Tag: social media

Are Museums Missing Out on Social Media?

National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C., USA

At the American Association of Museum meetings last month, multiple sessions made clear the growing use and importance of social media in museums’ day-to-day functioning and outreach efforts.  Many institutions are investing considerable resources in their social and virtual media presences.  My recent visit to Smithsonian Institution venues in Washington D.C. affirmed this direction.  For example, at the National Museum of American History website, one can spend hours blogging, interacting, and virtually roaming through collections not on exhibit in real-time.  The same is true of the National Museum of the American Indian’s website.

The internationally based New Media Consortium website contains Horizon Project reports on emerging technologies. One report is a 2010 shortlist for Museums that provides a good overview of potential of social media in museums along with case studies.

Museums increasingly rely on social media and other digital resources to deliver on their mission of public outreach and education.  The web abounds with evaluation tools including simple Facebook insights, Google analytics, and many more to assess the demographics and experiences of those who use the social media resources.

But are museums successful in actually reaching their intended audiences with social media tools?  A survey published by Museum Next provides some interesting data on this question.  I was particularly intrigued when looking at the results broken down by user age.  The table below draws on data from the Museum Next website.

Social Media Use Relative to Museum

Here is some of what stands out to me.  The breakdown by age of those individuals who use social media is not surprising, only confirming conventional wisdom: Young folks use social media a lot but older people do to.  The percentage of individuals who are actually fans, subscribe to, or “like” social media pages declines dramatically with increased age.  But here is where things get interesting.  A solid 70% or greater of all age categories report visiting museums or galleries, but only a small percentage of those people are aware of museums that have social media pages and even fewer follow those pages.  If all those individuals who

  • subscribe/like social media in general and also attend museums
  • were aware of museum specific social media pages
  • and subscribed at the same rate to museum social media pages as they do other social media pages
  • then the followers of museum social media pages would instantly increase by 400%.

I am not a statistician (nor do I play one on TV) and I realize that my assertion relies on a couple of assumptions, but the clear sign is that museums do not presently maximize the potential of social media for individuals who both now follow social media and visit museums.

We have a lot of work to do in connecting social media using visitors who come through our museum doors with the social media and virtual presence in which we are currently investing our resources.

How do you promote your social media resources to your visitors?

Evaluating Social Media and Museums

Along with a reported 5000 other individuals, this week I am attending the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Museums in Houston Texas.  The impact of social media in Outreach efforts is evident by the number of sessions devoted to the topic.

If the first session I attended on Sunday is any indication, then the Annual Meeting will prove well worth the 10-hour drive from the flooded Mississippi Delta at Memphis to the furnace of hot winds blowing in southeast Texas.  The session was We have 10,000 followers . . . Now What?  Evaluating Social Media’s Impact.  I suspect this title resonates with many folks in Museum and other nonprofit institutions.  For many, the aggressive Facebook or Twitter campaigns were launched, likes and followers signed on, and then came the “so what do we do now?”  Web tutorials on building social media platforms abound but there is considerably less discussion on the hows and whys of sustaining the presence.  The AAM session provided some great insights in filling this void.

The presenters were Elizabeth Bolander from the Cleveland Museum of Art,  Sarah Elizabeth Banks from the National Museum of Natural Hisotry (NMNH) at the Smithonian, Jay Geneske from Echo Green, and Ryan French from the Walker Art Center.

The discussion opened by challenging institutions to define their goals in using social media.  Too often museums only conceptualize social media as a seemingly cheap form of marketing to drive visitation to a museum or event.  Sarah Elizabeth Banks provided an alternative approach from the Smithsonian.  Social media at the NMNH is also viewed as a tool for engaging the public directly in research and then disseminating the research results.  For example, when NMNH scientists in Africa needed immediate assistance to identify  fish species.  They announced the project on Facebook, uploaded the images of the fish to Flickr, and via email sent out a call for participation.  As well, the Smithsonian blog reported the project that was also featured on the Smithsonian website. Ultimately the fish identification was a “Facebook Story of the Week for the NMNH.  With support from the virtual community the NMNH scientists completed the identifications in record time.  Instead of viewing social media as a marketing tool to drive visitation, the fish identification project demonstrated how a research project can be assisted through social media.

