about the role of technology in their lives. This tiny research project is also a clear reminder to me of the power of social media to help us better understand the people we are trying to engage–and to remember that there is quite a wide spectrum of emotional and intellectual positions people take on how best to experience museums (and life, in general) in mediated and un-mediated ways.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ad. Please share your reactions in the comments below.

Top 6 Lessons from the 6th Museums & Mobile Conference


Today’s Museums & Mobile event (the sixth in a series of online conferences) featured case studies from museums around the globe and some excellent food for thought. Here are my 6 key takeaways:

1. Keep it simple. No, seriously. Even simpler.

Think Angry Birds. Pinterest. Don’t overwhelm people with too many options. For example, the Museum Explorer app from National Museums Scotland features 9 objects. Nine; not nine thousand. It is based on a simple challenge: find the smelliest, oldest, ugliest, etc. objects in the museum. Have fun. Earn prizes. Done. The BMA Go Mobile website (optimized for smartphones) is another example. It is a simple and elegant guide to visiting the museum. As the BMA’s manager of interpretation, Gamynne Guillotte, said: Do one thing really well. Lose the functionality that distracts from that goal.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/museumexplorer.jpg” title=”Museum Explorer” alt=”Museum Explorer” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”320″ height=”480″]

Museum Explorer app, National Museums Scotland

2. Design for “mobile first.” Or is that “tablet first”?

Here’s some good advice about web design from one smart cookie (Nate Solas of the Walker Art Center): Start with responsive design. Then add native/touch features like pinch+zoom and swipe. When mobile isn’t first, you tend to start chopping features out of your website until the design fits a mobile screen. And that’s no way to design an optimal user experience.

The Rijksmuseum took this philosophy a step further when they redesigned their website with a “tablet first” philosophy. With the goal of creating a “close” and “warm” experience, the museum built an app-style website that fits a tablet like a glove and brings people up-close-and-personal with the large and beautiful images in their collection. How? They designed an interface that makes the image primary and other information secondary. The minimalist navigation takes “keep it simple” to the extreme with only three options: Plan your visit; Collection; and About the museum. The art images are always displayed at full-screen regardless of the device. The result? A breathtakingly immersive experience. In just 3 months, over 32,000 “Rijksstudios” (a way to save, share, and create with works of art) have been created. Even more impressive: the average time spent on site on an iPad is a whopping 19 minutes. (An average of 10 minutes on other devices isn’t too shabby, either).

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/rijksmuseum.png” title=”Rijksmuseum website on a tablet” alt=”Rijksmuseum website on a tablet” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”520″ height=”293″]

Responsive website, Rijksmuseum

3. Design sites to be task-responsive, not device-responsive.

Once upon a time, in the early days of museum mobile, we used to place a snippet of code on our websites to “sniff” out details of a user’s viewing device.  We’d then feed smartphone users only a small selection of content—hours, location, etc.—based on the assumption that they must close to or inside the museum if they were (desperate enough to be) browsing the web with such a (small-screened/slow connection/etc.) device. Fast forward a few years and now people use all kinds of mobile devices for all kinds of different things.

Peter Gorgels of the Rijksmuseum offered sage advice when he said: design sites to be task-responsive, not device-responsive. Which begs the question: now that people are using their mobile devices for any manner of tasks, how do we best design on-site and site-agnostic mobile experiences that are tailored to user needs? If (device) responsive design isn’t enough, does this mean we need to provide separate experiences for different use cases (tasks)?

First, let’s tackle on-site mobile users who are focused on geolocation functionality, today’s events, and other visit-specific needs. In this case, perhaps the best solution is to make a separate app or mobile website that is optimized for on-site experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean a slimmed down version of your regular website. A better user experience might take advantage of the kinds of native tools available on the smallest and easiest-to-carry devices: cameras, GPS, social sharing tools, etc. The result? A highly specific feature set that scaffolds the visit without distracting the visitor from the reason they came: to see what your museum has to offer in person.

