If there’s a museum that ever succeeded in exciting my curiosity since the very first time I set eyes on its Facebook page, that is the MUSE.
Brief introduction: MUSE is an acronym for the Science Museum of Trento, which opened on July 27th, 2013 and had over 240,000 visitors in 6 months, according to Artribune. The museum space is a work of art in itself, futuristic in its design by Renzo Piano and focused on the vital connection between nature, science and society. This architectural frame forces the traditional boundaries of science museums and opens them up to all that is linking nature to the world’s current situation – that is, to environmental impact and the urgency of planning a sustainable future.
At the same time natural history museum and science center, the MUSE was on-line long before its new venue was completed, but it is from that moment on that it has succeeded in building a fruitful dialogue with its public, making use of all the tools offered by the web on one side, and creating an innovative and dynamic way of experiencing the museum for its visitors on the other – something absolutely unparalleled in the Italian scenario. The museum is rich in immersive and hands-on experiences, multimedia exhibits, interactive games and experiments – which turned out to be tools for learning and engagement appreciated both by adults and children.
On the subject of opening up to digital technologies and mixing elements, don’t miss out on the MUSE Lab – “an on-line container for the most innovative experiences in the field of new participatory digital languages.” The Museum hosts a true Fablab: a lab for digital fabrication, equipped with 3D printers for everyone to use, from simple enthusiasts to non-profit associations and school groups.
The list of projects carried on by the MUSE is long, and it certainly deserves a look – especially by those interested in sustainability and scientific culture list of project, as well as in the Paleolithic, the forests of Mozambique or fashion in 2020. Maybe it is because it is a science museum we are talking about, but digital support, web and – often – social media always feature in the MUSE’s initiatives (see, e.g., the KiiCS Fashionable project.)
Today the MUSE will open the doors of its web communication department to #svegliamuseo thanks to Elisa Tessaro, Web and Social Media Referent, who has patiently and thoroughly answered my long questions. We hope that this interview will offer yet another chance to think over the use of social networks in an Italian museum. Enjoy!
1. How You Launch a Museum!
F. Personal experience: on July 19th, 2013 I was checking your Facebook page and noticed you already had 8,100 followers, that not even a week later had already reached 8,600. Over a few weeks, the page had grown at an incredible rate, especially considering how the museum had yet to open! What was your strategy to launch the Museum on-line? How important has the interaction with your public on Facebook been in order to reach that perfect level of engagement which led to a 100% successful opening?
E. Our core strategy over the months preceding the opening had been that of creating a landing page to cross over from the old to the new web-site. This page – through a variety of different actions – would unveil day by day ever-new details on the Museum’s new venue, its activities and the new outline it would have had starting July 27th.
Over the months separating us from the opening day, we tried to promote initiatives that would bring the attention to the date (July 27th) integrating our off-line communication to that on-line. E.g., we placed a container at the center of Piazza del Duomo in Trento for the duration of three months. One of the faces of this container hosted a sort of ‘Advent calendar of the MUSE’ – a real countdown board, flipped, day after day, with the help of the passers-by. At 6 p.m. every day a sound (of an animal, of nature, of some technological tool) would announce the unveiling of a piece in the calendar. The person who was able to guess the origin of the sound could flip the box and be a part of this moment of collective sharing, amplified on the Museum’s social media. Each participant was photographed and uploaded in a dedicated photo-gallery on Facebook, as well as on our Pinterest profile. It became an interesting viral phenomenon, with images continually shared and a constant attention to the countdown to July 27th.
2. On-line/Off-line Coordination
F. The MUSE’s Facebook page exists since 2009, but numbers weren’t very high. What has changed over the past few months?
E. The MUSE has changed, and people have felt it. Our most significant evolution took place after the opening. It is then that the numbers concerning interaction and engagement quadrupled, together with the range of the postings. The geographical provenance of our visitors changed and widened as well, with a peak of presences from the Triveneto and Lombard areas, and a significant increase of international users.
