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Deepening connections with social media


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A talk about my time Jan 2007-Dec 2010 working at the Museum of Life and Science and how we used social media to deepen connections with members and enhance our ability to meet our mission.

A talk about my time Jan 2007-Dec 2010 working at the Museum of Life and Science and how we used social media to deepen connections with members and enhance our ability to meet our mission.

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  • Key points: We focus on deepening connections, though certainly we have additional goals This is our approach. It’s not right or wrong, but it’s working for us right now. The photo is a Clearwing butterfly from Costa Rica. All Photos in this presentation are from various Museum social media efforts (ours and our audience’s) I like the clearwing for this slide because it’s a nice visual representation of transparency, a framework, and really cool stuff. This was taken in our Magic Wings Butterfly House, and is online at flickr as part of our project “The Butterfly Keeper” launched in January 2010. The Butterfly Keeper grew out of our successful Flickr Plant Project, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
  • This photo is from a twitter game we play called #namethatzoom using our 200x dermascope – it’s an acorn
  • Larry’s expertise and status as a department insider was crucial to success.
  • Ooops! An opossum got loose! When you encourage openness and honesty and candor, you have to be ready for it. Now, when an animal gets out by accident, keepers automatically reach for a camera to get a photo for the blog. Sherry’s incident Christmas 2007 (see Animal Department blog post), request to remove and standing firm on transparency, permanence, and the importance of team leaders being open about mistakes. Post stayed, but follow-up post on h2o conservation. Which led to…
  • The comment was a result of the water conservation post, but that post was a result of Sherry’s mistake and openness about it. The background picture is a #namethatzoom of sheep’s wool
  • Another #namethatzoom background – this is a bandaid
  • If we didn’t have Beck Tench, we would not have done this. If it weren’t for a grant to pay for her salary, we wouldn’t have hired for such a position. I was against twitter back then – didn’t see the point in a personal or organizational account. I had personal delicious and friendfeed accounts, and had planned to get flickr next. Beck went ahead and signed us up for all, and started an internal cultural acclimation process that included vital components such as happy hours and walkabouts. I really thought that friendfeed was going to outlast twitter, because it had everything in one place and was a richer, more robust platform. But twitter was where the people were, and that trend only continued. Friendfeed was a great technology, and that’s why it got bought by facebook which is a great marketing company that slowly integrated friendfeed technology into its product. Social media may be a cocktail party (see Jim Tobin of Ignite Social Media’s book) but tending to social media efforts for an organization is more like gardening. Plant lots of seeds knowing that some will flourish, others will not, but all need care and nurturing while you determine which will flower and what needs pruning.
  • For a detailed timeline of our efforts, see 3 blogs are Greg Dodge (though not yet officially a blog at that point), for other museum professionals and SERC blog currently under re-development Flickr plant project had quickest demonstrable success, with an international community springing up around it almost immediately The photo is of the beginning of prototyping for our Contraptions room – the first exhibit developed with a cross-functional team designing for visitor co-creation. Experimonth is a new way of doing new years’ resolutions – one at a time each month – with a group blogging component. It was never official museum business, though lots of us participated.
  • Here’s a snapshot of early flickr success from Beck’s “State of the Web” presentation two years ago: - the presentation shows how much was accomplished in a short time and is a great snapshot of where we were early on. (Beck’s notes below too): Each Tuesday, we upload a photo and caption of a plant from the tropical conservatory in our butterfly house. As the photo is uploaded, I invite others on Flickr who’ve take a picture of the week’s plant (searching via tags) to contribute their photo to our page about the plant. This cold-call type action has resulted in (at this point in time) over 200 contributions to the project. We have also gotten enough traffic to be clustered (on the tag “flickr plant project”) through Flickr’s AI tag search, allowing users to see, for example, pictures of cashew nut trees that are not on our page or tagged Flickr Plant Project (by way of exploring the “flickr plant project” tag). On occasion, we’ve received unsolicited contributions to a particular plant. If phase one of this project is to establish reputation and content, phase two will be to introduce these plants to our visitors and would-be visitors so that the worldwide attention they’ve received on Flickr will convey how special it is to have them in Durham.
  • There are lots of resources for this sort of thing online – Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book and blogs and the WeAreMedia project are probably the best place to start The photo is our donkey named Lightning, from the Animal Department blog. His ears are big.