You might be wondering: to app or not to app? MCA Australia reports 15 times more usage of their mobile website than their MCA Insight app. Further, they found that the “What’s On” option was 20 times (!) more popular on their mobile website than on their app. Why? Here’s my guess: as a user, I don’t want to go through the hassle of downloading an app just to find out what events and exhibitions are happening today. I typically only download an app if it is something I’ll use again. An app gives you (the designer) the ability to hyper-control the interface: if an app is going to be worth the effort for you or your users you had better design it to do the one thing it is meant to do (make a museum visit easier/better) amazingly well.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/mcainsight.jpg” title=”MCA Insight App” alt=”MCA Insight App” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ link=”http://www.mca.com.au/apps/insight/” target=”_parent” width=”935″ height=”500″]

MCA Insight app, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Now, let’s move beyond that small slice of your mobile audience to the rest of the people using tablets and smartphones to navigate the web outside of your museum. For this group, you should build a website that is optimized for browsing, searching, sharing, saving, manipulating—all of the actions someone who isn’t busy running around a museum might have the time and inclination to do. I’m impressed by the immersive ethos of the Rijksmuseum site and look forward to seeing how other cultural institutions pull users into another world through their tablets.

But your mobile experience for off-site users doesn’t have to be all-encompassing, uber feature rich, or incredibly deep. You might serve this audience well by building something that brings wonder into their lives in ways that make them want to use it again and again. The Magic Tate Ball app is one of the most clever examples of this that I’ve ever come across. It is a simple concept (shake your phone and get a personalized “answer” in the form of an artwork) and doesn’t take much time per use.  After today’s conference, I can’t wait to get my hands on another Tate app, Race Against Time. With 30 achievements to unlock, this game will give me plenty of time to get to know Tate’s collections while I’m having fun saving the world from Dr. Greyscale.

Video: Race Against Time app, Tate

4. “Success comes more from visibility than from quality.”

The intended meaning of the statement abvoe (by Agnes Alfandari of the Louvre) might have gotten a bit lost in translation. In fact, my jaw dropped a bit when I read the slide. We all know that high quality is a fundamental value of most museums. Quality is also quite critical if we want to encourage repeat use of a product. But Agnes had just given us a lot of insightful information about the people the Louvre is trying to serve with their Nintendo DS audio guide: first-time (and likely one-time) visitors. To get someone to use something for the first time requires awareness . . . and, therefore, significant promotional resources. The Louvre/Nintendo partnership was marketing genius and garnered a lot of press for both organizations. I think Agnes’s point was less that quality is not important and more that activities designed to increase visibility (read: marketing, advertising, PR) often don’t get the respect or the budgets that they deserve in museums. I have a marketing communications background and am a firm believer that we could spend all of our resources building the best mousetrap in the world—and it would be entirely useless if no one knows it exists.

Even with a small project budget, at least some percentage should be allocated to outreach. Hugh Wallace of National Museums Scotland offered a very valuable piece of promotional advice: spend some money on Facebook’s mobile app install ad format. He saw Museum Explorer app downloads double in just one month with a smaller budget than was put towards more traditional digital banner ads (which produced no measurable increase).

Speaking of publicity, I’m so sad that I didn’t hear about Open Air Philly until today. What a massively cool project. My favorite parts? First: The Association for Public Art was really smart in their incorporation of Philadelphia’s diverse voices—from inviting different community groups (e.g., advocates against domestic violence, teen poets, etc.) to kick off each evening with their own audio messages to partnering with public radio to record influential “Voices of Philly.” What impressed me even more was the fact that public submissions were completely uncensored (though there was a way for users to flag inappropriate content). A poll of today’s conference attendees asked if we had done a project with community submissions that were uncensored. 28% said yes, 25% said no but would be open to it, and 47% said no way. (One of these days I’ll write a post about museums’ persistent fear of inappropriate responses despite consistently and staggeringly few such submissions ever received. I’d also like to link radical trust with increased outreach and visibility. But these are topics for another day.)

5. Know who your audience really is and what they really want.

The National Museums Scotland tech team takes an interesting approach to designing for audiences: things like age and demographics are taken out of the discussion entirely during the planning phase. Audiences are defined as people already familiar with apps, people looking for a certain kind of experience, etc. These behaviors and preferences, as Hugh points out, could potentially belong to someone of any age.