The session speakers all agreed that social media must flow from the museum’s mission.  As such, institutions need to incorporate social media into the forefront of activities and not as an afterthought.

The Walker Art Center uses YouTube videos to take visitors behind the scenes in exhibit construction.  The speakers also pointed to the power of memory when posting photographs to Flickr of past events and visitors.  Both the Walker Art Center and the Smithsonian actively invite the public to upload their photographs to these projects.

Speakers noted the tremendous resource drain social media can have on a staff.  For example, the Walker Art Center runs 10 separate Facebook pages, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter feeds and more.   Out of the 150 attending this AAM session only one individual’s job responsibilities were full-time in social media.  Most attendees performed social media tasks as an added assignment.  The speakers expressed considerable variation in how their institutions controlled social media output.  However, the need for radical trust was a theme in all the presentations.

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, over the past couple of years, we have thrown a lot of virtual spaghetti at the social media wall.  A good bit has stuck.  We, like many or most other institutions now must sit back and soberly assess the impact, and strategically plan our next steps.  My ultimate takeaway from the session is that social media is moving to the forefront of all that we do in Museums and Outreach.  We need to be fully engaged, intentional, and mission driven with this tool as we move forward.

How are you evaluating your social media experiences as you plan for the future?

FaceBook & Radical Trust

Mississippi River source, Lake Itasca, Minnesota

How do you respond to challenging posts on your Facebook (FB) page?  I had a couple of interesting discussions about this in the past week.  First, here is an exchange from our C.H. Nash Museum FB page on the current flooding of the Mississippi River in Memphis Tennessee where we are located:

FB Post:  Is Chucalissa going to flood?

Us: We certainly hope not! We are all keeping a very close eye on the surrounding areas and taking necessary precautions, just in case!

FB Post: what happened in 1937?

One day goes by and we do not respond . . .

FB Post: This too tough of a question?

Us:  We are still researching that question.

I get an email from the staff somewhat frantic feeling they must definitely respond to the question about the 1937 Flood. Instead, we post the following response:

Us:  We routinely receive flash flood warnings during heavy rains primarily from the areas leading up to the bluff on which Chucalissa is located. Don’t know about 1937 and a cursory Google search does not suggest a direct impact on this bluff top. Sounds like an interesting research question though. Have at it!

FB Post:  Oh well shows what I know – I thought Chuckalissa was in the flood plain as like a seasonal fishing camp – and that the other 2 villages located east of their were more permanent.

Here is my takeaway on this experience.  FB pages are meant as social media and that requires an engagement.  FB does not require us to have encyclopedic knowledge, but does require a dialogue.  “Fans” of our page who might have the required knowledge to answer the question.  Could that spark a bit of a research project on their part?  Turns out the person who posted the initial inquiry was in error about our actual location.  But my experience with FB is that the dialogue is key.

I had an interesting experience on the essential interactive nature of FB when we started our FB page a couple of years ago.  I once removed an individual’s post that I considered as somewhat inflammatory and controversial.  The individual then emailed me rather incensed about my action.  We had a brief backchannel discussion where we worked out the issue.  I regretted deleting the post, realizing I could have addressed the issue on-line.  Six months later the same person made a similar type of post.  We immediately responded online in a proactive and engaged way.  The individual has ceased such practices.  Ultimately, our experience shows that if there is accountability on both sides of the equation, the FB dialogue works.

Related, I was speaking to a friend from a large professional organization who lamented that all of their social media posts needed the Director’s approval.  Based solely on my experience at a small museum with a limited staff, to meaningfully take advantage of social media, I needed to give up the control.  Since doing so two years ago, I have cringed a couple of times at our staff posts, provided some corrective yet supportive and encouraging feedback to staff, but we continue to move forward in a good direction.  Importantly, I have learned a great deal about social media from my predominately 20-something staff.

There are many online resources that discuss these issues.  The Museums Social Media wiki has links to lots of social media policies, plans, and resources including those from the Smithsonian, Getty Museum, and National Public Radio.  From the Radical Trust website is a very cool article The Social Media Stage by Collin Douma that “is a practical guide for brand marketers who are just getting their feet wet in social media. With a focus on the community management realm, this paper is loaded with tools, best practices, response protocols, content filters, job descriptions, effort assessments, etc.”

