Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Beyond the Didactic" a CAM Conference session on social media

Scott Moulton LEED AP

I am following up on my previous CAM post to talk about an interesting session I attended.

"Beyond the Didactic - Engaging Visitors in a Social Media World."  piqued my interest. The first panelist was Maria Gilbert from the J. Paul Getty Museum. At the Getty they participate in all the expected forms of social media but had a few interesting ways to use them to provide additional depth and engage the public. She showed how they are using Flickr to juxtapose master's work with visitor's work and show non Getty photos of historic sites to illustrate the context of a given artwork or artifact.

Sorel Denholtz is a Social Web Strategist who helped the Cal Academy use social media to engage a new audience and drive attendance to their Nightlife program. These strategies were less about moving "beyond the didactic" and more about connecting to visitors and social marketing. Nightlife is a weekly event aimed at a 21 - 35 year old crowd and features science programing, DJ performances, and drinking all within the Cal Academy. They identified 6 visitors that would become Nightlife Insiders and were given free tickets and special treatment in exchange for regular Facebook posts. The relationship was totally transparent and it helped Nightlife FaceBook page gather 19,000 fans (as compared to the 20,000 Cal Academy fans) and become a huge success.

Lisa Sasaki from The Japanese American National Museum described how their institution was using thing like QR codes and Facebook to provide more depth to an exhibit and also to be relevant to a younger generation. She pointed out the value of having more than one voice on the museum's social media and reinforced the need to have the posts or tweets  adapted to fit the different platforms.

I left feeling excited by the ways these institutions were using social media but was a bit disappointed to see that these online resources were impossible to find in the case of the Getty, and not very heavily used in the case of JANM. The NightLife Facebook page was impressive in terms of the level of activity on the site and the way they are making themselves relevant to a traditionally hard to reach audience. It will be interesting to see if other institutions can use this social marketing approach as effectively to connect to specific audiences.

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