Recently, the Google’s Arts & Culture App went viral, when people realized they could upload their selfies to be matched to historical paintings. Before this, the app still existed to share great works of art with the masses. Certainly, the sensational nature of the matching feature has increased traffic and usage of the app — and, that makes it an extremely successful example of using social media for academic outreach.
Integrating Social Media into the Museum
To successfully use social media in the Science communication (Scicomm) space, especially when it comes to museums, a different voice and way of thinking are necessary. No longer do we live in a world of outbound information. Today’s social media platforms require robust engagement and relating to users, and that incurs a cost that is frequently burdensome to programs held together by a shoestring. Though initially, it’s challenging to point out the return on investment (ROI) of social media, it fairly soon becomes apparent that, when done correctly, it can generate traffic and enthusiasm. Museums are constantly assessing how visitors engage with exhibits, and understanding how visitors are interacting with a museums website and social media outreach is just as essential.
Let’s take a look at the way a few museum programs are impacting people via social media.
VanGoYourself – Similar to the Google selfie app, VanGoYourself encourages people to take a photo of themselves. But this time, the photo is one that mimics one of Van Gogh’s famous paintings. Ancient culture collides beautifully with the modern world using this app, and it is great for lots of laughs while motivating users to learn more about art.
Society for Historical Archeology (SHA) – Based in Boston, this organization has taken to the web to increase interest in their programs and found great success. SHA’s online presence includes blogs, a website and a number of social media accounts they use to tell people, and show them, what is new and exciting. They’ve learned that different social platforms are best for certain types of sharing; Instagram and Pinterest for great visuals, Facebook to tell a story, Twitter to make a quick announcement or provoke thought. They also realized early on that strong branding is vital, and original content is key especially visual images.
How Active can you Be?
Simply being present on a blog or social media will not work well for outreach. A website can remain stagnant and still be useful and informative, but if you put in the time to create a blog/Facebook/Instagram and then you only post every few months, it can be a waste of your time and actually be destructive to your outreach goals.
For example, social media platforms and are now becoming a primary method of contact for many organizations. When you create a social media account, you are usually creating a new message inbox. Anyone who can view your public profile can send you a message. If you do not have the time to devote to this communication, it can send the message that engaging is not important. Your goal should be to consistently engage with compelling content and communication, and you should know how you will do this before you start creating profiles.
Creating a plan to make your social media platforms work for your academic outreach is key to pulling everything together successfully, and understanding who is being reached is where user experience research and design can be invaluable to your organization.