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Monday, 17 November 2014

The Ministry of Curiosity presents the Social Media Manifesto

We believe that social media is a core function of the modern museum. Museum social media is no longer a subsidiary or peripheral activity; it is at the heart a museum’s mission to engage the public with its collections, exhibitions and events. As such, social media should be allocated the personnel and resources it needs to be responsive to its audiences needs at all times and a strategic part of the museum’s development.

Know your audience

It is important that your museum understands its public in order to plan its social media output. Cater your content and voice to meet the needs of this community. It must be acknowledged that no one online audience is the same as another, something already understood at the level of exhibition design. Therefore, digital audience research, an understanding of the norms of social media platforms and the communications they foster must be an essential part of building a social media strategy.

Have fun!
While social media must be tailored to your key digital demographic it must also be playful, experimental, accessible and, at times, irreverent. A playful tone encourages your audience to interact with you on a human level; humour goes a long way to fostering a community. Never doubt the power of a well-placed pun.

Appeal to your followers’ emotions
Social media has the power to reach beyond your gallery walls and straight to your followers. Appeal to their emotions, their interests, and their passions. Museums were founded on the basis of curiosity, discovery, and the thirst for knowledge and your social media stream should follow this ethos as closely as possible. Cultivate the ‘a ha’ moment for your followers.

Use a bit of common sense
Never forget that common sense is essential to any public engagement, online or otherwise. Consider the sensitivities of your collections, be aware of public feeling, and trust your instincts (and your staff) to moderate content appropriately. Social media isn’t rocket science, its just people talking to people.

Remember the museum staff…
Museum staff are an invaluable resource throughout your institution and their everyday experiences can offer an insider’s perspective to your institution. Encourage them to tweet, share their projects and their personalities. Museums are the work of not one but many.

… but also the institution itself
Let’s be honest, museums are the celebrities of the heritage world, you don’t want to lose your caché. Let your staff engage with its audience from beg; but don’t forget your museum’s educational and authoritative function. The museum should still be a distinct entity with its own personality and cultural influence. Besides, who doesn’t love receiving an official tweet back from a verified museum account?!

Be open to out of hours work
So who are these intrepid people, creating this online experience for your visitors? They are social media stalwarts, they are your front line, and they should be remunerated as such. If great social media must be responsive, then museums need to be able to respond. And yes that does mean during the evenings and weekends. Pay your staff for out of hours time, let them know their work in engagement is important and appreciated and your museum will definitely benefit as a result.

Work with your collection
Great social media relies on an understanding of your brand’s authentic voice so don’t forget the essential role of your collection in building this. Your collections are what brings people through your doors and your social media must work with them; use them to your advantage!

But also look outward…
Museums do not stand alone. The stories they tell link into local narratives about place, larger ideas about collections and associated heritages, and occasionally connect into the press agenda. Don’t think about heritage and media providers as your competition, but as vital contributors in the stories you want to connect with. Work with them, share each others content, and have a conversation about it.

To create a unique and powerful voice, a museum must consider all the points of this Manifesto. Your staff, audience, collections, and market research are what come together to create your authentic online presence.

Now go forth and make your museum’s social media essential, strategic, and above all, fun!

With assistance from:

Ben Earle, Jenny Kidd, Rachel Cockett, Judith Durkin and the delegates of the Ministry of Curiosity’s Social Media Manifesto Workshop, Museums Association Annual Conference, Cardiff 2014

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