Conceptual Social networking Web 2.0

‘Intention’ – museums as information sources or ‘platforms’

I’ve been talking a lot about ‘intention’ recently and it needs a bit of explanation.

In the commercial world of the web realisations are being made that not every ‘page view’ is equal and that advertising on social networks is not the cash cow that it was assumed it would be.

Social networking Web 2.0

Listening, engaging, acknowledging museums fans

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.

Conferences and event reports Social networking Web 2.0

Resourcing for social media / Social Media & Cultural Communication 2008 conference

Regular readers will have noticed that my post-rate has been down significantly over the past two months. This has largely been because of some new and exciting projects and the extra load that preparation for presentations has brought with it.

Blogging, like any form of social media content creation, takes time and effort. Without regular and sustained effort, the community that grows and engages with this content, quickly withers and disappears.

Social networking Young people & museums

The most popular online museum, user generated content and social networking

In preparing for some of my upcoming papers, presentations and workshop, I came across the Saatchi Gallery’s Stuart. Stuart is like a MySpace for artists – it even looks a little like MySpace complete with visual clutter and flashing text. Create a profile, upload some ‘art’ and connect with others.

Within the sector I hear a lot about Brooklyn Museum’s social networking initiatives and MOCA’s MySpace pages amongst others but rarely a peep about Saatchi. Rose Cardiff mentions Saatchi’s YourArt in her paper about YoungTate. She writes,

Possibly the most major concern for Tate was that a social site of this kind would lose its relevance to Tate and its youth programmes. Once the site was opened up to the general public to contribute content, there would be nothing to stop people uploading content that didn’t relate to Tate or art in any way; the site could become purely a socialising space rather than an art-related space. Or else the site could be in danger of simply becoming a space for people to promote their own art work without setting up any meaningful dialogue.

However, it might just be this kind of social space that is in demand. High demand.

According to Compete, the Saatchi Gallery gets almost double the US monthly traffic of teen social networking site and ten times the traffic of (And it isn’t even an North American site, and it has a comparatively difficult URL.)

Saatchi’s YourArt which launched in late 2006 but the real action seems to occur when Stuart went live combined with Chinese-language access. Browse the thousands of artist profiles in the Saatchi userlist and a lot of Chinese-speakers are using the site.

Very rapidly Saatchi has captured a sizeable chunk of the youth audience, as well as filled the site with user generated content. It is quite remarkable. And all this user generated content and the patterns of its usage are extremely valuable as we have seen from recent controversies around Facebook.

Museums have even been champing at the bit to add their content to the Saatchi site via their ‘global gallery listing’ service. Here is the Met’s ‘page’ in the Saatchi directory, which sits surrounded by Saatchi’s own advertising content. What the Google effect of this might be is itself, interesting. (Here’s the Powerhouse profile for balance).

There are more direct means of revenue generation too. From the New York Times piece on the site from late 2006, early in its life,

With dealers and collectors scouring student shows for undiscovered talent and students hunting for dealers to represent them, Mr. Saatchi has tapped a vein that can’t stop gushing. If Stuart gains anything like the cachet of MySpace, it has the potential to morph from a nonprofit venture into a gold mine for Mr. Saatchi.

For now, he said, he is simply enjoying the role of spectator. “When I launched the site, I took the view that the best thing was to leave it alone for the first year and purposely not buy anything, because I didn’t want to compromise what the site was supposed to do: appeal to a wide group of students,” he said.

The Financial Times reports from October 2007,

A poll of 2000 of the 70,000 artists on the site estimated that Saatchi Online is now responsible for annualised art sales of $130m (£64m). The figure is extrapolated from the $88,000 sales reported by 500 respondents for a single week in September.

The news comes as several venture capitalists and investment bankers have been seeking to persuade Mr Saatchi to commercialise the free site, either by exploiting the heavy traffic it attracts through advertising, or by charging commission for purchases.

However, Mr Saatchi told the FT on Wednesday: ”I am not interested in taking any advertising on the site, or any kind of commercial participation in artists’ sales.”

The Saatchi ‘brand’ has certainly helped the site attract a particular audience very rapidly but its undeniable reach and usage should make us seriously reconsider many of our comparatively minor efforts. And, by tapping the Chinese market they are quickly staking a claim in an area that most other museums have not even considered.

Collection databases Social networking

Powerhouse collection records in Artshare Facebook application

The ever-busy crew at the Brooklyn Museum made live a nice and simple Facebook application called Artshare late in 2007.

This allows you to add selected objects from museum collections to your Facebook profile. These object images then link to your museum’s collection records, the idea being that people can effectively ‘friend’ objects in your collection, promote them for you on their profiles, and drive traffic back to your website.

Brooklyn did a great job with the application and then took it a step further by opening it up for other museums to add some of their collections to it as well as individual artists. This very collegiate attitude is hopefully going to spread across the sector with more data and technology sharing efforts in the future.

The V&A quickly added a selection of their objects to Artshare and now the Powerhouse has added some as well. Because you can add your collection via an RSS feed we simply modified our existing Opensearch capacity on our OPAC to send a trimmed down selection of some of the less obvious things in our collection . . .

If you are on Facebook go and add the application to your profile and choose some objects.

Folksonomies Social networking

Social media marketing in the performing arts

Beth Kanter and Rebecca Krause-Hardie have put together a good primer which appeared in Arts Reach magazine on some of the ways performing arts organisations are using social media to engage with their audiences in new ways.

Two things jumped out immediately. Firstly, that social media has seriously challenged the short-term marketing focus of many of the organisations interviewed. This limited focus has historically been the result of funding cycles. And secondly, that the ways that they are using social media are extremely varied.

