I am not a Social Media Guru

W. Ryan Dodge
Nov 14, 2017 · 6 min read

This is a presentation I delivered at the Museum Computer Network’s 2017 annual conference as part of the opening Ignite MCN event. Presenters had five minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. This was difficult and terrifying!

Below you’ll find my slides and the notes, along with a recording of the presentation.

Thanks Koven, Hi everybody!

Before I get started I just want to say thank you to the colleagues who helped me put these thoughts together and my wife who helped me flesh things out and also endured endless rehearsals and edits!

It’s true, I am not a social media guru.

…. imagine if you introduced a curatorial colleague as the decorative arts ninja? Or the fossil maven? What about the renaissance sculpture wizard?

Sounds ridiculous right? It is ridiculous. It also degrades their credibility and trivializes their expertise.

Just like others at your museum, social media staff are performing a vital role, that has a genuine title and an actual impact on our museums.

We’re community focused strategists, and producers. We build awareness initiatives that drives real action.

We know who our communities are, we know what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.

We strategize, produce, monitor, respond, and iterate because we know what people are saying or not saying about us and…

… it is time museums recognize this community intelligence.

Not only do museums need to listen closely to their communities, museums need to understand and value their social media staffs’ insight into our relationship with the public.

Social Media roles have a tangible impact on museums but working in this environment is relentless and unsustainable.

What else does a museum do with limited resources that reaches millions, every week, and engages people in substantial mission driven dialogue, no matter where they are?

Just like the rest of you we’re committed to museums. But it is exhausting managing a community of millions while having to articulate the value we add to our museums every day.

We hold our museum’s reputation in our hands, a huge responsibility that is not properly accounted for.

Our work environment is fast paced and high risk, but we build affinity more often than any other staff member.

We have the opportunity to initiate highly valuable long-term relationships on a daily basis.

Museums must stop being flippant about social media

It is unfortunate some museums would rather continue out-dated staffing structures and budgeting, I understand museums are slow moving ships but senior social media roles and teams of social staff are common in the private sector and their profits show the results.

On top of everything social staff do, we’re expected to produce strategy that effects the entire institution, something that is well above most of our pay grades.

With all of this responsibility, why is it rare to find a social media job beyond a low level manager in museums?

Museums don’t value their social media staff like other team members, because they don’t understand the value and impact of the outreach and engagement activities their social media staff lead.

Few decision makers recognize the potential of social media because….

…they’re still focused on vanity metrics. Dialogue is greater than any vanity metric because it builds your museum’s reputation.

Great content leads to dialogue which fuels reputation, which effects purchasing decisions. This social media funnel is not well understood in museums.

Academics may know about your world renowned paperweight collection or ground breaking DNA research, but for the bulk of visitors, your museum’s social media presence does more on a daily basis to increase (or decrease) your museum’s reputation than any other output.

It is time social media is taken as seriously as marketing or PR, because it’s impact has eclipsed both. Disruption is swift and unforgiving.

Social media is not a game, museums must realize that it is strategic, a revenue driver, and a reputation builder.

Imagine a world where social media had a seat at the big table? Where it is a recognized core function and where senior social media roles exist?

These roles are easy to find in the private sector but change is needed if we’re to realize social’s full potential in museums.

You can tell which museums have social savvy decision makers. These leaders understand the value of listening to their communities and it shows in their museum’s social presence. They can articulate that value and rally the resources to deliver on it.

Many museums repurpose traditional marketing on social, with social savvy senior leadership, museums would focus on building deeper content that drives engagement and dialogue.

This is what makes social so valuable, it is not a billboard, it’s the forum of our time.

Social leads communications in the private sector. Our museum’s entire publishing output should be tailored for maximum social media impact. Museums have excellent content, we just don’t know how to leverage it on social and that’s a huge missed opportunity in the fake news era.

Having social knowledge at the senior level would permeate across the museum, staff would recognize the urgency and the value of the museum’s social presence.

That understanding at a senior level would shift the museum’s culture to align with the community they serve.

Because in today’s world, our websites and are galleries are where museums display their collections and research,

but social media is where museums display their relevance, and it is time the titles, resources, and reporting structures aligned with the world we live in.

Thank you!

This video was recorded on November 7, 2017 in Pittsburgh

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