While Medium has been around for a few years I get the sense that it has recently begun to pick up speed. Perhaps you recall January’s viral hit “A teenager’s view on social media (written by an actual teen)”? Or maybe you’ve been following the CODE | WORDS publication with contributors from the museum technology community like Rob Stein, Michael Edson, and Merete Sanderhoff?
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?
I’ve been on the hunt for museum book clubs. I’m particularly interested in programs that have some form of social media or online component to supplement and extend whatever is happening on-site at the museum.
Each jam-packed issue of Exhibitionist contains articles on exhibition development, theory and practice, book reviews, exhibition critiques, and nuts and bolts advice. The Fall 2013 issue will be of particular interest to you, dear readers, because it focuses on new media—how emerging technologies are making museums more mobile, personal, global, customized, compact, and widespread all at once. I contributed two pieces to the issue and I’m thrilled to share the otherwise-only-available-in-print articles with you here.
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.
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.
I’ve just wrapped up week 1 of my first MOOC experience, Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom, taught by MoMA educator Lisa Mazzola on Coursera.