During her keynote, Agnes Alfandari described the young, overwhelmed, first-time, and often foreign visitors that make up the majority of visits to the Louvre; this is the audience the Nintendo DS audio guide was designed to serve. The Louvre routinely designs quite different mobile experiences for visitors to special exhibitions; these visitors tend to be repeat users, French-speaking, and relatively non-technical. In their quest to meet the needs of the first group, the Louvre bounced around a few ideas which were subsequently rejected. One such idea was the ability to personalize a tour. In the end, this feature seemed too much at odds with the experience of first-time visitors, who are often anxious to get started after a long wait to enter the building. These visitors are also not typically familiar enough with the collection or facility to be in a good position to make selections for a custom tour. The bottom line? A good idea is only as good as its fit for your specific circumstances and the audience you are trying to serve.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/louvre.jpg” title=”Queue at the Louvre” alt=”Queue at the Louvre” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ link=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisboland/7983892689/” target=”_parent” width=”640″ height=”426″]

Queue outside the Musée du Louvre. Photo by Chris Boland / www.distantcloud.co.uk

Despite similar content, in comparing audio guides to the mobile apps the Louvre offers for download, Agnes identified two distinct audiences. People looking for audio tours, she says, will just use what you give them when they arrive at the museum. People who purchase or download apps, on the other hand, are much more demanding. They are comparison shopping, are not necessarily time constrained, and are therefore in a position to be more choosy.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/louvreaudio.png” title=”Louvre audio guides” alt=”Louvre audio guides” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ link=”http://www.louvre.fr/en/audio-guide” target=”_parent” width=”593″ height=”247″]

Audio guide Nintendo DS and Audio guide apps, Musée du Louvre

6. Stick to measuring what matters.

One of the most useful things I learned in graduate school was during a Visitor Studies course in which we were admonished not to bother asking a question or collecting data (e.g., on a survey or in an interview) on a subject unless we planned to take action based on the answers. Otherwise, collection and analysis could easily turn into a colossal waste of time. (Hat tip to Jessica Luke for that gem!) As I dug more deeply into web analytics later in my career, I became a convert to Avinash Kaushik‘s philosophy of focusing on “the critical few” and avoiding “paralysis by analysis.” And so I was prepared to filter as I gaped at the array of app analytics presented by the Tate’s Elena Villaespesa. The good news is that there are many tools to empower you to make data-driven decisions (see: App Annie and App Figures for store/download metrics, Flurry for tracking actions and engagement, and Distimo for what seems like everything you could possibly want to know). The trick will be to streamline your analysis using only those tools and numbers that will help you reach your goals.

One of the basic tenants of good evaluation is that you need to know what you are trying to achieve before you can know how to measure it. Let’s look at two different app examples to get a sense of how to map goals to metrics. The Magic Tate Ball app is, at heart, about marketing. Brand recognition and retention are key goals. In this case, downloads and frequency of use would be appropriate metrics. Tate’s exhibition apps, on the other hand, are about enhancing the on-site visit and not necessarily about getting the visitor to use it more than once. In this case, metrics like dwell time, popular stops, and click events would be appropriate data to track.

Just as fans and followers as metrics don’t offer much in the way of actionable insights for social media initiatives, neither are downloads the only metric you should be tracking for apps. You will need to dig in deeper if you really want to know what is engaging people most, what features are being used, and what people are sharing (or not). The MCA Australia analyzed app user behavior and found that the “Show only artwork around me” feature of MCA Insight was twice as popular as the keypad (in which a visitor types in a number associated with a work). However, the people who used the keypad used it like crazy. So that feature stayed. MCA also used analytics to investigate whether the app’s built-in social sharing features were being used. Answer: not really. But what MCA did find was that people were taking photos—plenty of them—and posting them to Instagram. In response, the museum begin promoting the hashtag #MCANow. Visitors quickly contributed hundreds of photos via Twitter and Instagram. The MCA even built a display system in the galleries to show a live feed of the latest visitor-contributed photos as well as a website to showcase contributions.

