The Natural History Museum

Why heritage needs social media

This week history was made when the CIA joined the likes of Stephen Fry, Oprah Winfrey, Ricky Gervais and countless more by signing up to Twitter. Their first tweet was a touch of genius, reading “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet” – the CIA does in fact have a sense of humour! But social media is a little like marmite, you either love it or you hate it. So for every avid tweeter there is a suspicious objector who sees social media as perhaps unnecessary, too much work, trivial and so on… Consequently social media remains for many an unknown. However, I believe that when utilised properly it is a fantastic resource for the world of heritage (and others!) to use to help to further their missions. But why?

– It is free! For anyone who works in the heritage sector, or many other cash-does-not-grow-on-trees sectors, there is only so much money in the pot. Unlike larger for-profit organisations many heritage projects, whether it be a local museum, research framework or history society, do not have endless pounds to spend on TV advertising, adverts in glossy publications or national campaigns. Social media is a level playing field as whether you are a one man show interested in making people more aware of their local heritage or a large heritage organisation caring for historic properties, social media is available AND free to use!

It helps to strengthen your brand. Social media has the power to strengthen your brand as you can use it to reiterate and celebrate your core values. Family oriented museum? Why not use social media to publish free kids resources? In addition, when updated regularly it shows that your brand is alive! There’s nothing worse than visiting a website and seeing that the events are 2 years out of date. Social media on the other hand is immediate and people can see what is going on with your brand right now! Finally, it personalises your brand. Everyone has their own tone on social media which is great because you can hear individual personalities coming through via social media.

It is social. The clue’s in the name. Social media is very much social as it is based upon the concept of engagement. People can like, comment on, reply to and discuss your content and you can do the same. Social media is a two- way street so whilst people can pose you questions, you can also pose others questions to. For example, you can ask people if they have any plans to visit your museum soon? Or perhaps do they know of any good resources for local photographs? Social media has the power to create a strong and powerful online community.

Feedback. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is priceless. It’s always good to know you’re doing a good job but it’s also helpful to know where you can improve. Twitter is increasingly becoming the go-to channel for feedback and it is valuable to know what partners, customers and the like think. Whilst Twitter is by no means as comprehensive as a customer feedback form it is good to keep customer feedback ticking along.

It helps you to join up the dots. Social media can help you to form an integrated marketing campaign as you can use it to make people more aware of everything else you are doing and vice versa. For example, you can use Facebook to promote the fact you have a website and similarly you can use your website to promote the fact that you are on Facebook. Either way you are driving traffic to information about you!

Because everyone else is doing it? This reason is not a sufficient reason in itself, however it is worth considering if there are 5 local museums in your town and 4 are utilising social media, how will this affect you in the long run?

Like marmite, social media is very much here to stay. More and more bodies are turning to social media to help them to further their mission and I think this is a great thing! Whilst it can be problematic social media has great potential and it can be hugely enjoyable too! So if you’re convinced watch this space for some top tips on how to optimise your use of social media.


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