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Do museums worry too much when it comes to digital and social media?

The 'Communcations Stategies for the Digital Age' training day held on Friday 17th January at Christ Church University, Kent, as part of the 'Museums in the Digital Age' programme, looked at how museums could use social media to communicate their message to online audiences.

To see the presentations and other useful links and resources from the day, click here.

The topic of 'digital' is still one that we feel is somewhat daunting for smaller museums.  In an open discussion at the session, the group were asked for their thoughts on the perceived barriers as to why museums aren't yet fully embracing social media despite it's obvious benefits.

This is what they said:

  • Lack of resources & capacity – there tends to be a good culture of support in theory, but don’t have the time in practice to do the task justice
  • Have plenty of content but don’t have the time, or the know-how to do a film or upload photos in an engaging way
  • Embedding the organisation’s strategy/approach to social media (if they even have one to begin with) is difficult to enforce in the first instance
  • In entirely volunteer run museums, particular volunteers have ownership, which can sometimes be a good thing, but could also create a social media vacuum for the organisation, OR become a ‘soap box’ for that person’s point of view, OR social media messages can drift into pet projects by the person doing the updating
  • If organisations are too reliant on one volunteer to do the work, whenever they are away or can’t do it for some reason, it all grinds to a halt
  • On the other hand, if there are too many people responsible for uploading content onto social media sites, there is the concern of personality conflicts and different messages/voices coming through – perhaps even no consistency of message across the different social media sites themselves (one gets updated while the others are ignored due to personal preference)
  • Sometimes getting access to an existing social media account from a keen individual who set it up in the first place is difficult because they no longer use it, OR they don’t want to give up control
  • Organisations are risk adverse and over cautious of all the potential bad press/feedback they could receive
  • There is still some clarity needed between people’s work and personal accounts – don’t want mixed messages coming through
  • Interest and interaction from our supporters is lacking due to the prevalence of our main audiences/users being the older generation and therefore not willing to use social media.
  • It’s like being a baby again and learning something completely new, which can be scary and intimidating

The group were also asked what they felt they needed to overcome some of these barriers:

  • ‘Social media buddies’
  • Practical sessions on how to set up accounts etc and online toolkits to support this
  • A social media sub-group of Kent Museums Group that run ‘Social media surgeries’
  • Assigning specific tasks to museums to go away and learn/practice in their own venue, and then reconvene to share and teach to the others
  • More good and bad examples in relation to museums
  • Training on content creation

So, how do we move forward from here?  The Kent & Medway MDO is working with Dr Agnes Gulyas from the Department of Media, Art and Design, Canterbury Christ Church University to create a summary report of the 'Museums in the Digital Age' programme of work, and to make recommentations for the next steps.

Do you agree/disagree with the above comments?  Get in touch with Sarah Corn to discuss further.