The moral of the story: find out what’s going on and do something meaningful with the data.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2013/03/mcanow.png” title=”MCANow” alt=”MCANow” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ link=”http://www.mca.com.au/now/” target=”_parent” width=”591″ height=”406″]

MCANow display, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Want more?

These are just a few of the many fantastic insights shared during this short but oh-so-useful conference. Kudos to the conference organizers for another excellent event. If you’re yearning to learn more about this topic, check out the newly released 2013 Museums & Mobile Survey data that identifies and tracks key trends for mobile strategy within the cultural sector.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

WebWise workshop presentation cover

Engaging Visitors with Social Media

blog, presentations

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:

[ul style=”12″]
[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:

[ul style=”12″]
[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:

[ul style=”12″]
[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:

[ul style=”12″]

View the presentation on Slideshare.

#smwMuseSocial – Defining and Measuring Social Media Success in Museums and Arts Orgs


Social media practitioners from local museums and arts organizations gathered during Social Media Week DC for a lively discussion about the value of social media to our institutions. You can find a full recap, including presentation slides, in the Storify archive.

Social studies: How educators are using social media


Last week I had the pleasure of organizing an event for Social Media Week DC with three experts in social media and learning. Fahad Hassan, Joan Le, and Darren Milligan represented a diverse perspectives on the topic: Fahad from the edtech provider community, Joan from her view as a high school science teacher using social media extensively with her teenage students, and Darren from the view of museums and other organizations creating resources and experiences for educators to use in their teaching. We were joined by a chatty group made up of roughly half educators and half people looking to reach and serve educators.

You can find a full recap, including presentation slides and video, in the Storify archive.

Highlights from #EdTechChat for museum educators


On Digital Learning Day (February 6, 2013), the Verizon Foundation and its partners hosted a Twitter chat for educators and learning organizations to share ideas and best practices, ask questions, and learn about the latest digital tools and tech-based resources available. I created a Storify archive of the highlights of the discussion that I found most relevant to museum educators looking to support teachers and learning through technology.

Social Media Week ♥s Museums


Have you ever been kicking around an important question or idea and wished that you could just bring all the smartest people you know together for a little while to hash out the answer and pick their brains? I have two big issues I’m been mulling over for a while now and my magic genie appeared in the form of an invite to join the advisory board for Social Media Week DC. All I had to do after that was click my heels three times, email favor requests to some of my amazing colleagues, and *poof* my wish will be coming true! (Yes, I know I’m mixing storylines and metaphors here but I’m just SO excited.)

While I’m being somewhat selfish in my selection of topics and speakers (I want those burning questions answered!), I think everyone working in museums and/or education is in for a treat with these two upcoming events. If you are in DC, I encourage you to attend these free sessions. If you are unable to participate in person, rest assured that we’ll be live-tweeting, Storify-ing, and blogging about what we learn!

Defining and measuring social media success in museums and arts organizations

Friday, February 22, 10:30-noon (stay for lunch!), National Museum of the American Indian

Hashtag: #smwMuseSocial

Join social media practitioners from local museums and arts organizations for a lively discussion about the value of social media to our institutions. Are our current social media practices engaging online communities to their greatest potential? What outcomes are we hoping to achieve? And how can we better evaluate the success of our efforts and take our social media engagement to the next level?

Our panelists will:
*share recent research about how social media has transformed the arts in America
*present lightning talks on the social media outcome that matters most to them
*discuss your ideas, needs, and concerns

Come prepared to share your burning questions or big idea! Following the formal program, you are invited to buy your own lunch in the museum’s Mitsitam Cafe and take part in informal discussions in smaller groups.

Social studies: How educators are using social media

Thursday, February 21, 5-6:30pm, The Fridge DC

Hashtag: #smwTeach

How are teachers using social media in the classroom? And how can your organization or museum best reach and support educators by providing relevant resources, facilitating social activities, and connecting them with your social content? Join us for a discussion of the rapidly evolving role of social media in teaching and professional development in the education sector. Speakers include a science teacher, the organizer for DC’s EdTech MeetUps, and a museum educator.


