Despite my day job in digital humanities, I am a reluctant social media user in my personal life. I dabble here and there, but I know about many social media platforms by reading about them—not using them. I don’t even own a smart phone (gasp!).
But I’m beginning to be persuaded that I’m missing out.
And I’m convinced that if you work at a public history or cultural institution, you’re missing out too if your institution hasn’t embraced at least a couple of these platforms.
Facebook, to take the most obvious example, now has more than 750 million users around the world. Those users reportedly share 30 billion pieces of content each month, including links, photos, news stories, etc.
Twitter has a smaller user base, but that base is now posting an average of 200 million tweets each day. In case you missed it, the White House recently hosted a Twitter Town Hall. You can watch the full video of the July 6 event here, or check out a brief recap of the event in this YouTube video: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rICOoa8-jb4[/youtube]
Can we as cultural institutions really afford to ignore that large an audience?
Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, FourSquare, LinkedIn, MySpace, various blogging sites . . . the specific platforms may be different, but the basic mindset is the same. And more platforms roll out each month. Google+ launched just three weeks ago, and already has somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 million users. I wish I could say the same thing about my own digital projects!
So what does this mean for those of us who are newer users of these tools?
First, carve out some time to start exploring. Check out how other people are using these platforms, and start an idea list for how you might use a particular social media tool for your own institution. For instance, I recently stumbled across “25 content ideas for your company’s Facebook page;” you’ll have to adapt some of the suggestions to make them work for cultural institutions, but it’s well worth a read.
Second, if you need some other facts to convince your bosses or board members why social media is important, crib from this brief list of statistics or check out the many interesting reports written by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The National Archives is also remarkably open about its social media strategy and how many people it’s reaching.
If you’re a member of LinkedIn, you can find several interesting conversations about museums and social media over at the Museums and the Web group.