The Atlanta Symphony’s use of tagging shows that the ‘semantic gap’ issue is by no means unique to museums –

“When audience members post their comments, they will also include “key word” tags to go along with them. This has multidimensional results. It is helpful in searching the site, and it informs the marketing department about the words and connections the audience makes, rather than the connections we as the institution guess that they will make. It’s free market research!

Museum blogging Social networking Web metrics

Better museum blog metrics – is your blog really working for you and your organisation?

Musuem blogs, even when they are one-directional (and have comments turned off), need to be measured differently. Jim Spadaccini and I wrote about this earlier in the year, but now with many many more museums blogging it is time for an update.

At the Powerhouse we’ve seen phenomenal growth in our blogs. This very blog, Fresh & New is one of the most popular parts of the Museum’s website (and it isn’t even linked from anywhere else on the site!), and the Sydney Observatory’s blog continues to grow well beyond the traffic figures of the pre-blog Sydney Observatory. (Our other blogs rise and fall much in line with the frequency of postings.)

But raw traffic growth is not a good measure. (And that’s not just because traffic figures are pretty rubbery these days).

In our paper Jim and I avoided site traffic and instead proposed that two better measures of success for museum blogs were citations/linkbacks and user comments. These captured the ‘interactivity’, the multidirectional communication, that most museums set up blogs to encourage and explore.

Web analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik has proposed 6 ways of measuring a blog’s success. He breaks it down to –

1) Raw Author Contribution – number of posts, length of posts, consistency of posts
2) Holistic Audience Growth – site traffic trends and RSS/feed trends
3) Conversation Rate – trend of comments per post
4) “Citations” / “Ripple Index” – linkbacks, how others discuss your content
5) Cost – total cost of running and posting to your blog
6) Benefit / ROI – including unmeasurable benefits

Kaushilk’s model fits the museum world particularly well because unlike many other business-style blogs, we are primarily about rich, detailed content – and we are using blogs to better, more widely, and more accessibly disseminate such content. To this end, his measure of Raw Author Contributions works well – and provides a metric to encourage continuity and consistency – something everyone struggles with.

Likewise, “citations” are easily explained to curatorial and research staff who operate in the academic world. Jim and I covered Conversion Rate and Citations in detail in our paper but if you already run a museum blog you may not have realised that Technorati has started expiring citations after 6 months. This can rapidly change your ‘authority’ rating if an old post has received a lot of linkbacks but your more recent work has been less widely discussed. As Kaushik writes, “I like this aggressiveness. Its a incentive to stay on your toes”. This again encourages consistency.

We are also, through our public programme and education areas, generally good at encouraging visitor interactions. Whilst this may not always transfer through to our websites, there are plenty of existing skills in our organisations in other sections and departments.

We are about to launch a new public facing blog for our Image Services unit which handles image sales and licensing as well as operating our amazing Photography Department who produce some fabulous, but rarely seen, images. In coming up with some measures of success for this new blog we have an added challenge – the primary content for the blog, images, will be stored on Flickr. Like the John Collier images at the Maxwell Museum, a large number of ‘visitors’ will only ever view the museum’s content on Flickr, not visiting the blog. In that sense, we are also going to be measuring image views by looking at the Flickr statistics as well.

Conceptual Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Social media, social networking – learning from libraries, the new OCLC report

The OCLC has released an enormous (~300 page) new report titled Sharing, privacy and trust in our networked world. It is essential reading.

Drawing data from 6 countries – USA, Canada, UK, Japan, France and Germany – the report gives detailed data on how people in the countries use the net, what they look at, what online services they use, how long they spend online. They then delve deep into the motivations, interactions and choices these users make on social networking services and social media sites; as well as attitudes to privacy and security. This audience research is then compared with internal library attitudes and beliefs about users and their needs, as well as data about how libraries and librarians use these same services. It is fascinating, and illuminating – and strongly challenges the assumption that libraries should copy social media services on their own sites, and instead recommends that libraries open up for users to make use of content in their own ways on other services. Participation on library sites will be low.

Our view, after living with the data, struggling with the findings, listening to experts and creating our own social spaces, is quite different. Becoming engaged in the social Web is not about learning new services or mastering new technologies. To create a checklist of social tools for librarians to learn or to generate a “top ten” list of services to implement on the current library Web site would be shortsighted. Such lists exist. Resist the urge to use them.

The social Web is not being built by augmenting traditional Web sites with new tools. And a social library will not be created by implementing a list of social software features on our current sites. The social Web is being created by opening the doors to the production of the Web, dismantling the current structures and inviting users in to create their content and establish new rules.

Open the library doors, invite mass participation by users and relax the rules of privacy. It will be messy. The rules of the new social Web are messy. The rules of the new social library will be equally messy. But mass participation and a little chaos often create the mostexciting venues for collaboration, creativity, community building—and transformation. It is right on mission.

Participation in social networking services hosted on a library site (see A-12)

Social networking Web metrics Young people & museums

Why kids are moving to Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and away from email

I’ve been watching a lot of people using computers over the past few months and it struck me how many of them were using web-based email services – the more tech savvy were on Gmail, and the more casual users gravitated towards Hotmail and Yahoo Mail despite their flaws. An even smaller number used webmail interfaces from their own ISP. Like all websites and online services, they all have their own specific demographics of users.

Social networking Web metrics Young people & museums

Time spent on Facebook

Compete is one of several comparative ISP anayltic services that are doing some interesting tracking of how US internet users are behaving on particular sites and comparing them with competitors. One of their recent reports examines how users are behaving once they are on Facebook. We all know Continue reading “Time spent on Facebook”