Social media is messy.  Social media is not linear.  Social media is not a monologue.  But, social media is phenomenal tool for engagement, and outreach to a wide diversity of audiences.  And as our demographics below show, FB has certainly moved well beyond the original concept where you needed a college student ID to get in!

What is your experience with radical trust and FB?

Demographic of C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa FB page, May 2011

Social Media, Gaming & Engagement

A few weeks ago I attended the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Seattle.  I particularly enjoyed the session titled Exploring the Boundaries of Social Media.   One of the more interesting papers in the session was by Kelley Downey, Catherine Chmidling, Patricia Webster and Karol Ezell titled Applied Reciprocal Exchange in Farmville and ‘Ville Games: The Economics of “Good” Friends and Neighbors.  Karol Ezell presented the paper and discussed the Facebook (FB) applications in a way that I had never appreciated before.  Currently there are some 46 million registered monthly users of FarmVille.  I confess that I ‘hide’ FB friends who deal in FarmVille and are always looking for pink cows or whatever.  Karol put this game into a different perspective for me.  She explained how FarmVille can be used to teach anthropological concepts of balanced, negative, and moral reciprocity ala Malinowski’s discussion of the Trobriand Kula Ring.  That is how FarmVille operates.

Can the interactive model of FarmVille be used to explore trade and exchange in prehistory or other aspects of the archaeological material record?  There seems tremendous potential in this area.

The Alternative Reality Gaming Network provides a host of examples of how this direction could be taken in Archaeology and Museums.  Find the Future is an Alternative Reality Game of sorts that will be played at the New York Public Library later this month.  In an overnight session 500 individuals will conduct research and write a book on the subject using the resources available at the library, presumably via digital access.  The project was created by Jane McGonigal an evangelist for gaming as a tool for education and real world problem solving.  You can hang out at her website, read her new book, and spend a good bit of time getting enmeshed in the gaming for good info.

Here are the takeaways I get with from this discussion:

  • Whether FarmVille or Find the Future, an engaged and participatory experience is required for the game to work.  The process brings people together and in community.
  • The actual implementation of such games can be technologically straight forward.  I am not a computer programmer and although the technology of FarmVille is way over my head, I can conceptualize how to actually implement something like Find the Future.
  • This all comes down to a critical point – as Shirky notes in his book Cognitive Surplus, technology does not create the behavior, rather technology enables a better implementation of an existing behavior.  Therefore, as a starting point, can we conceptualize a FarmVille or Find the Future scenario within the tangible resources now in our museums?
  • I suspect that a critical point in so doing is to commit to a radical trust.  I tremendously value the experience I had some 15 years ago with the 5th grade school girl who was allowed to interpret the Poverty Point headless figurines on her own terms.  (I wonder if she remembers that experience as much as I do?).   If we don’t promote and validate engagement at this level, then all of the digital technology in the world will only produce the same old same old.

Oh and here is a bonus from the SfAA session – Karol Ezell reported the revealing comment of one of her students “I am not going to die alone.  I am going to be plugged in.”

How can our museums be truly plugged in?

Cognitive Surplus & Community Outreach

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky is one of those books I categorize as simply being good to think about. The essence of the text explores the impact of social media on our ability to share information and create knowledge.  The case studies in the book are wide-ranging and extend from the boycott of U.S. beef imports into Korea in 2008 to the microvolunteering that I posted about a couple of months ago.  The relevance to public outreach in museums and archaeology is considerable.  Shirky writes:

The atomization of social life in the twentieth century left us so far removed from participatory culture that when it came back, we needed the phrase “participatory culture” to describe it (p. 19).

But Shirky provides one of those key ‘aha’ moments in understanding a true participatory approach in Outreach when he notes that:

TV is unbalanced – if I own a TV station, and you own a television, I can speak to you, but you can’t speak to me. . . . Participation is inherent in the phone, and it’s the same for the computer.  When you buy a machine that lets you consume digital content, you also buy a machine to produce it (p. 22).

