by Jenn Nelson (@unmuseum)
Over the past year, I have become very passionate about social media in cultural and heritage institutions, this passion grew after attending the Museum Next 2011 Conference in Edinburgh. It still baffles me that many museums/arts organizations still do not have a social media presence. If you are one of these establishments – stop what you’re doing, put everything down and carry on reading.
I have realized that we are in a bit of a rut in the not-for-profit heritage industry. Those entering the field tend to embrace social media and encourage change. Those close to retiring from the profession, and in positions of power, often tend to be reluctant to try something new and challenge the validity of social media. I am lucky that in my experiences I have not faced this challenge when trying to push the benefits of social media, but unfortunately many of us do.
It is important to note that establishing a good social media policy is crucial before indulging in this exciting world of conversation and knowledge sharing. Most of the following points appear in the social media policy for Banting House. If you’re looking for a foundation, there are plenty social media policy templates online.
I manage the social media for Banting House National Historic Site of Canada (@BantingHouse) and based on my experience these are ten tips about managing an institutional social media presence.
1. Yes, you do have time for social media. The most common excuse I hear for not embracing social media is that there is no time for it. It takes less than 5 minutes to write a tweet or Facebook post. Schedule a time (every day) for doing your social media. If you do it at the same time every day, it will become a force of habit. You can also (if you really have to) schedule tweets ahead of time by using a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite. However, just posting and not creating conversation is bad social media etiquette. Organizations should be prepared to answer and respond to tweets.
2. Yes you have time, but don’t get caught up in reading every post or tweet. Sometimes your feed will be filled with amazing content and won’t want to go back to what you were doing. But, unless you are the social media manager or social media is your only job – you might want to limit the time you spend on it. Try favouriting or bookmarking interesting posts so that you can read them later.
3. Create epic content. Try to avoid posting content that only you will find interesting. Keep in mind that your audience is broad and has many different interests, so keep them keen!
4. Keep it timely. Make sure your content is relevant and timely. Simple.
5. Don’t flood. Sometimes, when you’re managing a social media presence and have had a gap in posts – the need to post everything at once becomes overwhelming. Space it out – you don’t want to tick your readers/followers off by flooding their feed.
6. Try to limit how many people are posting to your organizational account. Sometimes it can become confusing if you have several people posting from one account. If you choose to have more than one person posting, perhaps use the initials after each post so that you know who has responded.
7. Each post does not need to go through 2392384092384902830 people to be approved. Trust your employees. If approval is necessary pre-approve a large amount of content at once so that posts can be frequent and not only once every few weeks.
8. Reply to those who tweet and comment on your content. It’s common courtesy. They will become your biggest fans if you do this!
9. Don’t cheat. One of the biggest pet peeves I have is when I see tweets posted to Facebook. Yes, you can post the same content to each medium, but don’t cheat. Take the time to format it appropriately for each forum.
10. Have fun! Social media is fun, engaging and is a free way to promote not-for-profit organizations on a low budget. Take advantage!
Jenn Nelson is a recent graduate of the MA Public History Program at the University of Western Ontario. She has experience working at several museum and heritage institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, Banting House National Historic Site of Canada and the Ontario Heritage Trust. Her specialties include social media and digital media, event planning and research.