Other museum-related events during Social Media Week DC:


Museum-related events during Social Media Week New York:

Social Media for the Arts

Illustrative examples of art museums interacting via social media


Image credit: Rutgers University, Online Mini-MBA™: Social Media for the Arts

I’m starting to collect some illustrative examples (via Storify) of the many ways that art museums are attempting to interact, educate, and inspire their audiences via social media. My goal is to document a representative sample of platforms, formats, content types, tone, and style. I have only begun to scratch the surface and am hoping to hear from you:

Holocaust Museum invites Redittors to ask them anything!


On December 3, 2012, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., opened itself up to the Reddit community when it hosted the museum’s first ever AMA (“Ask me Anything”). I asked archivist Becky Erbelding, curator Kyra Schuster, and social media community coordinator Elissa Frankle to share their experiences.

1. What is an AMA and whose idea was it to host one?

Becky: Reddit is a popular online forum where users “upvote” or “downvote” various pictures, links, questions, topics.  There are lots of subforums for cute animal pictures, interesting facts, crazy memes. One of the more popular subforums is “IamA” where people post interesting facts about themselves and invite a chat about what their lives are like. President Obama did “I Barack Obama, President of the United States. AMA” over the summer.  The AMAs are always fascinating to me because they give people the opportunity to ask questions, with the popular questions rising to the top (as people vote) and encourage dialogue with the person (the IamA) and with other Redditors.

The system usually seems to take care of itself, with obnoxious questions downvoted and popular, interesting, questions rising to the top.  Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, they always have questions about the Museum and about my work and when I give public presentations, the Q+A at the end is always my favorite part. I talked to Kyra about it and then emailed Elissa to see what she thought of the idea of the Museum doing an AMA.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Kyra: Last month a friend sent me a link to a group of WWII and Holocaust post-liberation photographs someone had posted to Reddit.  Becky had seen the same posting.  At the time we both thought that it might be a good thing to put our information out there so that when things like this are posted to Reddit, they would know to get in touch with us.

We get so many questions all the time, so the AMA was another great way to get it out there. Becky and I have worked on programs for the website and using Facebook & Twitter, so this was another way for us to get our information out there to a new audience.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Elissa: When Becky got in touch with me about doing an AMA, she  mentioned seeing an AMA with a Holocaust survivor that had generated significant interest and, shockingly, received questions that were generally respectful. Throughout grad school and my early professional career as an educator, I’d been treated to the old saw about how curators are stodgy and stuffy, and most importantly highly protective of their content and not open to inviting the public to interact with it. Becky’s message to me was not only a chance for the Museum to reach out to a new audience and be a little audacious about opening up our material and staff members to questions, but also turned any myths I’d heard about curators on their head.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2012/12/AMA.png” title=”Holocaust Museum to Reddit: Ask Me Anything” alt=”Holocaust Museum to Reddit: Ask Me Anything” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”873″ height=”427″]

2. Can you describe the technical process?

Becky: You can view everything on Reddit without signing up, but to vote on a post or question, or to start a new chat like an AMA, you need to have an account. Signing up for an account is pretty easy and free. You don’t even need to give an email address, just a user name and password.  To start a new chat, you click “Submit a link” and then choose that you want to submit text in the “IamA” subforum. It’s very easy.  We did figure out that we needed to refresh the page to get new questions and comments, but since you can sort the new items to the top, that helped us figure out how the chat was progressing.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Kyra: We agreed that we should have a unified professional username (USHMMCurators) and that Becky and I would work together to answer the questions. Elissa would point out when new questions were posted and find the links we wanted to connect back to on the Museum’s website, while Becky  and I worked together to craft the answers.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Elissa: The three of us didn’t have any experience using Reddit. As far as I knew before Monday, it was a place where people who didn’t have anything nice to say went to write mean responses to well-meaning OPs (original posters).