With this in mind, I was listening to a series of presentations last week at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings where the speakers described their outreach efforts in community cultural heritage projects by distributing videos through iTunes U and creating general information sources on web pages.  With Shirky in mind, I was struck how this approach is very linear and one-way and does not invite participation.  Information is put out for the consumer to take in, but not take part in.  Contrast the above dissemination strategy with publishing videos on Facebook where feedback is encouraged and the lifeblood of the media.  Alternatively, instead of posting video content to iTunes U consider the impact of posting outreach videos on YouTube with the considerably broader search and distributional capabilities.  Offhand, I don’t recall ever Googling for a term and being directed to an iTunes page.  Or, consider the difference in using a wiki page or blog for outreach efforts, again where interaction is the expected norm for the very creation of content in contrast to a uni-directional website.

In essence, we can use digital technology in the same way we use print technology – the professional disseminates to the lay person without a strong feedback loop.  However, we also can use digital media to effectively engage broad participation in outreach efforts.  Shirky makes comparable points in everything from restaurant reviews to medical information.  Here is where the discussion gets pretty interesting.  Shirky writes:

At every turn, skeptical observers have attacked the idea that pooling our cognitive surplus could work to create anything worthwhile, or suggested that if it does work, it is a kind of cheating, because sharing at a scale that competes with older institutions is somehow wrong.  Steve Ballmer of Microsoft denounced the shared production of software as communism.  Robert McHenry, a former editor in chief of Encyclopedia Britannica, likened Wikipedia to a public rest room.  Andrew Keen, author of the Cult of the Amateur, compared bloggers to monkeys.  These complaints, self-interested though they were, echo more broadly held beliefs.  Shared, unmanaged effort might be fine for picnics and bowling leagues, but serious work is done for money, by people who work in proper organizations, with managers directing their work (pp. 161-162).

Shirky provides pages of examples of how this thinking is just plain wrong and completely at odds with today’s reality on so many levels including the development of the Apache software that allows you to read this blog post.

Here is where some of this comes down for me.  I was out-of-town at a conference all last week.  I know that it is important for our Museum’s Facebook page to have regular posts. While on the road, I really don’t feel like doing posts from the hotel room.  Five other staff and students are administrators on the Museum Facebook account and can post updates, photos, and so forth.  I also know that when I am in town, their default is to default to me to post because I am the Director (read professional) at the Museum.  The staff can be quite intimidated about posting, fearing they will post something not quite right, or use none to real good grammar and reflect poorly on the Museum.  This condition exists despite my regular encouragement for them to post.  But last week they did post updates all week, and the updates were great, and actually got more “likes” than content I usually put up.  I am hopeful this process will continue (especially since they usually read this blog post).  But the student reluctance also is an indication to me of how ingrained the notion of lecture to and not being in dialogue with folks can be.

Shirky shows us that when folks are provided or take the opportunity to engage in using their combined cognitive surplus, outreach in institutions such as museums or in archaeology can move to the next level of engagement and sustainability.

Check out Shirky’s book.  If you already have, what are your thoughts on his discussion of cognitive surplus?

Museum Visitor Survey Says . . .

At the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa we recently sent out a simple 10 question survey to subscribers of our monthly e-newsletter – about 1500 total.  Our immediate goal was to get our visitors thoughts about the general direction of the museum over the past few years.  We also wanted to design a simple survey that could be taken in less than 5 minutes but also gave the opportunity for folks to provide greater detail if they chose to do so.  We wanted a survey that covered the scope of information we needed for the coming period.  That is, we did not want to send out this survey, followed by another in two months, followed by another . . .  and we committed to report the results of the survey and our response back to the subscribers.

We note numerous caveats on interpreting such surveys, but we are assuming the results will represent at least a trend in our visitors thinking about the museum.  So, with that in mind, we composed the survey, submitted the draft to sparked.com for feedback (I have posted before about this fantastic micro-volunteering website.), got some great feedback, and then distributed the survey to our subscriber list.  The results have begun to roll in.   Thus far 50% of our respondents visited the Museum in the last six months and 75% within the past two years.  Therefore, we know that the response was by active visitors to our museum.  Some of the results were very predictable but others are surprising  Here are a couple:

To the statement “I visit the C.H. Nash Museum to experience . . .” we were not at all surprised by those who noted prehistoric Native American cultures and archaeology as the reason for their visit.  We were surprised by the 55% who visit to experience our natural environment.  This result supports the strong response to our bat house installation posting on our Facebook page.   Coincidentally our staff recently discussed the need to pay greater attention to the “natural environment” part of our mission statement.

