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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Ministry of Curiosity on how to be a museum social media guru and not get fired.

Hello all you lovely followers! The Ministry offices are buzzing and we are so absolutely thrilled to be heading up to Manchester to give our keynote at the Museums Association’s Moving On Up seminar (#mou2014). We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we could share of our experience as young museum professionals and museum bloggers and came up with a talk that focuses on self-branding in the sector and how to live the social media highlife and not get fired.

Manchester we are coming for you...
Let’s be honest - these days social media and museums go hand in hand. There is already an amazing, dynamic and established online community of museum people. Add to this the number of museums that have fantastic, engaging social media accounts (big up to the Horniman, Grant Museum, Barts Pathology and Science Museum) and it seems like a no brainer that all museums would love their staff to be repping them online. (Cough- no, false) For the most part navigating the waters of working in museums and tweeting about what you do is very risky business. Let’s not forget that most young people are on short-term contracts and a disciplinary measure for something online could well…be the end of your already tenuous position.
In our experience floating around the museum sector, we’ve noticed that actually most museums don’t have very detailed or well thought out social media policies for their staff. It seems easier somehow to shut it down all together, and allow the Press or Marketing team to guide the institutional voice online. But come on, are we still really at that stage? Haven’t we questioning the authoritative voice of the museum enough? Allowing multiple voices to engage with the public is more welcoming, accessible, and in the end likely to bring positive attention to your museum!

On the other hand, we know it’s scary and there are very legitimate security reasons for worrying about behind the scenes staff and their online accounts. But fear not, there are plenty of museums doing fantastic work that you can look to for guidance. For the Ministry’s part, we’ve come up with a few top tips on how to have an online presence and not get fired that we’ll be sharing with everyone up on Manchester. Not to give too much away of course (I mean you are coming right??) but we’ll start you off with this to ponder:
If you are tweeting about your museum work, be sensitive to your collection. It sounds like a simple concept sure, but you’d be surprised how nuanced it is to combine museum best practice with a social media approach. If you work with human remains, well, let’s be honest talking about what you do in the day is going to be tricky (and that’s probably for the best). If you work with incredibly expensive art, you are going to need to take care to not reveal any confidential information that could compromise safety. If you work with a collection full of weird and fun scientific do-das – for the love of god tweet that all the time! Respect your collection, think before you tweet.

In case you’ve missed it, we’ve also written a short commentary piece to accompany the talk that’s out in the Museums Journal now!

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