With help from friends and colleagues, we figured out these steps:

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2012/12/reddit-224×300.jpg” title=”USHMM Proof on Reddit” alt=”USHMM Proof on Reddit” alignment=”right” margin_left=”5″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”5″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”224″ height=”300″][ul style=”10″]
[li]Sign up for an account on Reddit.[/li]
[li]Navigate using the links in the header to “IAMA.”[/li]
[li]Scroll down and look at the right-hand sidebar. All the way at the bottom, there is a box that says “Moderators.” Click on “Message the moderators” at the top of this box.[/li]
[li]Write a message telling the mods who you are, what institution you’re from, who’s going to be doing the AMA, and when you will open the AMA. (They wrote back right away saying “Awesome!”)[/li]
[li]Figure out what you’re doing for proof. IAMA requires that you prove who you are, since you’ll be saying (for instance) “I’m a curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ask Me Anything!” If you can’t prove who you are, sometimes the mods will take down your thread (as happened with “Stephen King,” who started an AMA during ours but couldn’t prove that he was the author of “The Shining”). Becky and Kyra used their business cards, which show their names, their titles, and the name of the institution, but were able to cover up the contact information[/li]
[li]Write a brief introduction: Who are you? What do you do at your institution? What kinds of questions would you like to be asked?[/li]
[li]Your AMA begins at the moment you start the thread, so wait until the time you would like to start to click on “Submit a Link” in the IAmA subforum. Post your title (“We are curators at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Ask us anything!”), then post your description and proof of identity.[/li]
[li]Submit and wait for questions to come in. (This is a good time to tweet out the link to your AMA and post it on Facebook, Google+, etc.)[/li]
[li]When they do come in (and they will!), all you need to do is click on “reply” below a question. It often helps to sort the thread by “new”: above the stream of questions, there is a drop-down link that will start out saying “top”. Click on the down arrow and select “new.” When you refresh the page, the newest responses will show up.[/li]
[li]At the very top right of the page, above your username, there is an envelope icon. This is your inbox. When mods respond to your initial question, their response will show up here. This is also where responses to your responses will show up, as well as any private messages you receive. It can be difficult to find new responses that reply to your replies, so look for them here. We did receive two private messages during the chat as well.[/li]
[li]Have a system for posting. Becky and Kyra crafted replies together in a Google Doc and I posted them (as USHMMCurators) when they are completed. [/li]


3. Were you surprised by the number or quality of the questions?

Becky: We originally planned to chat between 3pm and 5pm, but we were having so much fun we stayed until the last possible moment. So we hosted for about 3 hours, and also posted a series of follow-up answers the next morning. The big question for us was whether or not we were going to get “trolled.”  I saw an AMA with a Holocaust survivor a few months ago, and the questions were so respectful and intelligent that I was sure that we would be okay.  And we were! There were a few trolls, but they got so many downvotes that they didn’t even show up after a while.  The nice thing was seeing how people answered the trolls–either by downvoting or by engaging in debate with them, defending us. We never had to address anything we weren’t comfortable with.  It was a lot of fun. There were questions we didn’t expect to be asked, questions we expected that never came up, and we had the opportunity to share stories, information, ways to get involved, and even some opinions. Most of the questions and comments were respectful and asked with genuine curiosity, which was great.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Kyra: We had a great time!  I was pleased that we were able to educate people about the Museum itself and not just about our collection.  One person didn’t realize that the other Holocaust museums around the country work independent from us, so I’m glad we were able to mention that.  I was also kind of hoping we would get asked ANYTHING like “What is your favorite sandwich” or “What do you do when you’re not at work” (that kind of thing), but they were all Holocaust or Museum related questions.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Elissa: Because Becky and Kyra are outstanding question-answerers, all I had to do was sit in the room, keep up with the Twitter and Facebook chatter about the AMA, pull links off our website as needed to augment their answers, and occasionally keep an eye on the stream to see where new questions had come in.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the wisdom of the crowd. The questions and answers that received the most up-votes were about oral histories, Becky and Kyra’s “strangest object” stories, and a serious question about Holocaust denial, which (in my esteem as a reader) were some of their strongest responses as well, and the ones that we hope many users read and took to heart. We did receive some repeat questions, particularly about the 2009 shooting of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, why there are Holocaust museums in the United States, non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the process of becoming a curator, but the team was able to pick up nuances of these questions or point the questioners back to other responses. In one great instance of the community picking itself up, a repeat question was answered so well by another user that we decided not to answer it ourselves.