To the statement “Besides visiting the Museum please note the activities in which you have an interest . . .”  a solid 64% wanted more information made available via the internet.  This result confirms that components of the virtual museum are increasingly desired by even those individuals visiting museums in real-time.  A very surprising 42% of respondents wanted volunteer opportunities they could do from their homes.  Of note an identical 42% of responses wanted more volunteer experiences at the Museum.  Given the comparable requests and our very successful on site volunteer program, we are clearly missing an opportunity to involve more folks from their homes.  The desire to volunteer from home certainly confirms the thrust behind sparked.com and points to a visitor need we are not now meeting at Chucalissa.  Obvious at home volunteer activities might include digital scanning and data entry.

Without reviewing all the survey questions here, and though we expect doubling our responses over the next couple of weeks, we can interpret the initial survey results as:

  • the visitors who responded are pleased with the direction we are taking at the museum.
  • we need to balance our program emphasis more, especially to incorporate the natural environment
  • visitors want a greater digital presence and at home volunteer experience.

So, when all is said and done, we expect that this simple ten question survey will confirm that the general path we are going down at the museum is consistent with our mission and is also supported by our visitors.  At the same time, the survey raises several key points that we have missed along the way.  A great return for a limited effort on our part.

What surprises have you found in visitor surveys?

You, the Web & Wikipedia

This week’s blog post by Nina Simon on Museum 2.0 talks about museum’s posting information and content on Wikipedia, most often one of the first hits in any web search.  This brought to mind an important project we conducted at the C.H. Nash Museum in the summer of 2009.  We did a web search on the terms “Chucalissa” and “C.H. Nash Museum.”  Our purpose was to determine if the information on the internet about our institution was accurate.  Besides our own museum website, the top hits were from sites such as Trip Advisor, state travel sites, and other archaeological resource lists.  At the time, we did not have a Wikipedia page.  Over the past 20 years, our institution has radically revised programming and the overall visitor experience.  Our web search showed that for the most part, the internet information about our museum was grossly outdated.  Based in part on this outdated information, some visitors arrived expecting to see an exhibit or program that had not been offered in 15 years.  At the same time, our new exhibits and program offerings were not included in web search listings.

We addressed this problem by creating an electronic information packet with the following:

  • standard 50 and 100 word descriptive blurbs for our museum.
  • an updated information list such as hours, cost, contact information, website address.
  • a few images that most captured the current visitor experience.

Armed with this updated information:

  • We prepared a list of the top 100 site hits for the keywords “Chucalissa” and “C.H. Nash Museum” from our web search.
  • In order, we contacted the webmaster for sites with incorrect information and provided them with the updated electronic information packet.  This process was actually less difficult than we expected.  Several of the major sites took a couple of contacts before the updates were listed, but we were pleasantly surprised at the overall response to our requests.
  • We created a Wikipedia page.

As a result:

  • Upon completion of the project in 2009, the top twenty search engine hits for “Chucalissa” and the “C.H. Nash Museum” contained accurate information.  Only three sites contained accurate information before the project began.
  • The Wikipedia listing that we created is the first hit after our institutional and friends websites (both of which contain “Chucalissa” in the url).
  • We anticipated that because many of the smaller travel and info web sites simply copy content from the larger sites that our updates would eventually trickle down.

Eighteen months after the update project, a web search this morning found that seven of the top forty hits contained inaccurate information.  One is from a major site that never responded to our update request.  The other six are sites were not in our top 100 hits in 2009.  Although the situation is much improved from 2009, this morning’s web search points to the need to repeat the process on occasion.

