I’m sure this has happened to many of you before. You are sitting in a staff or board meeting, brainstorming ways to increase your visitor traffic, and someone says, “I know! We need to create a Facebook page and start Twittering!”
What these people do not understand is that Facebook and Twitter are merely tools – they are not a salvation for struggling organizations. They have a reputation as being “The Way” to interact with younger audiences. This is true – younger audiences are on Facebook and Twitter. But just creating a Facebook page and expecting younger audiences to come pouring through your doors is an error in thinking.
Facebook and Twitter are tools to be used as part of a comprehensive communications strategy – just like print ads, brochures, and your website. You need to have a consistent message that you intend to promote through the social media channels. The message most likely to work for museums in the social media world is to promote events on Facebook and Twitter. This way, your followers can “like” your event and invite their friends to attend too.
Many of my clients ask me about the amount of time needed to maintain social media channels. This is a serious issue for museums to take into consideration. Most likely, the staff or board member making the suggestion has experience updating their own personal Facebook page every few days or once a week. Therefore, they do not see it as time-intensive “work.” But maintaining a Facebook page or Twitter feed for an organization is definitely time-intensive. You need to post new, relevant content several times a day (or at the very least, once a day), and respond in a timely manner to anyone who posts to your page. (And by timely, I mean within an hour or two.) Same with a Twitter feed…you need to be tweeting periodically all day, retweeting other people’s tweets, and responding to feedback.
For most organizations operating with small staffs, this just isn’t a possibility. I still think small organizations should have a Facebook page, because Facebook is now one place the younger generation goes to find out about organizations. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will bring you new audiences unless you have the time and resources to devote to it.
I realize this post probably sounds negative and may dishearten you. My aim is to give you some hard facts that you can use in those staff and board discussions to help your “decision-makers” understand what it takes to be successful with social media. Sometimes, having realistic expectations is the most important thing.