Brilliant blog posts for your museum!

The fifth in our social media series from Louise Winters:

The first question is: To blog or not to blog?

Blogging is a little different from most other social media as it involves writing much longer pieces than Facebook posts or Tweets. You need to be happy writing a complete article (100-500 words is a good length) and repeating this at least once every few weeks.

It is also different in the way people find blog articles. People find blog articles either by searching the internet for specific words or by clicking on a web link to your post shared by either your own social media or another social media user who likes your post. They may also subscribe by email and get updates emailed to them.

Get writing: Why is blogging a good idea?

Are you interested in creating a blog for your museum? Blogging can be a great way to tell more of the stories about your collections, your staff and your museum and it allows you to write more than you can on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter. You could, for example, write an in depth history of a collection or a specific object. You could also write a series of blog posts giving updates on an ongoing project. A blog is also a good place to share information about events or competitions you want to run to encourage visitors to your museum.

Here is how a blog works to interest people about your museum. People may find your blog articles when they do a Google search for some unusual keywords that are used in your post. Or they’ll find your blog by spotting a web link in a tweet or Facebook post. When they click on the link to your blog they’ll be taken to your museum’s website, will read the blog and may look at other pages on the website. Hopefully this will make them realise they’d like to visit your museum.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are writing a blog post for your museum:

Keep it to the point and friendly

Before you start writing decide what the main point or message of your blog post is. This will help you stick to one point and give a clear message. Decide what you want your reader to remember. Do you want to let people know about an event on at your museum and encourage them to attend? Do you want to let people know about progress on a fundraising or restoration campaign? Do you want to tell them all about a particular object and why it is interesting?

Also think about how you describe whatever you want to talk about. Are you using words people who’ve never come to the museum before or people who don’t already know about your collections will understand? Often keeping the writing style friendly and not too formal or academic will mean more people will read your blog post.

Structure it

If you’re used to writing then you probably have developed your own style you’re comfortable with. If you’re not so familiar with writing or even just with writing for a varied audience it is useful to plan and structure your blog post before you start.

Sub headings help your reader quickly scan the post and decide if they’re interested enough to spend 3-5 minutes reading and writing out 2 or 3 sub headings before you start will organise your thoughts and give the reader an overview.

Think up an interesting title

Also think of an interesting title and tell your reader what you’re writing about and why it is relevant to them in the first line. Don’t make them work to figure it out, make it easy for them instead.

Read this article from the Museum of London. The first line tells you why it is interesting; it also has a good title and structure created by the sub headings: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/roman-rubbish-reveals-lost-londinium?_ga=2.238284096.1985627806.1493748025-1324111825.1491386556

Include photos

If you’re writing about an event, a collection object, your staff or volunteers then make sure you get some photos to include. In fact, a relatively easy way to ‘write’ a blog post is to choose 5 or more good photos that are related or on a relevant subject and write a short bit of text for each. The photographs structure and tell the outline of the story for you, so all you have to do is describe each photo and come up with an interesting title.

This blog from the Braintree District Museum includes a photograph that connects us to a wonderful story http://www.braintreemuseum.co.uk/the-journey-of-a-wedding-dress/

Share it on social media!

When you start blogging no one else will see what you write unless you share it somehow. It’s unlikely many people will be searching for what you write about and you won’t be listed highly in internet searches unless you pay for Google advertising. No one will know about your blog yet to subscribe to email updates. So the best way is to share your posts using social media. You could use your own personal social media account, but it’s better to share using the museum’s Twitter or Facebook account. So blogging isn’t a great option if you don’t intend to use social media for the museum.

It helps if you think a little bit about how someone will find your blog articles and what they’ll then do if they read one. Will they visit the rest of your website to find out about your wonderful collections, opening hours and how much it will cost to visit? You can link to other useful pages in your blog post to make it easy. People may also decide to follow your museum on Facebook or Twitter because they liked reading a blog post, meaning they’re more likely to see more of your social media and blog content.

It all works like an eco-system, where everything supports the other parts of the network and helps people to find out if they want to come to the museum.

SM_ecosystem

 

What can you tell us about how people find your museum and what persuades them to visit? We know it isn’t only social media, blogs and websites. Have you used digital and other methods together to tell people more about your museum? Let us know in the comments below.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

 

 

Museums Association Conference: Bursaries for First-Time Attendees

Essex Museum Development

Debating modern ethics Debating modern ethics at the Museums Association Conference, 2014

**STOP PRESS** – DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MIDNIGHT, FRIDAY 7TH JULY

I am able to offer two bursaries for first-time attendees to this November’s Museums Association Conference. The three-day annual MA Conference is the biggest gathering of museum staff and volunteers in the country and is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the work other organisations are doing, discuss issues affecting the sector and meet colleagues from around the country (and the world!).