In this mornings web search I also noted that our videos and images posted directly to YouTube and Flickr are now reflected in search engine hits.  If these videos and images lived only on our webpage they would not receive the additional web search visibility.  (This technique is also important in posting directly to Facebook pages and not just linking an offsite url for videos.  Here is a tutorial on tagging videos in Facebook.)

So, if an interested person does a web search of your institution, would the top hits they find provide the message you want them to receive?

Radical Trust and Visitor Engagement

Flowing from my last post, as museums or archaeologists, how do we stay engaged with our volunteers, visitors, and the community?  I have posted on this before, but the general subject keeps bubbling to the surface in my daily actions.  I keep coming back to a lunch last year where the Outreach Director for a state agency wondered “How do we know if these once a year Archaeology Days are successful and how do we keep those people involved after the event is over?”

In this post I want to talk about an “aha” moment I had on this. To start off, I truly believe that social media is not just a one-way street.  We cannot just use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube for cheap advertising.  Rather, these tools are excellent and designed for integration and interaction.  A buzzword over the past few years is radical trust.  There are many good discussions on this subject that explore the reciprocity and interaction of online hosts and users.

In the past few months, I heard from a couple different resources about this idea of micro-volunteering at a site called Sparked. The general concept is that lots of people have 15-20 minutes here and there where they could volunteer to help someone else online in mini-tasks or “challenges.”  If you visit the Sparked website, you can login as either a nonprofit or a micro-volunteer.  Keep this distinction in mind as you read on below because it’s the essence of the “aha” experience.

I registered at Sparked a few weeks ago.  I did not follow-up for the first few days, then I got a reminder email and decided to give it a shot.  I posted a copy of the last Chucalissa Anoachi e-newsletter and asked for a critique.  I got an absolutely fantastic response back from Tim S. with Charles and Ray Design.  I suspect his total time invested was less than 30 minutes but he gave a phenomenal critique, all of which got incorporated into our December newsletter.

After getting the response back from Tim, I realized I could not just let it go at that.  I made a decision that for every response I received to a “challenge” I posted, I would “micro-volunteer” and respond to another challenge.  In so doing, I would be giving back to the resource I was drawing from.  I have engaged with Sparked for a few weeks now.  I have posed “challenges” to have our Mission Statement translated into five different languages and have micro-volunteered to several challenges in need of copyedit and critique.

Here is where the “aha” moment comes in.  Last night I was logging onto the site and hesitated in whether I should consider myself as a nonprofit or a micro-volunteer.  I was invested on both sides of the equation.  I can now issue “challenges” on everything from fundraising ideas to design critique when I am in need of fresh insights on a Museum project.  In the same way, if I am in a doctor’s office or stuck at the airport waiting for a flight, or just have a few minutes at the end of the day, I can logon and engage.   Sparked is always there, the need is always there, and the opportunity to post a challenge is always there.  But most importantly, I have developed a stake in the community.

So, what does this have to do with staying engaged with our volunteers and visitors?  I have become a stakeholder in Sparked.  How do we engage our visitors and volunteers as true stakeholders in the cultural heritage of their towns, cities, and built environments?   I suspect that a first step is to go beyond Archaeology Days and one-off events and begin talking about radical trust and a consistent engagement.  And that goes back to volunteers and visitors as integral to our Mission.

Your thoughts?

The Networked Nonprofit

I previously posted about Beth Kanter’s blog and Allison Fine’s Social Good podcast.  Together, they just published The Networked Nonprofit, a volume that brings together the basics of their message on social media.

So, how is this relevant to Archaeology, Museums or Outreach?  A few thoughts.  First, archaeologists, somewhat begrudgingly in many instances, are coming to embrace the digital age.  A good bit of our internet presence is geared toward dissemination of information to other archaeologists.  For example, here in Tennessee, Kevin Smith maintains an excellent resource with the Tennessee Archaeology Network.  Of late, archeologists are starting to push info out to the public in a digital format.  For example, Panamerican Consultants recent Lamar Terrace webpage is an excellent resource written and designed with a general readership in mind.

