Social media started out as a way to keep in touch with (some might say ‘stalk’) friends. It was hijacked by marketers and now has emerged as a powerful tool for storytelling.
But, this crossover between uses means social media channels are not always used effectively and can be alienating to the very people you’re trying to connect with. Because of this, many organisations and groups,
particularly ones without dedicated social media gurus, are missing opportunities. So how do we, as interpreters and leaders in our organisations, maximise social media for our own purposes and objectives?
Let’s start with FOCUS.
Social media is, generally, free and quick to update. Many channels (Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat immediately jump to mind) are designed to enable us to share a single thought; “why is bellybutton lint always the same colour”, [photo of my dinner], “the lady next to me on the bus smells weird.”
As in each of these examples, it’s not always a benefit to be able to instantly share the most insignificant of thoughts. This is true of your organisational accounts too, where your own type of insignificant thought can be damaging to your brand if they are inconsistent and off-message. They can also lead you to sharing too much, too often. Social media users want curated content that is regular but not in-your-face, spammingly regular. A social media calendar and a good scheduling site (Hootsuite is free and easy to use) can make life much easier for you and keep you “on message”.
That leads me to my second point; CONTENT.
When you’re planning your messages, think about what you have to share and how best to share it. Your audience will look for slightly different things across social media platforms: Instagram works well with old photographs, Facebook with photographs that need longer explanations or links to websites, and Twitter can help you connect your content to others with similar content or ideas.
Because of this, there’s no point copying content across each social media site you’re using – users who follow all your accounts will get bored and others will struggle to buy-in to your message if it’s too long/short/small/large/complex for the platform. It’s too easy to jump on to social media channels because they have no obvious costs and the potential audience is huge. But, the cost associated with your time in terms of crafting specific, focused content needs to be understood and factored in – you won’t reach that potential audience if you go in without clarity on how your content works across channels.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk a little bit about AUDIENCE.
Engagement is everything, followers are not. You’ll often hear big brands talking about how many followers they have, like a badge of honour. But follower numbers don’t equate to a connection, they certainly don’t mean that people are listening, and they definitely don’t mean that people are joining the conversation. Many accounts on social media are dead, spam ‘bots’, or rarely used, and you can even buy followers! If you’re developing a social media strategy for your institution and you’re being pushed to include measurable results, focusing on growing your followers might look good to your boss and it might look good to your sponsors but it’s unlikely to help you achieve meaningful connections. And that’s why we’re doing this social media malarkey in the first place, isn’t it?
Let’s be clear here, you still need followers. It’s just that you need the right followers: followers who are members of your community, followers who value their chance to have input, followers who share your values, active followers. Institutions with 300 followers will often see much higher engagement than a large institution because they know their community and how to connect with it.
That’s a key learning from the social media accounts at the New Zealand Cricket Museum; do the research on your community, learn their values and become a key/fun/innovative/informative part of it. By doing that, we’ve been able to place the Cricket Museum has a strong and trusted voice that is a go-to in the cricket community – we don’t just send out content, people ask us for it. Through all this we’ve been able to build engagement that regularly outranks the likes of Auckland Museum and Te Papa. Our stories are shared more and create more discussion but we can’t touch them on follower numbers, and that’s fine by us.
If you’re developing a social media strategy, there are a lot of things you can take into account: the internet is full of 6/7/8-step guides for social media. But, if you keep it simple and start with your Focus, Content and Audience, you’ll go a long way to creating meaningful connections.
Focus: What we want to do.
Content: How we’ll do it.
Audience: Who we’re doing it for.
Put that in your message and tweet it (it’ll fit, it’s only 86 characters).
For examples of good cultural/heritage social media content I recommend the NZ Cricket Museum on Twitter (obviously), Te Papa and The Found Slides on Instagram, and the North Otago Museum on Facebook.
All of these accounts use the channel effectively, in their own voice, and tell engaging stories, and that’s what interpretation’s all about.
Share your favourite cultural/heritage social media accounts below – and tell us why you love them!