It was exhilarating to be in the room while the questions were asked and answered. I felt that we opened up dialogue in a way we have not yet been able to master on our Facebook and Twitter channels. I hope this is just the beginning of reaching out to the community on Reddit.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2012/12/USHMM_depressing.png” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”642″ height=”255″]

4. How does this initiative fit into your museum’s mission? What audience are you reaching?

Becky: Curators always love talking about our collections. We’ll take any excuse we can do to that. We also always want to reach out to younger audiences, and Reddit is a young, technically savvy audience.  As long as the tone stayed respectful, there were really no downsides. It was free and easy way to reach out to a new audience.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Kyra: I know that we’re always looking for new ways to reach out to different audiences.  While one of my colleagues (who is less tech savvy) thought a lot of the questions were silly, I personally thought this was a great way to reach out to a younger audience who otherwise we may not have the opportunity to connect with.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Elissa: Becky wisely suggested that we have the AMA before the Museum’s first 20th anniversary event, which will take place this Sunday (December 9) in Boca Raton. While this wasn’t part of our marketing strategy to drum up support for the anniversary tribute and tour, the AMA was an unexpected boon to the registrations and excitement around the event. All three of us will be at the event this weekend, so Becky and Kyra were able to speak first-hand to questions about handling donations at the event, and plug the tour and the anniversary in general. We saw a spike in registrations that day, which may in part be attributed to the AMA. Since I’m relatively new (two months) to the social media coordinator, I’m still getting a handle on who our social constituents and consumers are. I look forward to finding out more about who these Redditors are, and how they fit in with, overlap with, and are different from consumers of information on our other social media channels.

For a long time, there has been concern that if we open our content and experts to questions, we are inviting deniers and participants whose viewpoints are at odds with the message of the Museum into our conversations. The fact that we invited unknown users to ask us anything–really anything!–and we had three solid hours of civil, warm, respectful, inspiring conversation with a community that has a reputation for being decidedly uncivil is a huge first step towards pursuing more open dialogue across all of our online channels.

[image url=”http://danamus.es/wp-content/blogs.dir/3/files/2012/12/IAmA-e1354856855617.png” title=”IAmA” alt=”IAmA” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ border=”smallBorder” shadow=”1″ width=”399″ height=”43″]

5. Is this a one-off or do you anticipate future AMAs? Are there other ways your museum plans to participate on Reddit?

Becky: I would do it again anytime. We had a lot of fun. Beyond that, we proved that it can be done, and can be done HERE, which is a huge thing.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Kyra: I would love to do it again, and as I said while we were typing away, I think it would be great to see other Museum staff do it as well.  I think it would be great to give the Museum an official voice on Reddit – not to constantly scan for comments or correct people—but to be available to answer questions that come up when people find items or have historical questions.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Elissa: I can’t wait to bring other staff members to Reddit. There was a lot of interest during the AMA in discussions of present-day genocide, so we are considering asking the Committee on Conscience, the arm of the Museum concerned with post-Holocaust and present-day genocide, if they would be interested in hosting their own AMA. I see possibilities for our teacher educators and trainers of law enforcement, judges, and the military to get involved as well. (I wouldn’t mind doing one myself, either!)  I would jump at the chance for us to be the bearers of accurate content and to get involved in honest ongoing dialogue about the Holocaust on both sides, asking AND answering questions, sharing content and seeking ongoing engagement. I hope that other museums will join us there, too.

[hr toptext=”” size=”superTiny” custom_size=”” hide_mobile_hr=”true”]

Have you seen other museums using Reddit? Do you think this is a good way to conduct outreach to new audiences? Share your questions and thoughts below.

A huge thanks to Becky Erbelding (@bec2933), Kyra Schuster (@KyraSchu), and Elissa Frankle (@museums365) for sharing their experiences!