Resources for Social Media in Museums

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December 2013

Social media have worked their way into the marketing and educational outreach of almost all museums today. If you or your institution is new to the idea of using these powerful (and now ubiquitous) tools for communicating with your visitors – or to tap into new audiences – CHIN has compiled a few introductory resources to get you started down the path of becoming a social media maven.

Strategy: Why should we be on social media?

As a smaller institution, the idea of starting into the world of social media can seem daunting, given questions of about online reputation, or availability of internal resources to manage these channels. Whether you choose to work with Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, when setting out objectives you should also be asking “What are the risks Using Social Media as a Marketing Tool?

Once in the social media sphere, at first one might not see the benefits of continuing the investment. There are those who worry that their institution might be treading into social media simply for the sake that “everyone else is doing it. But beyond the peer pressure and questions of human resource management, there are certainly more than 5 Reasons for Cultural Organizations to Remain Active in Social Media.

Facebook: Where your visitors are

It was reported in August 2013 that more than 14 million Canadians log into Facebook daily, and it is by far the most wide-reaching platform available in the country. Considering the sheer volume of users that already exists, you couldn’t imagine a better platform for connecting with those who are already visitors and fans of your physical institution.

If your museum is new to the platform, we have a few recommendations for Navigating Facebook as a Museum Professional. For the nuts and bolts of setting up any social media page, YouTube is always a great source of “how-to” videos. A quick search for “Create Facebook Fan Page” delivers dozens of results from businesses and individuals alike.

If you’re looking for inspiration from your peers –how other Canadian museums are using Facebook to spread their message – have a look at the pages of one of the more than 300 Museum Facebook Accounts in Canada. This is a list that continues to grow as new smaller museums across Canada take the plunge into social media.

Twitter: Getting the message out!

If Twitter wasn’t already dominating the social media sphere, their recent announcement about going public has fully earned its place on the podium with the titans like Facebook and YouTube. While it is one of the largest and most powerful social media tool, it is also one of least understood by the uninitiated.

If you’re new to the concept of “hashtags” and “handles”, there are plenty of resources available online for the Twitter “newbie”. Have a look at Twitter for Beginners: Basic Guidelines Before You Start from to get familiar with some of the basic terminology and philosophy.

Here are some of the main ways in which Twitter helps in getting the word out:

  • Sending information and reminders about upcoming events and exhibitions to local followers, and keeping ”top of mind” as a weekend or evening destination for members of your own community.
  • Getting the word to writers and promoters who increasingly rely on Twitter for regional news and events information, who are in turn distributing it to their network of followers via Web articles and social media.
  • “Search is Social”, and your tweets are indexed in search engines, and an increasing proportion of visitors and tourists are finding travel information via Web search.

The power of Twitter is in community, and following like-minded colleagues is the first step in building a solid, mutually-supportive network. Take a minute to follow a few museums from this ever-growing list of Canadian Museums in the “Twitterverse” to get a feel for how and why other institutions are communicating via Twitter.

YouTube: Bigger (and easier!) than you think

Next to Google, YouTube holds the title of Second Largest Search Engine in the world, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched every month. And as a country, Canada in particular consistently ranks as one of the top consumers of digital video in the world. Creating videos for your institution might be an intimidating idea at first, but your productions can be a simple or as complicated as you wish to make them.

The Ontario Museums Association (OMA) has put together two fantastic guides to help museums of all sizes create video for Web:

OMA Video Production How-To Guide: First Steps to Digital Storytelling in Museums

OMA Video Editing and Publishing How-To Guide: Digital Storytelling in Museums – Part Two

For inspiration on creating your next digital video project, Discover Canada’s Museums on YouTube

Pinterest: The image-based social media revolution

As a truly visual social media platform, Pinterest is a perfect fit for institutions that are looking to showcase and promote their collections and exhibitions online. It has also regularly ranked as the fastest-growing social media network since it started to boom in the spring of 2012.

Screen capture of the Pinterest board of the Diefenbunker

There are already a good number of Canadian Museums on Pinterest, and we encourage you to browse their “pinboards” for a little inspiration on setting up your own account. If you’re concerned about copyright issues related to re-posting images via this wildly popular media, have a look at Pictify: The Pinterest of the Art World, which carries much more stringent guidelines with respect to copyright and intellectual property. Whether or not Pinterest is a good fit for your institution, it is good to at least know about these platforms. Social media is generally evolving into a more visual and image-based world, especially given the increasing prevalence of access to the Web via mobile devices.

Instagram: Making your artefacts look vintage

In the last year, Instagram became the buzz of platforms for public photo sharing, and their hallmark vintage look for images helped them breeze past the giants like Flickr and Picasa. Instagram is only recently gaining mass popularity with museums as a way of sharing images, but creative initiatives where Museums Invite Instagrammers to Participate in Exhibits are beginning to emerge. For an interesting Canadian example, have a look at how the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are using Instagram in museum events.

If you’re looking to pick up Instagram tips from the museum social media pros, have a look at this list of The 30 Most Active Museums and Art Organizations on Instagram.

#instaROM shot on Instagram from user @stylez, from the website of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)


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