Fruitful results came from a media coverage actively achieved by our Press Office on a national level, and a promotion campaign carried forward both traditionally – that is, off-line – and on-line. Also important, our off-line channels never miss the opportunity to reference our web-site and our social platforms: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. Never to be forgotten is also the power of the word of mouth: a positive experience at the Museum can trigger a ‘domino effect’, the consequences of which have been particularly evident after the opening and certainly helped amplifying the Museum’s success.
3. Social Networks: Who, How, Why?
F. Today, the MUSE counts 19,684 followers on Facebook, and – judging from their level of interaction – they are all faithful patrons. On your web-site, you even have a dedicated page for your social platforms (‘Social Media – communicating the Third Millennium. Your opinion, your feedbacks and your participation matter: get involved in the Museum’s life through our social profiles’.)
Unfortunately, not many museums have enough economic resources or sufficient staff to implement or optimize their social media – some technical data might help to clarify ideas. How many people are in charge of the MUSE’s social platforms? What educational and career background is requested?
E. We have two people actively working on our socials – one employed full-time in developing the communication strategies for each of our platforms; one occupied part-time in researching the more purely scientific contents to be shared on the Museum’s Facebook profile. This person is also in charge of updating content in the ‘Research’ section of our web-site.
Our full-time employee has a degree in Communication, and a series of different experiences in the field of museum communication in her pocket. Our Social Media Content Provider was trained as a naturalist. Our goal, in any case, is that of encouraging content-sharing coming from the Museum’s different Departments.
4. Different Platforms, Different Uses
F. More on Social Media: it would be interesting to know your strategies. That is, how do you organize the publication of your contents? Do you have any (weekly? monthly?) editorial plan, or do you rather improvise? Do you differentiate the use for each platform, and if yes, why?
E. At the moment, we follow a monthly scheduling for the publication of events and museum activities, while as for the publication of scientific contents we keep an eye on the agenda of the mainstream media dealing with these issues in order to be synchronized as much as possible with our surroundings.
Our Museum is trying to shape its profile in the field of on-line communication as accurately as possible. In 2014 we plan on intensifying our activity on social platforms in order to achieve a better, stronger coordination between off- and on-line communication. Our strategy will be to create an accurate planning for each tool, and a dynamic scheduling to exploit all of our activities, events and initiatives. Monthly Department meetings will have the function of awakening awareness in our staff towards a more active and informed use of these tools.
- Facebook is an extension of our web-site, our most democratic arena, open and immediate, a place for discussions and confrontations, where one can get updates on the Museum’s activities.
- Twitter is the tool through which we dialogue with our public on the occasion of specific events: press conferences, meetings, debates, and other targeted activities.
- Pinterest wants to be a dynamic gallery for visual contents, capable of representing the museum in always new and unconventional ways.
- On Instagram we let emotions flow and focus on ‘capturing the moment’, putting ourselves in the shoes of one of our visitors walking through the Museum’s time and spaces with a fresh and interested look.
- YouTube is our source of video-contents, and a resource we certainly plan on expanding, along with image-content.
5. Key Word for 2014
F. What shall we expect from the MUSE in 2014?
E. Our goal for this coming year is to strengthen our presence on the various social platforms by paying more attention to the contents and developing the specific possibilities offered by each tool. At the same time we would like to develop innovative strategies and involve our public in the co-creation of contents – our main focus will be finding ad hoc research projects that could be developed towards this aim. We plan on using live chats and dedicated hashtags on Twitter to accompany off-line events. Our key word will be ‘integrated communication’ on social media; constant attention to multimedia contents and the potentiality of images and video-making; marketing ‘guerrilla’ and development of viral projects.
As of going down new roads, we keep all our senses fully awaken, but as for now we prefer to focus on building a strong web-reputation for our Museum by paying attention to the material we publish and by offering a truthful service to our visitors. On-line tools must be, first of all, a useful resource to guide the on-site visit, where one can find extra information, become familiar with the Museum’s topics and deepen his/her knowledge on specific themes learned in-gallery – they are a ‘plus’ to the visit, which always remains the main focus of all of our efforts.
Translation by @RoryInLA