Social networking sites are
quickly becoming a converging point for key technology, media and cultural
trends and the number of users flocking to these sites are staggering.
, According to Wikipedia Facebook has 70 million registered users, MySpace
has over 110 million users, LinkedIn has 22 Million and one of the newer
sites, Twitter, just over a year old, already has a million plus users.
Museums can tap into this audience and energy.
A social networking site is
a web site that allows users to interact and share data with other users
- visitors looking for like-minded others. Some of the big players
Facebook: one of the largest and most popular of the social networking sites in North America and Canadian adoption has been particularly high. According to the Solution Research Group which conducted a study in 2007, 8 million Canadians - about one in four - have a Facebook profile page. Facebook members create a profile and connect and interact with other members
MySpace: similar to
Facebook but a little edgier. It is where bands and artists are
converging and is generally a younger crowd than Facebook.
this site has the same connectivity features as other social
networking sites it has become popular for it's micro-blogging service.
It allows users to create updates or 'tweets', text-based posts
of up to 140 characters letting others know what they are doing or passing
YouTube: a video sharing
website where users can upload, view and share video clips. In
January 2008, 79 million users watched over 3 billion videos on YouTube.
Flickr: similar to YouTube
but Flickr's focus is on photographs. As of November, 2007 Flickr
was hosting more than two billion images.
There are literally hundreds
of similar sites with different audiences: LinkedIn, a professional
networking social site, WeeWorld, a two dimensional networking site,
Piczo, a site popular with young girls, Orkut, a Google social networking
site popular in Brazil and hi5 and Bebo, two popular sites in Europe.
More are springing up every day.
1. Listen to the conversations
If you aren't already one
of the 25% of Canadians that have joined Facebook, give it a try.
It's easy and, as with the vast majority of these sites, free.
Understand the technologies and you'll be a step closer to leveraging
them to bring more traffic and interest to your museum.
You can monitor what people
are saying about your museum in their blogs with blog search sites such
as Technorati.com and Google Blog. This is not only a great way
to gage the online community interest in your museum but also a necessity
for maintaining your online reputation.
There are also networking site
devoted to museum professionals: join the Museum and Educational Social
Network, a social networking site for those in the field or Exhibit
Files, a community site for museum professionals to post their exhibition
development case studies for review or comments.
2. Join the conversations
You are the experts in the
museum world - answer questions, join discussions, let potential visitors
know you exist and get them excited about your museum.
You can broadcast news and
events via sites like Twitter or Facebook or take your expertise a little
further as the library world has done. Librarians around the world
celebrated the first annual Slam the Boards AnswerFest on September
10, 2007. It was a day-long event where librarians 'invaded'
various answer sites such Yahoo! Answers, Amazon's Askville and Wikipedia
Reference Desk to show the expertise in libraries.
3. Shape the conversations
Now that you have a bit of
experience, take it up a notch and start shaping the conversations.
Create a Facebook group where you can share information with others
- the Glenbow Museum, the Comox Air Force Museum and the BC Sports
Hall of Fame and Museum are a few of the many museums that have a Facebook
page. You can tap into a community that wants to hear what you
Set up a Flickr site and post
some of the more intriguing objects in your collection - the Smithsonian
recently uploaded 6,288 of their images to Flickr. Take a video
of your space and post on YouTube - consider it a commercial of your
latest exhibit. If a Sweet & Funny Cats Compilation,
the video promoted on the home page of YouTube as a write this can get
half a million views in less than a day, think of a what an entertaining
museum video can garner.
If you are really ambitious,
start your own social networking site. Ning is a website that
allows users to create a social networking site on any topic.
You can create discussion forums, integrate with Facebook, add photos
and events and sign up new members. It's free and Ning walks
you through an easy set up. The Indianapolis Children's Museum
took it a step further and set up Tree of Promise, a social network
created to augment a new permanent exhibition, The Power of Children.
These are a few ways that museum can find their online voice, claim their relevancy and attract a few new visitors along the way. True love awaits in social networking.
David Alexander (firstname.lastname@example.org) is one of the geeks at Zero One Design.
Google Blog Search
Museum and Educational Social Network
Tree of Promise