  • Photo is a fan submission posted to our facebook page One negative but thoughtful online review was replied to with an invitation to return and point out specific complaints and concerns. Others are left alone, because they don’t merit an official response and our fans will give an unofficial one. Such as the comments in the online edition of the Herald Sun when they did a story on our Dino Trail opening:   7 comment(s) on this article. that's great Submitted by smallfaucet on 07/24/2009 @ 06:23 AM now maybe they'll increase the price of admission from 12.50 to something more............what a rip........... very educational for children Submitted by mcdade1952 on 07/24/2009 @ 09:40 AM I think the museum is a very educational adventure for the children. There's quite a lot to do there also. So why the negative comments here? You would pay that much and more to take a kid to a movie that is totally boring and brainless. What a bargain Submitted by GraigMeyer on 07/24/2009 @ 09:46 AM @smallfaucet... Gee, let's see. I could spend $12.50 to get into the Museum of Life and Science. I could spend seven hours there if I choose to. The whole time I'm there, I'll be learning things and be entertained at the same time. I can get some exercise. I can meet some people. I can have a butterfly land on my hand. So far pretty good. I like it enough that I'll bring my kids. $9.50 for the 5 year old. Free for the 3 year old. We're at $22 for a whole day of fun. Or, I could go to Southpoint for a movie. $9.50 for me, $6.50 each for the boys. $22.50 - or the same price as the museum. For that we get to sit on our butts for two hours and watch a movie. Not to mention overpriced popcorn and sodas that will fatten my kids up. Any money you spend at the Museum of Life and Science is money well spent. The payback is to your mind and your life's experience. The cost helps keep a wonderful non-profit institution going that will continue to educate children and adults for years to come. Very Well Said Submitted by mcdade1952 on 07/24/2009 @ 10:40 AM Well said Graig Meyer. I totally agree with your logic here. Perhaps some of the heralds readers are couch potatoes. (HE HE HE.) Thanks for adding your input to my comment above. Price of Educating!? Submitted by bobv on 07/24/2009 @ 04:40 PM Those same people who complain about the $12.50 will spend $40 for a carton of cigarettes or $22 for a bottle of whisky!! BV Buy a membership Submitted by memochick on 07/24/2009 @ 11:04 PM If you don't like the admission price, buy a membership. For $115 you get unlimited visits for 4 people. If you go as much as my family does, the cost per visit becomes very small. Of course if you think it's a "rip" then don't go.
  • The authenticity of parent photos beats paid models and photographers any day. And their blogs are trusted by other parents. And they’re paying us for this privilege! This is a collage from one of our members who blogs as fotomom – the original is at and is part of a post focused on our Heroes and Villains event Fotomom brings her own equipment, but we also have flip video cameras available in contraptions to encourage people to document their work and share it. We’ve also got a station for them to upload these videos to our youtube page. We’re still working out the kinks on if/when/how visitors can check these cameras out without staff presence, but you don’t always need to give them physical tools – sometimes just prompts for sharing can be enough. Many visitors are savvy enough to bring their own tools (smartphones are a toolkit in and of themselves) so we try to make it easy for them, and give them additional options. Contraptions has a number where you can text suggestions for materials to be added to the room.
  • Wayne’s presentation really is a must-see. The amount of effort and professionalism that he dedicated to this is well beyond what we could have done on our own. Twitter is great for deepening real-life relationships or priming them to happen, and there are several members that I am friendly with because we follow each other there.
  • This slide and the next are actually from one of Beck’s presentations – 3 Examples of Digital Engagement This was the original dinosaurs website when it first launched. As you hovered over the colored parts, you were told that your blog entries, photos and tweets about the dinosaur trail would appear on the pages of the dinosaurs they were about.
  • Here is the actual page once we had enough content to populate it. The photos and tweets and blog posts (in yellow) were google alerts and tweetbeeps and flickr feeds that I coded in delicious and through an API hook, we are able to display them on the appropriate page. The orange bits below are from paleontology blogs that an exhibit developer manages. We have become the curators of our visitor and scientist voices.
  • Highlight left sidebar – using the same combination of listening via alerts and RSS, bookmarking via delicious, which then gets sent to our website via RSS. Also note Contraptions and Dino Trail sections of website have user-generated content, Munch Cam videos and 2 blogs in the scrolling boxes along the top.
  • We should have paid more attention to facebook earlier. Our first page was a “group” that was formed by fans called Museum of Life and Science RULEZ! It had more fans than our page for quite a while. We initially had a younger front-desk staffer running our official facebook page. We learned that age does not dictate social media savvy – it’s more about access and interest. I’ve had a mother post a thank-you note on our wall after we hosted a memorial service for her daughter – really personal, touching communications. I’d hate to leave them wondering if anyone actually saw it. Photo on left is a sandbox tree from the flickr plant project, at right are our most recent facebook page statistics – automatically mailed to us weekly.
  • When our yearling bear Yona went in for surgery, she got lots of cards. We don’t know if they came because of newspaper articles, member emails, facebook posts or tweets. But it’s great to be able to share them on our blog, and then share the best of the blogs on facebook.
