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Choosing the Right Social Media for Your Institution

August 2014

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“How can we be expected to be active on social media with such limited resources?”

It’s the response that many museums and similar cultural heritage institutions give when asked why they can’t be found on social media. And it’s a fair complaint. Social media takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the provider, it’s a long and ongoing project, and many Internet gurus recommend using a wide range of social media platforms. But what if we told you that you can make the most of social media by narrowing your focus to using just one or two forms of it? While multiple platforms do offer some advantages, social media thrives on the quality of its content, not the quantity.

This ongoing 6-part series aims to help you decide what types of social media are best for your organisation by describing five common forms (blogs, social networking platforms, microblogs, photo sharing platforms, and video sharing platforms) and by outlining what media consumers expect from your organisation, the benefits of using each platform, and the activities and resources an organisation will need to be successful on each of these.

Each month, a different social media platform will be featured. In part 1, we look at blogs and their use in the heritage sector.

Part 1 (August 2014): Blogs

What do we mean by blogs?

A blog is a website on which an individual user or a group of users records opinions and information on a regular basis. Blogs can be published on a corporate website, on a website with its own domain, or on a third party Web domain. Each entry (or post) exists as its own discrete page and users are typically able to comment on any aspect of the blog post and enter into discussions with one another. The majority of blog readers will read posts sporadically when the topic interests them, and interaction is measured in page views and comments, shares (i.e. the number of times a reader shares a blog entry with another reader), and on some sites, trackbacks (i.e. the number of links from other sites to that blog).

What will blog readers expect from you?

Users expect semi-regular posts from a curatorial blog. Much like newsletters, blogs can be weekly updates on the activities in an organisation, frequent comments on issues that affect your organisation, or (in the case of cultural heritage institutions) they can be used to showcase your collections.

Postings tend to be longer than a microblog post, and almost always contain text. If you choose to post a picture or a video in your blog, it should be posted with some contextual information. Some blogs have multiple authors who offer different perspectives on a topic, and inviting a “guest blogger” – i.e. someone to blog who is not normally a contributor to that site – is another great way to create varied content.

Users likely won’t expect that a blogger will respond to their comments unless that blogger has set a precedent. Users do expect to be able to share blog posts in order to spark conversation among their friends, but typically this sharing will credit (and link back to) the initial source of the content.

Monitoring the comment sections for offensive content or spam, and regularly posting quality content are the biggest challenges faced by bloggers.

Fig 1: A blog entry from the Museum of Vancouver regarding a bike plan that has become a local issue. This blog features posts from multiple authors (the author’s name is located under the title) and is being used here to weigh in on an issue that reflects the theme of their museum (located in the “About” section in the left sidebar). This entry features both text and a large, colourful image. There is a subscription box in the right sidebar where the museum offers email notifications about new entries to readers.

A bilingual blog entry from the Colby Curtis Museum. The museum is located in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Their blog features short text and images. It is hosted by Blogspot.

What will you get from using a blog?

There are several major benefits blogs offer to cultural heritage institutions. Firstly, by offering the audience a glimpse behind the scenes, bloggers can build more personal relationships with their users, and enhance a blog reader’s connection. Secondly, blogs increase visibility by providing a source of indexable content for search engines. Blogs also help organisations reach new audiences by facilitating participation in larger conversations. Finally, as an author publishes more posts offering unique and valued information, the author gains notoriety as an authority on the subject, and by extension, so does his or her organisation.

>> For another example, visit CHIN’s blog where news items are regularly posted

What do you need to use blogs successfully?

Overall, blogs are the most beneficial of social media platforms. They require minimal technical expertise, since most platforms are made to be intuitive and provide step-by-step instructions for new users. However, they take a mid-to-high-level time commitment to create and edit content, and to monitor comments. While the frequency of blog entries may vary (daily or weekly for instance), blogs are most successful when the frequency is kept regular. Contributors may also choose to include photo and video content, but this is not a necessity.

Fig. 2: An entry from the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador’s blog, congratulating 4 of its members on being featured in a publication. This blog features entries from a single authoritative source. In this instance, the blog is being used to celebrate its members, and to connect with the community. This blog entry contains both a photograph and text. The blog also features links (in the right sidebar) to other social media platforms used by the Craft Council.

>> Check out part 2 in our series “Choosing the Right Social Media for Your Institution” where we will explore microblogs.

Other posts in this series:

>> Version française

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2 Responses to Choosing the Right Social Media for Your Institution

  1. Frances Heydeman says:

    Hello — Please add me to your distribution list. Many thanks!

  2. RCIP-CHIN says:

    Sure thing!

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