Facebook is now the first step

By courtney in Other on July 27, 2010

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At the end of last week I was in Westport, running a workshop on using social media tools for National Services Te Paerangi. The weather was lovely, the people were welcoming, and the lamingtons were fabulous. And I learned something interesting.

At the beginning of these workshops I ask everyone to introduce themselves, talk about where they work or volunteer, and describe the social media/online tools they use both for work and for themselves. I’ve noticed a trend in these sessions. With a small number of exceptions people are using two tools, personally and professionally: email, and Facebook. Blogs aren’t mentioned. Few people have even heard of Flickr. Twitter has more awareness, but is usually dismissed as silly or pointless at the start of the day (after more discussion, people often warm to it). But everyone has an email address, and almost everyone has a Facebook account, and has set one up (or is considering doing so) for their organisation. In particular, older participants in the workshops say that they’ve joined Facebook to stay in touch with children who have left town (or New Zealand) and to see pictures of their grandchildren.

A few years ago – say 2006/2007 – everyone in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector was getting hot under the collar about this Web 2.0 thing. The two keynotes at the 2006 National Digital Forum conference for example were Jim Spadiccini from Ideum and Toby Travis from the Victoria and Albert Museum, both talking about ways museums could harness this explosion of new, free communication and collaboration tools to reach out to online audiences. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking sites, Flickr … we were all over it.

So I’ve been interested to see that people working in small museums who are just starting out on this social media thing are now leaping over all these options in favour of Facebook. Facebook is, of course, in some ways the new Google – for many people, it is where the internet begins. Because people often use the same tools for their organisations that they use at home, Facebook is becoming the default starting point when setting up social media presences.

Facebook is an all-purpose tool: a way to blog, share photos, schedule events, send email and post brief updates all in one place. With the spread of the ‘Like’ button, it’s all over the web. It’s great for publishing content, and for building connections with physical and online visitors. But what else might it be used for?

Earlier this year Seb Chan at the Powerhouse Museum blogged about mining Facebook data to understand what your fans are also fans of. As Seb notes:

If you can identify similarities between the fan membership of your own institution and those of others you can start to think of new partnerships and collaborative opportunities.

Seb pointed to Pete Warden’s Fan Page Analytics as an example of a lightweight tool to look for cross-fan linkages. You just drop a Facebook URL into site, and hey presto …

Auckland Museum fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Auckland Art Gallery fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics
Auckland Art Gallery fans analysed by Fan Page Analytics

Of course, you can use Facebook’s own analytics package to delve into the age, gender, location and activities of your fans. In this sense, it’s a lot like the physical visitor surveys many museums and galleries run. Or you can just ask them questions, as Brooklyn Museum did recently when they started thinking about updating their collections handbook.

To my mind, the main point of analytics is to understand how people are finding your online presence (be it your blog, website or Facebook page) and how they respond to your content. In this vein,  Beth Kanter’s (co-author of The Networked Nonprofit) blog post about ‘spreadsheet aerobics’ makes good reading. Beth uses metrics drawn out of Facebook to analyse the responses to different kinds of content she’s posting to Facebook, and tweak what she’s doing:

My Facebook page is focused on a listening and engagement objective – starting and maintaining a conversation. I view it as a focus group that offers content ideas for blog posts as well as to provide another conversation channel to share insights about social media. The target audience is people who work for nonprofits.

Here’s my description:

This is a focus group and sand box to learn more about how nonprofits can use social media effectively, especially Facebook. You are all the experts here! That statement guides how I engage and what content I share. That in turns drives my measurement strategy.

Here’s a brief list of New Zealand museums and galleries who are on Facebook – feel free to add your own in the comments!

Te Tuhi

Auckland Art Gallery

Auckland Museum

Rotorua Museum

Puke Ariki

National Army Museum

Te Papa

The New Dowse

City Gallery Wellington

Shanty Town

Air Force Museum