Alongside the Conference is a “Marketplace” where you can meet suppliers of museum services and equipment. There are also usually fringe events such as tweet-ups, networking dinners and “unconference” break-out sessions.

Each bursary is targeted at a different area of the workforce:

  • Established professional

Those who have been in paid employment in the sector for more than 7 years (i.e. who began work before November 2010). This could…

View original post 146 more words

Terrific Tweeting for your Museum

The fourth in our social media series from Louise Winters:

Not everyone likes Twitter and something you hear people say about it is “I use Facebook and that makes sense, but I can’t get into Twitter.” So why worry about it for your museum?

The answer is that lots of people do use Twitter and the fact that it is different to Facebook is actually an advantage. Different social media platforms are better for different people and for saying slightly different things. So writing a Twitter post is not the same as writing a Facebook post.

Social Media explained with donuts

https://twitter.com/Dom_Aighton/status/850804949059547136

Get writing: What is normal on Twitter and what isn’t?

Twitter, like all other social media is much more informal than a press release, newspaper article or even sending an email to a mailing list.

The main unique point about Twitter is you have only 140 characters* to use to get your message across. It was originally designed around the SMS (mobile phone text message) character limit so users are required to post short and (hopefully!) highly informative messages.

Another difference in Twitter is that Facebook strongly encourages users to sign up using their real name and only allow people they know to follow them, but Twitter doesn’t require this. On Twitter most users have all their tweets publicly available and posting messages to people you don’t know, who may be using a pseudonym, is normal.

The three things to keep in mind when creating a post for Twitter, in order of importance: be SHORT, be INFORMATIVE and also be CHATTY

1/ SHORT

  • Twitter won’t post a message longer than 140 characters. Twitter deducts some characters when you share a URL or a photo, so remember to factor that in.
  • Decide on one point you want to make and focus on that or you’ll either run out of characters or your tweet will be muddled.
  • Do use some abbreviations, but make sure your tweet is still easy to read if someone is skim reading.
  • Do include a relevant photo: they’re more eye-catching and can express more than words.

https://twitter.com/museumbraintree/status/852446466434097152

2/ INFORMATIVE

  • Many Twitter users are interested in getting information or learning things, unlike Facebook where the focus is on catching up with family or friends.
  • Do share interesting facts & infographics if relevant to your museum, details of museum events, relevant quotes, even comments from visitors on your objects.
  • Do share articles or blog posts from other websites that you think are relevant to the stories your museum curates or the kinds of people / histories your museum is about.
  • If you share an article or blog: take one key point from the article that is most relevant to your museum and summarise it in your tweet, alongside the link to the article.
  • Users often search Twitter for specific things and you can use a hashtag (#) in your tweets to mark out words people may search for. E.g. #Essex #museums #daysout

https://twitter.com/museumbraintree/status/852513012497960960

https://twitter.com/epolicemuseum/status/827566057137270785

3/ CHATTY & MEMORABLE

  • Despite the short messages, Twitter is very much about conversation and being chatty. Use interesting words and photos to encourage other users to retweet your content.
  • ‘Talk’ to other users by using the @ sign. If you type @+[username] the other user gets a notification and they might reply.
  • Do reply if you get messages on Twitter (and any social media). Potential visitors will be more interested in your museum if they feel someone is listening to them. Remember normal replies will be public and visible to all.
  • Using photographs and gentle humour is a good way to be memorable. See the tweet below that Brighton Toy Museum retweeted: “Bad-ass Bottle Baby” is a funny way to summarise the picture.

https://twitter.com/oldpicsarchive/status/855771554554294273 (retweeted by Brighton Toy Museum)

https://twitter.com/ScienceAliveUK/status/773840370530648064

https://twitter.com/SouthendMuseums/status/854601759356047360

Keep writing: Things to avoid doing

Social media should be fun and informal, but there are a few bits of etiquette to keep in mind when using Twitter:

  • Posting 3-5 times a day is a good amount. If you can’t post that much then it is still worth doing, but as the updates are only short it is good to post several a day.
  • Don’t share information that is private or shouldn’t be in the public domain.
  • Think carefully about what you post and ensure it isn’t offensive and remember that something you consider funny may be seen as an insult by others.
  • Twitter posts are easily open to misinterpretation because they have to be so short, so bear this in mind when writing. Be ready to clarify if anyone posts questions in reply and keep things calm.