  • Beck says evaluation is three-pronged: How's it performing (real numbers) and where does that fit on mission/margin spectrum (fuzzy numbers). How much energy and enthusiasm do the creators have to sustain it (feeling but trying to quantify with planned FY11 surveys)? In our portfolio of efforts (real numbers), is there duplication somewhere (fuzzy numbers) that makes it easier or harder (fuzzy and real numbers) to end/continue this thing? Photo is #namethatzoom of donut sprinkles
  • Chinchilla photo from Animal Department blog
  • Rough day at the office – from my flickr account, taken by my boss with my phone during our Heroes, Villains and Special Effects event
  • Transcript

    • 1. Deepening Connections Through Social Media: Presented by Jeff Stern, Director of Membership Advancement to NCTech4Good Friday, April 15, 2011 Our Approach at the Museum of Life and Science
    • 2. My story starts January 16, 2007
      • My position was newly created, residing in Department of Learning and Innovation
      • Asked to lead the Museum’s blogging efforts
      • Science Online pre-conference workshop showed me it was easy to start blogging
      • Morehead Current Science Forum on Social Media, @ruby tells me “I get paid to play on Facebook, you should too!”
    • 3. We started slowly and deliberately…
      • Members demonstrated an emotional connection to our animals, so having keepers blog was natural (but scary)
      • “ Poop Scoopers” not the traditional “curatorial voice”
      • Tightly scheduled department did not have “free” time
      • January-April 2007 spent planning. April began internal blogging. October blog went live to staff, then members.
    • 4. Blogging Truthfully Can Be Hard
    • 5. Blogging honestly led to great comments:
      • This was the emotional connection to regular visitors that we had been striving for. But it also showed that our experiment had several positive unintended consequences:
      • These experiences helped us embrace transparency and tell our story
      • The profile of animal keepers was elevated among staff & public: not just “poop scoopers” but experts who have a sense of humor too
      • The success of the blog helped the department get additional resources for photos and videos that helped them do their “real” jobs
      • Blogging provided professional development opportunities for keepers
      • Other departments saw this success and wanted to participate as well
    • 6. To get to this point we needed: But this was all just prelude… Everything changed in July 2008 when we hired @10ch to help us expand our digital experiments.
      • Strong support for Web 2.0 efforts from the top
      • Training and support for those doing the blogging
      • Additional equipment to shoot video
      • Policies for other employees who wanted to blog
    • 7. Suddenly, we were on flickr, twitter, delicious and friendfeed
    • 8. Beck’s expertise helped everyone experiment more and feel safe doing it.
      • Animal Department took greater control over their blog & schedule
      • The Flickr Plant Project began
      • 3 more blogs launched
      • Cross-functional teams discuss Museum 2.0 and visitor co-creation
      • Weekly happy hours blurred professional and personal boundaries and led to group blogging experiments
      • All in the first 6 months she was here!
    • 9.  
    • 10. Listening is the most important skill to cultivate
      • Google alerts and other listening tools show us where our audience is and what they are saying
      • RSS readers are invaluable
      • Feeds need to be monitored and comments replied to
      • Grow big ears!
    • 11. Don’t Panic!
      • They may be angry, but they like you!
      • Embrace fan criticism
      • Respond appropriately
      • Don’t freak out or overreact – it’s okay to leave the trolls hungry
      • Don’t just placate people – work to become better when criticism is justified.
      • Give people the tools to tell your story for you
    • 12. Members create things we couldn’t
    • 13. Once we had some success, we planned for more. Dino-sized success, in fact:
      • Our new Dino Trail was long-anticipated, and offered a chance to try new things:
      • -Blogger event
      • -New website
      • with visitor &
      • expert content
      At left: Local bloggers @waynesutton and @gregoryng (a member too) enjoy the preview. See for one awesome resulting post.
    • 14.  
    • 15.  
    • 16. Our homepage got social t00…
    • 17. Meanwhile, I’ve turned my attention to Facebook, where our members are
      • I try to post 3-5 items per week, with at least one being a link to something that is *not us*
      • I try to post what people “like” – often photos
      • Increasingly, people are posting directly to our wall. This requires daily check-ins, because facebook does not send notification of posts, and you need to toggle to “+ others” to see them.
    • 18. Digital engagement doesn’t replace old ways of connecting, but it can enhance them…
    • 19. It’s not all sweet:
      • We’ve stopped using Yammer (internal IM system).
      • Some services will go away, or stop being free. Best not to invest too much time/effort in new platforms.
      • Some good projects languish due to competing priorities (Munch Cam was great, but Brad has other work to do).
      • Distributed efforts can be difficult to manage
      • There’s always more that we’d like to do, but don’t have time and/or staff to accomplish, so we have to continually re-evaluate efforts. Metrics are both concrete and fuzzy.
      • Even when staff are interested and motivated, there can be internal (fear/uncertainty) and external reasons that projects don’t take off. Revisiting is important.
      • We’re trying to do projects that add to our ability to do our jobs, and take advantage of our expertise. Of course, they need to be of interest to our audience too.
    • 20. So that’s the bite-sized overview of what we’ve done. Questions?
    • 21. Get more info: twitter @lifeandscience flickr user: ncmls Find us personally: @jeffreymstern and @10ch I’m also involved with Social Enterprise Network of the Triangle