Social media workshops for museums & galleries

It feels pretty appropriate that one of my first tasks at Boost is preparing for a social media workshop that we’re running for National Services Te Paerangi (NSTP) on Friday 18 June here in Wellington.

I’ve just joined Boost after four and half years at the National Library, where among other things I helped set up and/or run the Library’s social media outreach, including the LibraryTechNZ and Poet Laureate blogs, the Library’s membership of The Commons on Flickr, and (pretty awesome, if I do say so myself) @nlnz twitter account. I definitely found being out there online and talking to people about the Library’s collections one of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of my job.

The workshop for National Services is on the theme of Using and evaluating cost effective online tools. It builds on a workshop that Sarah from Boost ran for National Services in four locations last year, How to promote your museum using online tools (see Sarah’s notes on the five themes that stood out from last year’s workshops).

We’ll be covering the following topics in this year’s workshop:

  • the pros and cons of different kinds of online tools
  • how to identify your exact needs
  • how to pick the best tool for your needs
  • the time required for different kinds of activities
  • how to set your project up for success
  • how to evaluate and report on your performance.

I’ve run sessions like this before, and have certain favourite examples that I always trot out (Christchurch City Libraries’ blog – especially their reporting from Writers and Readers Week; the TeAra, Te Papa Collections and NZHistory Online twitter accounts; the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Wikipedia Saves Public Art project; the Brooklyn Museum’s 1st Fans). But it’s been fun having a look at things that have happened recently.

Top of the list of shiny new things is Brooklyn Museum’s partnership with the online fashion community site Polyvore. Following their belief that they need to get their content out where the people are, rather than waiting for people to find them, Brooklyn Museum have added fashion items from their collections to the store of material on the Polyvore site that members can use to create and share collages like this one by pinkopaque22

Underneath my arts and culture veneer, I’m a science geek at heart (this is one of my favourite blogs). In 2009 I got all excited about the Royal Observatory Greenwich’s astrotagging project. This year I got all excited about their Solar Stormwatch project, where people can help spot explosions on the sun & track them across space to Earth. Like the astrotagging project, this is meaningful community engagement, with the bonus of real scientific benefit.

One of the areas workshop attendees have flagged their interest in is understanding how much time social media outreach can take up, and how to manage this. There are various tactics you can take to make sure that scarce staff time doesn’t get totally diverted into managing your social media presence, starting with being smart about which channels you choose to use.

Another tactic is to run short-term projects, which is the approach of My Life As An Object. A recent project commissioned by Renaissance East Midlands and delivered by Rattle, MLAAO saw items from Nottingham City Museums and Galleries telling their stories on different social media sites – Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Ebay – for a week at a time. These short, intense bursts of storytelling are quite different from the long-term presences we normally think about creating.

I’ll be posting notes from the workshop, so check back in to see how it went. NSTP also runs a range of workshops at different levels for museums, galleries and iwi: check out their online calendar to see what’s coming up.

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