Do you have any question about Twitter or how to use it that aren’t answered by this blog post? There are a lot of things to cover and there isn’t space for all of them here. Please post questions in the comments below, equally if you have some good tips of your own please share them.

*For anyone that knows the SMS character limit was originally 160 characters you may wonder about the other 20. Twitter originally left space to add a unique user name to each tweet so you could direct your comments to a specific user. The reply functionality has since changed, but the character limit remains.

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/ 

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

 

How to Write a Post for Facebook

The third in our social media series from Louise Winters:

Fabulous Facebook posts for your museum

Whether you have a personal Facebook account or not, it can be a bit daunting to start writing posts for your museum’s Facebook page. If you do already use Facebook at least you have an idea how it works and what kind of things other organisations post. Even so, it is a different thing to be posting on behalf of an organisation instead of just for yourself.

If you don’t normally use Facebook then the whole thing may seem really difficult. If you’re in this situation, try asking a friend or neighbour who does use Facebook to show you how it works before you sit down to write your first post.

Get writing: What is normal on Facebook and what isn’t?

One of the really nice things about Facebook (and all other social media) is that it can be fun and informal. It isn’t like a press release or a newspaper article. Social media is for short, friendly, eye-catching updates that let you get to know what someone or an organisation is REALLY like. The other brilliant thing about social media is that your followers can talk back by leaving comments. This is great: you should encourage people to reply to your posts and always reply to any comments and messages you get from followers.

Here are the three things, in order of importance, to keep in mind when creating a post for Facebook:  be FRIENDLY, make it CATCHY and keep it SHORT.

1/ FRIENDLY
• Your post should be friendly and talk to people as if you know them. Your aim is to make them feel welcome before they’ve even set foot in your museum.
• You don’t have to be formal and start with ‘Dear all’ or ‘Dear Visitors’ as you might in a letter or email.
• Do use ‘We’ when writing posts instead of I. You are writing on behalf of the museum, which is a collection of people so ‘we’ is better
• Write about things that are ‘behind the scenes’ or that show there are real people at the museum e.g. exhibition set up, birthday cake for a colleague or views you enjoy.

Lovely sunny spring post by Chelmsford museum:

http://bit.ly/2qRqPcW

• Ask questions to encourage a conversation – don’t be disheartened if no one replies at first. It can take a while, but keep asking. E.g. “We really enjoyed today’s event, what was your favourite bit?”
• Say thank you to people. For example: thank you for coming to an event, for helping to raise money, for volunteering at the museum or for replying to your posts.

Here are 2 examples that show the friendly side of museums:
https://www.facebook.com/chelmsfordmuseums/photos/a.440481002658800.99515.104334979606739/1657203684319853/?type=3&theater
https://www.facebook.com/museumbraintree/photos/a.404737529547592.86988.202985223056158/1468412493180085/?type=3&theater

2/ CATCHY
• Use interesting and eye catching words that really tell a story about whatever you’re trying to write about. “Beautiful glass vase” is more interesting than “Nice vase”.
• Use easy to understand words as you don’t know who will be reading your posts.
• Include photographs or videos as they catch people’s attention more than words alone. Be careful to credit the author if you use someone else’s video or photograph.
• You can also try searching for gifs (animated pictures) and emoji to brighten up your post.
• If you link to an article or blog post online Facebook will usually show the article title in the weblink preview so you can focus on giving new / extra information.
Examples showing museums being catchy by using descriptive words (“fantastic”, “sister, wife, lover, mother”) and photos:
https://www.facebook.com/museumbraintree/photos/a.404737529547592.86988.202985223056158/1473422179345783/
https://www.facebook.com/southendmuseums/posts/1864464276912550

3/ SHORT
• Get the most interesting bit in the first line. Don’t build up to it because Facebook often only shows a few lines with an option to click to see the rest.
• People skim through their Facebook feed quickly so make sure you’re friendly, but to the point. Ideally don’t write more than 4 lines.
• Including a photo, a gif or a video is a good way to convey an idea immediately. Make sure the photo, gif or video is relevant.
• If you find you often want to write long posts, consider writing blog posts to go up on your museum’s website and then sharing a link with a photo and a 1 line introduction or summary on the Facebook page.

