Pt. 2: Examples, Keeping Your Social Media Audiences Engaged During Coronavirus (Corvid-19) Closures
Updated: May 16
I'm thrilled that so many of you took the time to check out my last post! I hope you are taking care of yourselves, your families, and communities. We're all in this together! Once again, if you are in need of information or resources related to the virus, please visit the CDC's website.
We're a few days into this National Emergency so hopefully you have gained a bit more clarity from your institution about what to expect in the coming weeks. In my last post I offered up some ideas to help you and your institution engage with social media audiences during closers. However, it was all text. If you're anything like me, you're a visual learner. So below I have pulled some great content examples from institutions around the country that I enjoy and think are working.
This post focuses heavily on Instagram Stories, though many of these ideas can be adapted for posts, or repurposed for other platforms.
OK, let's dive in!
1) Audience Poll using Instagram's slider feature, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico*
(*Shameless plug for my own work and institution)
Without the immediate pressure of promoting programs, on-site activities, and other day-to-day priorities, now is a great time to gather real-world audience insights!
When I originally thought of the idea of collecting feedback regarding content, I figured I would use Instagram's quiz feature. But the need for users to select a correct answer didn't fit within the spirt of what I was going for. There are no wrong answers in the area of art preferences! I also checked out the poll option, but the need for users to choose yes or no also didn't seem to fit.
I decided to use the slider feature, which worked great! We got over 500 responses between Instagram and Facebook.
For those wondering - Landscapes won with 46% of the vote! Second place went to Flowers and Botanicals, with 24%. Watercolors and Portraits of the Artist tied for third with 15% each. In addition, many folks sent us DMs or left comments about what other content was of interest.
I calculated the votes the old fashioned way. I scrolled through all the answers and logged the responses in an Excel spreadsheet. While not the most time efficient strategy, the results were quite illuminating.
(From the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico)
2) Instagram Thematic Quiz, Chrysler Museum, Norfolk Virginia
The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia did a great Instagram Story quiz surrounding items in their collection that referenced St. Patrick's Day or the color green.
Institutions that have an encyclopedic collection provide SMMs the benefit of drawing upon a wide variety of content which can be used for diverse social engagement purposes. On the one hand, it can be a bit overwhelming. There can be so much to choose from, and it's up to the SMM to try to sift though everything to find relevant and engaging material to share. On the other hand, it allows SMMs to be creative, and discover collections items that fit within many themes.
I love that the Chrysler Museum used St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to engage audiences and featured diverse objects in their collection. Not all the objects shown directly reference the iconic Irish holiday, but they were still able to draw upon both cultural references as well as a green color palette in ways that have broad appeal.
(From the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk Virginia)
3) At Home Projects for Children and Families, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Nationwide school closures have had a profound impact on families. With children not in school, parents and caregivers have a lot on their plate. The task of keeping kids engaged can be enough of a challenge in normal circumstances, but when routines are disrupted and anxiety is high, many families are in need of extra support. As a former educator (and nanny) myself, I know how tough it can be to keep kids busy for long periods of time, especially on short notice and with limited resources.
For those interested in pursuing this idea, it is important to recognize that not everyone has the luxury of purchasing special supplies. Not everyone has a big backyard or dedicated space where kids can play. Even those who are working from home must... you know... work, and they can't provide high levels of supervision.
The Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio posted a brilliant story on Instagram that can serve as a model for other institutions. Their step-by-step art project is one that is accessible, great for kids of many ages, and was shared in a manner that can be adapted for families of all types. It is also SIMPLE! Too often in-home art projects require a ton of supplies, are complex in their facilitation, or require an adult to hover. What I love about this project is that the supplies needed are easily found in most households, and it engages kids using questions meant to spark the imagination, rather than relying on complex instructions or final outcomes.
(I also want to say how much I love and appreciate the work of teachers and educators, whether in schools or in cultural institutions).
(From the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio)
4) DIY Indoor Tropical Terrarium, From Me!
This a project that I created for myself and my personal Instagram page. I love plants and am obsessed with building indoor plant terrariums as a form of relaxation. As a SMM, I spend A LOT of time on the computer so it's important for me to find opportunities to disconnect (I'm sure you can relate)!
As far as cultural institutions are concerned, a project like this would work well for a botanical garden or natural history museum. It can easily be adapted for children or teens, and the result is a beautiful addition to one's home decor! Once complete, caring for the terrarium is also a great way to incorporate ongoing learning and can be extended into lessons surrounding environmental responsibility.
My advice is to select plants available at a local garden store that are suited for the indoors and the climate where you live. I purchased my plants from a small local nursery and got advice from the staff about what plants would thrive in the areas I was planning to keep them. I also did some research on each plant, and learned more about their native habitats and care needs. There are plenty of blogs out there that can help you with this.
This project is relatively affordable, and requires only basic gardening supplies. Overall, I'd say I spent $25 dollars to complete this tropical terrarium. I keep it in my office and I'm in love with it!
5) Ask CAM, Questions with the Curator, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
Curators, exhibition designers, and other thought leaders at our institutions have so much knowledge and offer incredible insights that bring collections to life. Audiences absolutely crave opportunities to connect with these folks and are excited by opportunities to get a behind-the-scenes look at art and objects that hold so much intrinsic cultural and emotional value. Day-to-day, it can be a struggle to provide this type of content, I personally know how difficult it can be to wrangle curators or find time in their busy schedules. If it was up to me, I'd get each of my institution's curators, conservators, and registrars to set aside at least 1 hour a month for social media content creation. (A gal can dream, right?)
With regular business currently being suspended, now is the chance to pin down your curators! The Cincinnati Museum of Art (CAM) got their Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Amy Dehan to do a remote video Ask CAM session using Instagram's question feature. Members of their audience submitted questions, and answers were provided using examples from their collection. I love to see curators participating in social media in this way. It breaks up the typical still image + text posts that we SMMs heavily rely on in order to sustain daily posting schedules. It also puts a face to the individual(s) responsible for creating the on-site experiences that audiences love.
Too often, museums appear faceless. It is easy for those not steeped in in the museum world to assume that art work and collection items just appear overnight in galleries. So it is critical that we take the time to highlight the people who make exhibitions possible.
(From the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio)
6) Head of Security Social Media Take-Over, The National Cowboy Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
This is honestly one of my favorite things! I personally have a strong connection with my institution's front facing staff, including visitors services and security team members. I appreciate their work so much and am constantly in awe of their knowledge and dedication. Many of these folks are among the longest serving staff members at our institutions and they've seen it all! Much like with curators, it is important for institutions to highlight and celebrate their people.
The National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma tapped their head of security (and hat-wearing hero) Tim, to serve as their SMM during the closure. He states that he is new to social media, but excited about the opportunity. Once again, I can not overstate how much I love this!
Yes, social media is a very specific profession, and I know many of us dislike the idea that "anyone can do it." But the truth is, when a supportive environment exists, and goals and intentions are adapted, anyone with the fortitude and enthusiasm can serve as an institution's social media voice. The fact that the Cowboy Museum sourced internally, and chose an unconventional staff member to take on this task is amazing. I can't wait to see what Tim has to offer. It will likely be very different than what the average SMM would do, but that's what makes it so cool!
Now is the time to take risks, to do the less obvious thing, experiment, and tap into all the resources and skills available to us!
(From The National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
OK Fam! That's all I have for now. Once again, I know you all have amazing ideas so be generous in sharing what is working for you and your institution.