It’s one thing to manage your profiles on the proliferating social networking and sharing sites as an individual, but as an institution it’s quite another. So, we ask ourselves this question at Tate social media HQ all the time. We’d like to know how you see it.
When you’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Flickr, Foursquare, Google+ (or whatever’s new this month!), as yourself, you you tend to know what you’re there for. When you’re there representing an institution, however, it’s much harder to define exactly why you’re there – and what your fans or followers want from you being there! Even when you ask, of course, different people want different things at different times.
Behind the logo or building facade avatar, cultural institutions can’t quite interact directly as individuals, but they do not function exactly like corporate brands either, the other big users in the space.
Advice from the ‘gurus’ is often heavily focused on promotion, whether of yourself, your product or your brand – acquiring followers and return on investment. But when your role is to promote, educate, enthuse, inspire and generally deliver a public service, no one yet seems to have the guru-stylings to fit the peculiar problems of the cultural organisation.
Recently we were tweeted to ask whether we couldn’t think of some more creative use of Twitter than telling you all about our latest poster campaign. Food for thought indeed! Though it’s not a particularly creative use, the wider feedback from our fans was that some of them at least were interested in it.
So how do we balance it? What should a museum be doing on social networking sites?
Alongside informational and promotional messages, we have tried more creative inititatives.
We have partnered with Flickr to find photographers representing Britain today and displayed their work in the gallery.
We had a play with the #artfilmtitle hashtag on Twitter (I think @johnniefrankie’s Vermeer to Eternity was my favourite), and made the UK’s trending topics.
But all of these things are basically one-offs. Perhaps that’s the nature of social media – essentially ephemeral. Most of our initiatives, creative though they may be to some extent, have really been about finding creativity in our audiences, rather than pushing the creative boundaries of the social networking site as a medium.
Has anyone done anything truly creative with the medium yet?
Is it the job of museums or galleries to push the creative boundaries, or should we facilitate others’ creativity?
Do you expect creative social media experiences when following a gallery, or do you want traditional information-focused connections?