Good examples of short, to the point posts with great photos and a photographer credit where necessary:
https://www.facebook.com/epolicemuseum/photos/a.111531825582471.12468.107798892622431/1239553546113621/?type=3&theater
https://www.facebook.com/TelegraphMuseumPorthcurno/photos/a.222240081120101.67350.187033977974045/1455608367783260/?type=3&theater

Keep writing –  Things to avoid doing:

Hopefully the tips and examples above will help you get started or increase your confidence when writing Facebook posts. Social media is informal and mostly very forgiving of the odd mistake, however there are a few things to think about to avoid causing offence and making your museum look bad:
• Don’t let people forget about you. Posting 1-2 times a day is a good amount. If you can’t post that much then a minimum of 2-3 times per week is good to aim for.
• Don’t use someone else’s intellectual property without their permission and without crediting them, especially photographs.
• Be wary of posting photographs of children without parental consent, even if you took them.
• Don’t share information that is private or shouldn’t be in the public domain.
• Think carefully about what you post and ensure it isn’t offensive and remember that something you consider funny may be seen as an insult by others.

Now you’re armed with some simple tips for how to write a great Facebook post: Good luck! Do you have any tips of your own to share or any posts where you got a really good response? Please share them in the comments below.

 

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

 

Use Social Media to be a Part of the Local Community

The second in our social media series from Louise Winters:

It’s really easy to think of social media as something you do to tell everyone about your museum. Social media is also a way for people to talk to you, tell you what they’re interested in, ask questions about your museum or the work you do.

The fact that it can be a two way conversation way makes social media very different from traditional PR and it’s a much more approachable way to reach out to potential visitors. Through social media, your visitors are much more likely to see you and other volunteers / staff as people like them.  Listening to what other people say or post is an important as what you say or post.

giphy

What does community mean to you?

Why do you work at the museum? Do you volunteer your time or you work at the museum because you’re interested in the history of the objects, people and organisations your museum is working hard to preserve and share? Are you interested in the local area and the local people and maybe you like seeing children enjoy the museum? What other things motivate you?

 

Lots of people who like doughnuts

Answering these questions about you and your colleagues can help you figure out who / what is part of the community of your museum. And these are people and organisations who may want to talk to you on social media. Some examples:

  • Staff & volunteers
  • Visitors or supporters you
  • Charitable organisations your museum or colleagues support
  • Local schools
  • Organisations or local businesses whose work & stories your museum documents or links to
  • People or organisations who’ve donated to your museum, sponsored events or added to its collection

They’re all part of your community and you can use social media to follow as many of them as you can find on there. Once you have your own social media channel set up (it could be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – it doesn’t matter which):

  1. Write down a list of people & organisations for your museum by using the list above
  2. Look to see if they use social media and follow them if they do. If they don’t you can try to find a website for any organisations.
  3. ‘Like’ any social media posts they make that you think are interesting, especially if it has an obvious relevance to your museum
  4. Re-share interesting posts from those you followed (this is retweeting their posts on Twitter or Sharing their posts on Facebook)
  5. Post positive replies on their posts (e.g. “We love your photos” or “Good luck to everyone involved in the event”)
  6. Take photographs if you visit another interesting organisation and share on your social media account with, tagging it with their social media name.
  7. Share the link to blog posts written by other organisations or people , if you think they’re interesting or relevant to your museum.

Interact

Why should I spend time talking about what someone else is doing?

The great thing is while you’re talking about someone else who is important in your community you’re also promoting your museum. Because social media is public potential visitors (and many other people) will see you talking about other organisations they like. They may never have heard of your museum before and you may not know they’re out there, but this will give them a reason to notice you and maybe come into your museum.

Those you talk to and promote on social media are also more likely to follow your social media and then share your posts, so your posts will then be seen by more people. It works in the same way you make friends: if people realise that you and they have something in common, they’ll take more of an interest in what you do and what you’re interested in.

And so your social media community begins to grow … and grow … and soon it will take over the world. Mwuahahahahaha! Ah, sorry, I mean it will help you find more visitors and help more people appreciate the excellent and hard work that goes into running your museum 😉  Almost as good as taking over the world, isn’t it?

Do you have any suggestions on how to be a part of the local community using social media? We’d love to hear them and they may be really helpful to other museums so please share them in the comments below.

 

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/ 

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

INTO Museums: Why Use Social Media?

Welcome to the first of a series of posts by social media expert, Louise Winters.

Louise is endlessly fascinated by people and their stories and loves seeing and helping people using social media to share things they care about. Her experience includes working in a social media agency with corporate clients across Europe, but now much prefers working with the public sector and small businesses as they’re a lot more friendly! She now manages social media and blogs for various clients, as well as offering training to get other started.

