My time of employment here at the Powerhouse is sadly coming to an end. Over the last 5 years I have worked on some wonderful projects, the most exciting coming from the work I do that lies in between the worlds of curators and digital teams. I created and project managed our curatorial blog Inside the Collection, designed ipad games, developed walking tour apps, and endeavoured to explore how curators could best use social media.
I leave you with some thoughts and future predictions about curators and social media based on my experience. They all start with S. I will call them the five S’s of curators and social media.
Just start writing! Publishing blog posts is a great (and easy) way to get your work out to the public. The best blog posts are written in the first person, and are opinionated. While institutions may have to remain unbiased and ‘fence sitters’, I don’t believe curators have to be devoid of opinion. I think opinion is exciting, engaging, and encourages debate. Blogging and other social media activities are one of the best marketing tools curators have to show the world what they do. Have you got something to say? Then say it!
Say it again
It doesn’t take long to write a blog post, or other content for social media. Remember to write once, use many times. You can easily re-jig content that has already been produced for internal magazines, public enquiries, journal articles, collection documentation, or even from emails. Spoke at a conference? Your slides could make a great blog post. Wrote a ‘how to’ guide to making a paper wig? That would make an excellent video tutorial. Writing for the web doesn’t have to be a chore, it can just mean a little bit of adjustment for a different audience.
Curator Campbell Bickerstaff…not afraid to have an opinion…boom box style
Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski
© All rights reserved
I don’t think social media should solely be the responsibility of your institution. In fact by its very nature, staff personal social media accounts will almost always have a greater impact that a formal museum account. Example: The Museum links to curator blog posts on Facebook. The reach on the Powerhouse Museum’s Facebook account is primarily around 5000 ‘friends’, which is a great number of people to get curator’s content out too! But… think about this. If the 200 staff at the Museum share a blog post with their social media channels (lets say an average of 200 ‘friends’ per person), then all of a sudden that blog post is being shared with 40,000 people. Unlike the Museum’s ‘friends’, these 40,000 people have a pre existing personal connection (real friends!) to the staff member who shared the blog post with them, and are probably more likely to read it, and share it again. Institutions are faceless online (most of them even use pictures of the building as their avatar), the friendly faces of staff are much better positioned to engage an online audience. I believe that curators should be working on building up extensive social media networks, which will soon become one of the most valuable tools in their arsenal.
Gently cajole your web team into showing you some statistics
Photography from the Phillips Collection
No known copyright restrictions
While all statistics need proper interpretation, I think it is always important check in with your web statistic people and see what is happening behind the scenes. See what kind of content works, what doesn’t. We have been able to see where the majority of the traffic to our blog is coming from, and change how we write for this audience. We have seen that our most popular posts have had good solid search-able titles, and the most popular posts are ones widely shared on social media. Quick response posts on current events or anniversaries have also proven to be popular. If you don’t have access to statistics for your online content then I highly recommend asking a member of your friendly Web Team to have a look at them for you and help you interpret them.
Upgrade your skills to pay the bills
Photography by Jean-Francois Lanzarone
I think it should be a mandatory skill for all museum studies students to be able to perform basic web editing. A curator who can write for the web, manipulate images, make videos, edit audio, and have the skills to put all these things online….will be the ‘norm’ in a few years time. If you don’t have these skills already, ask for some training. If training isn’t available to you then get online and start learning! There are a huge amount of online resources available that are easily accessible and free. Example: WordPress is one of the biggest blogging platforms used today, you can open your own account and run through one of the many many tutorials on how to edit content for blog posts.
So curators I urge you to go forth and write about it, learn how to upload it, share it, then see where it goes!