Wrap-up of the last #musesocial chat: blogs & social

This post is by Erin Blasco, an education specialist at the National Museum of American History.

Museum blogs aren’t new (in fact, they’ve been accused of being dead) but we’re thinking about them in new ways and have questions to consider as other social media outlets vie for our time. Sarah Banks of the National Museum of Natural History and I are both in the midst of re-evaluating existing museum blogs and wondering how they need to change and stay the same to continue to remain relevant. To jumpstart our thinking and connect with colleagues from across the museum community, we hosted an open Twitter chat using the hashtag #musesocial considering the following questions:

  • How to make blogs more social?
  • Is there still a demand for blogs? Websites are more easily updated. Attention spans have shrunk.
  • Are blogs worth the workload? How do you measure and illustrate their value?
  • What are the best museum blogs out there? What blogs have been re-envisioned or re-designed successfully?
  • What other formats might be better? What about Tumblr?
  • Who’s the audience? What do we know about them? What do they want?
  • How do you know if your blog is doing well? It may not have the same up-to-the-minute metrics and feedback as other social networks.
  • How social do you want your blog to be?
  • What do you want to know about your blog’s audience?
  • How would you make changes to target particular segments of your audience without alienating your core audience?
  • What is the workflow like for your museum’s blog? What’s the best way to handle moderation?

The topic of this chat was inspired by “Tales from the blog,” a presentation at MCN2012 by Susan Cairns, Ed Rodley, Mike Murawski, and Eric Siegel. While neither Sarah nor I got to attend MCN2012, the #mcn2012tale tweets from the session intrigued us as well as this blog post by Erin Branham over at Edgital. Panelist Mike Murawski’s post on the main themes of the panel is also good reading. Another inspiration was the article “A Status Update Does Not a Blog Make” by Ian Williams. A favorite quote: “It’s no secret that Facebook killed blogging and didn’t even really replace it.” So now what?

The conversation was great! Here’s a tiny sample:

  • Goals of museum blogs: “Sometimes we generate content we can’t use on the floor” – Helen Chappel. “Developing our thoughts about the subject area of the museum” – Thomas Sodeqvist.
  • Marketing your museum blog: “We spent 99% of time on content, 0-1% on promoting. If you want a broader audience, you need great content but you also need to know to be a marketer in the digital age.” – Dana Allen-Greil.  “Share actual breaking news about your institution there.” – K Stober
  • Measuring what works and what doesn’t: “Short of asking people, you only have proxies for impact and engagement–metrics like visits, visitors, retweets, comments.” – @miaout
  • Convincing staff to blog: “Maybe they’ve [curators, content experts, scientists] been somewhat conditioned by life experiences to believe that only other experts are interested” – Sarah Banks. “Without a doubt, showing them the qualitative press for their posts–send them RTs, Facebook posts, comments!” – Catherine Shteynberg
  • Cardinal rules of blogging: “Don’t be boring.” – Julian Kingston
  • Being social: “There is no lone institutional voice anymore. We don’t control the conversations anymore.” – Bruce Wyman. “We’ve had success when asking direct questions, rather than just having the ‘comment’ box.” – Aron Ambrosiani
  • Storytelling: “Social media and blogging is helping create a culture where enthusiasm + excitement is a core value.”

Want more? Check out one of these two stories on Storify:

Thanks to all who participated! If you’d like to host a #musesocial chat on a topic related to museums and social, go for it! The hashtag is available for all to use when discussion museums and social (and we don’t just mean “social media” as in platforms and tools, we also want “social” to mean being, you know, social with people in many ways. #Musesocial has only been on Twitter so far but we’d love to try out a Google Hangout and other formats.

Fore more on past #musesocial chats, check out the wiki: http://smithsonian-webstrategy.wikispaces.com. We’ll be moving over to this space but there are some good archives there!

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