 

Why do you want to use social media for your museum? It can seem like a distraction from the core job of running the museum every day, especially if you’re not sure how to use it or why it is useful.

The main reason to use social media is to bring people into your museum. It is great because you don’t need an advertising budget to use it, just some time to set it up and post updates regularly. By posting on social media or writing blogs you give people who wouldn’t normally come to your museum a chance to find out about you without even having to leave their homes.

If you consider their point of view, why would someone decide to visit your museum? What would interest them and what might stop them from realising how much they’d enjoy it? The answers to those questions will be different for different types of people (for example, parents with small children, teachers who want to inspire their students, older people who’re interested in local history). Because you post small bits of information often, you can use social media to share things that are interesting to these different groups of people. Once they know your museum is interesting to them, they’re more likely to want to visit.

I don’t know that much about social media – can I really help?

Yes! You can! You know all about the museum: why the collections are valuable, how important it is to preserve the stories the museum and its collections tell for future generations and what people will find fascinating, educational or fun. No one will know about your museum if you don’t tell them and social media potentially allows you to share your enthusiasm with so many people!

So your main reason for using social media is to share the enthusiasm and passion of people already ‘into’ museums (like you) to get other people to realise they’re ‘into’ your museum. Once they understand why it matters to them they’ve got a reason to physically get into your museum.

Image for blog 1

Who do you want to talk to?

As well as knowing why you’re using social media, you also want to know who you most want to talk to using it. This will help you write your posts with relevant groups of people in mind. It is fine to write one post aimed at parents and the next one aimed at older people who live locally. Here’s a simple exercise to help you figure out which kinds of visitors you’re most interested in appealing to and what will attract their attention.

1/ Which age group visits your museum most?

  • Write this down and think about what would be interesting to that age group (for children also consider what will interest their parents)
  • Which age group do you wish would visit the museum more?

2/ What do you think visitors enjoy about your museum?

  • What types / ages of people enjoy each thing?
  • How can you demonstrate to a person in one of these groups that they’ll probably enjoy it too?

3/ What do your colleagues like best about your museum?

  • Write this down for all your colleagues and think about the type of person or age group your different colleagues represent.
  • How can you share your colleagues’ enthusiasm with new people?

4/ How are your museum’s collections relevant to the everyday lives of people who live nearby?

  • What kinds of things are most relevant to different types of people?
  • How can you share and show that to people who have never visited the museum?

5nr/ For the different types of people you’ve identified above:

  • What might put them off visiting the museum? Can you change this? If yes, how and how can you tell them about it?

If you need a head start on thinking about different age groups or types of people here’s a list: Primary school age children, Secondary school age children, Parents who live locally, Further / Higher Education students, Young adults from the area, Tourists, Older people who live locally

Tell stories about your museum to specific types of people

I guarantee you won’t have answers to all those questions. That is absolutely fine! Whatever you’ve written down will be useful. Social media works best when you have an idea who you’re trying to talk to for 2 reasons (i) you can focus different posts on different types of people with different interests (ii) it gives you some inspiration for social media posts by thinking about what previous visitors or colleagues enjoy about the museum.

The things you’re enthusiastic about are a good indication of what other people will get enthusiastic about. Think about it from the perspective of a few different types of people and you’ve got a great start on stories to share that will make people want to come see what your museum is all about!

 

Please do get in touch, I love saying hello:

On Twitter: @pinkyandnobrain

By Email: me@louisewinters.com

On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/louisewinters/ 

My website: http://louisewinters.com/

Farewell For Now

Today is my last day as Museum Development Officer for Essex… Until I return from maternity leave in November.

 

In the meantime, I’m leaving you in very capable hands. Eleanor Root is joining Essex County Council as my maternity cover on secondment from Colchester and Ipswich Museums.

 

In addition to leading on projects like Snapping the Stiletto, Eleanor will be your main contact for all things museumy in Essex, will continue to send out the e-newsletter and keep this website up-to-date. She’ll also be taking over the @EssexMDO Twitter account (although if you spot any tweets with AC at the end, it’s because I couldn’t quite give up my social media addiction).

 

Coming up over the next few months, the Stiletto project will be getting underway, there’s an opportunity to get involved in a new volunteering project and from next week we’ll be hosting a series of weekly blog posts from social media expert Louise Winters on how museums of any size can make the most of these free platforms.

 

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch over the last few weeks to wish me luck, and for all your support over the past three and a half years.

 

See you all again in the Autumn.

 

Amy Cotterill.