Even if your museum isn’t engaged in making forays into social media itself then your audiences certainly are. In the workshops that I’ve been running with Angelina Russo and Jerry Watkins I am yet to find a museum that isn’t being actively discussed, critiqued, blogged, photographed, and videoed online.
The real question for museums is whether they listen, engage with, and acknowledge these museum ‘fans’. Not only will you learn a lot about your organisation and how it perceived by audiences (not just the audiences who have agreed to fill out a post-visit survey or participate in an evaluation exercise), it is great opportunity to strengthen your audience relationships.
Strengthening the relationship between visitors and museums opens up the opportunity for visitors to transform into participants and co-creators. Doing this authentically is critical.
Here’s a recent example at the Powerhouse.
(taken from Powerline Magazine, Autumn 2008)
We became aware of Lee and his son Jarvis via their ‘house dad’ blog. It popped up in an RSS feed that we’ve set up to keep an ear out for any mentions of ‘powerhouse museum’ in blog posts – much like a media monitoring service. Lee started blogging his son’s visits to the Museum about a year ago and over this period they built up a strong relationship with the staff in the Museum’s Members Lounge. Not only has the Museum benefitted greatly from the passionate fandom of Lee and Jarvis – their word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends will have brought many more through our door; we’ve also learnt a lot about what Jarvis likes and dislikes at the Museum. In an act of acknowledgement the Members Department decided to feature Lee and Jarvis in their Members Profile section in our quarterly Powerline Members magazine this quarter.
Another example exists over in Flickr where a photographer (and cupcake maker) whose photograph of a cup cake was used by our Marketing team in an advertisement.