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#ArtAtoZ: Serial Social Media at the National Gallery of Art


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A case study talk given at MCN 2015.

In this case study I will discuss the National Gallery of Art's innovative approach to developing serial content for social media as illustrated through the #ArtAtoZ initiative.

Every two weeks, the Gallery explores a new topic in art (i.e., asymmetry, brushstroke, color, and drawing) across multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest). This focus on broad topics allows the Gallery to leverage its extensive permanent collections as well as draw upon a diverse array of staff expertise including curatorial, education, archives, conservation, and horticulture. The “A to Z” concept also affords museum staff the ability to plan up to a year ahead, as the set of 26 topics is set at the beginning of the year. The added benefit of this structure is the ability to collaborate with other institutions and build momentum over time. From the perspective of the social media user, one is invited to dig deeply into a given topic over the course of two weeks rather than receive seemingly random bits of information each day.

Social media followers are encouraged to engage with the broad theme in myriad ways included guided looking, guessing games, and challenges to respond creatively. I will share findings from ongoing evaluation of the initiative, including what we’ve learned about optimizing content in order to generate the most conversation, sharing, and other engagement.

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#ArtAtoZ: Serial Social Media at the National Gallery of Art

  1. 1. #ArtAtoZ Serial Social Media at the National Gallery of Art
  2. 2.
  3. 3. Caveat My tenure at @ngadc ended in May 2015. Talk to the fabulous @MeaganEstep!
  4. 4. Before #ArtAtoZ
  5. 5. It’s so and so’s birthday!
  6. 6. Come to this exhibit and see this painting! Hurry!
  7. 7. Do you like trees? It’s #ArborDay!
  8. 8. Here’s a seemingly random link to a video from a month-old event on 19th century photography!
  9. 9. It’s #womenshistorymonth! We have women. Binders full of women!
  10. 10. There had to be a better way
  11. 11. Storytelling What if we could dive more deeply into an idea or topic? Could we serialize social media posts to build interest, deepen knowledge, take people on a journey? 2 weeks
  12. 12. Gimme structure 1 topic 2 weeks each 1 whole year 1. Asymmetry 2. Brushstroke 3. Color 4. Drawing 5. Expression 6. Frames 7. GirlReading 8. Hands 9. Interior 10.Jewelry 11.Kings 12.Leonardo 13.Modernism 14.Night 15.OpticalIllusion 16.Portraits 17.Questions 18.Rothko 19.Streets 20.TrompeLOeil 21.Underdrawing 22.Vanitas 23.WEATHER! 24.Xray 25.Youth 26.Zoom x =
  13. 13. Proactive editorial planning All 26 topics set at the beginning of the year Gave staff (including Social Media Collaborative) time to plan, research, write, and work together (in theory) Potential to build momentum, collaborate with other institutions
  14. 14. Goal: Enable social learning
  15. 15. Modeling educational approaches on social media visual thinking strategies inquiry-based learner-centered Did I mention that social media is housed in the education department at @ngadc?
  16. 16. Evidence of Engagement conversation answers observations from close looking discussion further inquiry sharing tagging friends retweets/shares/reposts creative response
  17. 17. What worked well Variety of content formats for fans to engage with
  18. 18. Word association Break the ice and garner insights to incorporate into later posts in the series
  19. 19. Definitions Designed to baseline a shared understanding of the topic
  20. 20. Detail/Reveal Guessing games
  21. 21. Title / Caption Challenges
  22. 22. Instagram challenges
  23. 23. #SeeingRedChat
  24. 24. #ngatakeover
  25. 25. #ngatakeover
  26. 26. Instameets/Tweetups
  27. 27. Recap & Reflection Look for evidence of close looking, learning, surprise, joy
  28. 28. What is serializising social media? Going long Longer time span NOT longer content We could punctuate information delivery with shorter posts, calls to act/respond We could learn as we go, adjusting content types and delivery to match what audiences want
  29. 29. #GirlReading conservation mystery revealed
  30. 30. A series means you can look forward to next episode
  31. 31. A really good series means it is part of your life
  32. 32. BUT writing for social media is hard It’s not a label Staff need training Hands-on experience helps So does 1:1 coaching Too much content? Needs to be seen as a priority and not “extra”
  33. 33. What didn’t work so well for our followers Broad topics ( #Streets, #Portraits) generated a lot of engagement; more specific topics like #Underdrawing didn’t do as well Sometimes too much of one thing (e.g., #Rothko, #GirlReading) felt like overkill It’s hard to write prompts that people will respond to. It is easier to write “labels.” Some Instagram challenges really fell
  34. 34. Obligatory Facebook & Twitter data
  35. 35. “Engagement” Streets play an important role in art as artists depict the world and people around them. What type of street do you live on? Work on? Travel on every day? Share an image of a street that’s meaningful to you. What does your image represent?
  36. 36. THIS.
  37. 37.