Next, from  the Museum end, the digital presence is more firmly in place, largely due to the public orientation of the institutions.  Finally, the relevancy of the Outreach component to digital media is often perceived as a means for cheap product or event promotion and a resource to make money.  This perception is akin to my earlier post on the Myth of Volunteers as Free Labor.  Rather, as an outreach tool, social networking provides an opportunity to truly engage with audiences in new ways, build community, relationships, and carry a mission forward – all of which can produce increased revenues attendance, but it’s not free.  Oh . . . and all the above in combination – Archaeology, Museums & Outreach – pretty much operate in the nonprofit world.

So why is the Networked Nonprofit relevant?  In a short 200 pages (inclusive of notes, glossary, resources, and index) of highly accessible and well-illustrated discussion, Kanter and Fine lead readers through the process of conceptualizing an organization’s coming into the age of social networking.  From initially addressing the Luddite myths of this newfangled digital thing, such as “Our constituents aren’t on-line . . . Face-to-face isn’t important anymore . . . social media isn’t core to our work . . using social media is hard . . . and time-consuming (pp. 8-9)” the authors present a clear and concise discussion of social networking and building networked communities.  For example, in Chapter 5 – Listening, Engaging and Building Relationships – the authors walk the reader through the utility and process of becoming networked.  The last section of the book deals with the mechanics of functioning as a networked nonprofit.

The book contains lots of case studies and most chapters end with very useful reflection questions.  The 20 pages of end notes and resources is largely composed of on-line references.  The book is ideal for the beginner to social networking and also for those who have worked at this for a while in a piecemeal hit or miss fashion.  I consider myself in the latter camp and have simply decided that the potential of social networking is incredible and it’s time to really get serious about the process in a strategic long-term way.  The Networked Nonprofit is a tool to frame those discussions.

So, I come back to asking what has all this got to do with Archaeology, Museums and Outreach?  I am convinced that viewing our discipline’s institutions as networked nonprofits is important – and perhaps a considerably more than Kanter and Fine perceive as well.  True, their case studies tend to focus more on social issue organizations, charities, causes, and so forth.  However, the application to the nonprofit nature of Museums and the growth of public or applied archaeology/anthropology is quite relevant.  I suspect that other disciplines will use the The Networked Nonprofit as they build on-line networked communities and relationships.

You can review the first few chapters of The Networked Nonprofit online at amazon.com  – see if Kanter and Fine’s approach works for you.

Learning Through Webinars & Podcasts

This week I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from last September’s annual meeting of the American Association of State and Local History.  You can download the podcasts directly from the AASLH web page or through iTunes.  The podcast topics include Web 2.0 Technology and Social Media, Discovering Your Hidden Audience, Creating Diverse Partnerships, and so forth – about 20 in all.  The couple I listened to so far have, in one case been interesting – the Lincoln administration with some interesting comparisons with President Obama – and the other quite helpful in exploring how three different institutions use social media.  The social media podcast illustrates two ways I find this information tool useful.  First, the topical coverage is basic, in this case covering Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so forth.  Second, the podcasts include case studies that offer insights on how to adapt and apply these tools to my own needs.

Cuts in travel budgets make conference attendance more selective.  To answer this challenge,  more and more organizations reach their membership through inexpensive or free webinars and podcasts of Annual Meetings.  For example, in addition to the AASLH, for the past several years the Society for Applied Anthropology posted selected sessions from their annual meetings as free podcasts.  Will the Society for American Archaeology be not more than just a few years behind this trend?

Free webinars include those sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution such as their Problem Solving With Smithsonian Experts kicking off this week.  The American Association of Museum also offers low-cost webinars, free podcasts, along with free webinars that ultimately end up on YouTube.

All of which raises the obvious – with so much stuff out there, how does one choose?  Here is my take on this point.  Gordon Wiley was considered the last “generalist” in archaeology.  As a discipline, we clearly are quite specialized.  Two decades ago I wrote my MA Thesis on the analysis of flint artifacts from a single site.  I now serve on a committee of a doctoral student who is testing a very specific type of non-destructive spectral technique for fingerprinting flint raw materials.  Specialties are now sub-specialized.  I find that podcasts, webinars, and the like are excellent resources from which I can choose resource information to which I will devote more time.  For example, with social media, podcasts and blogs are very helpful in directing me to specific resources that answer specific questions.

How do these resources answer your research needs?

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