Good practice wants the public to be central to any digital planning strategy of a museum. At the same time, active listening is a useful tool to identify expectations and interests.
Sometimes, to plan, organize and disseminate content by a museum that manages only one account on any social network can be challenging. What happens when communication is done by many voices and channels? And what to do when there is not a physical collection, but rather conferences, meetings, courses, or – yet – programs of film, literature and music to narrate the museum?This is what we wondered analyzing the digital presence of the CCCB, il Centro di Cultura Contemporanea di Barcellona: its “collection”, in fact, consists of pure digital material, documented and archived during the course of its 20 years. Just to give you some numbers: 1,477 videos on Vimeo (since July 2011), 6,900 images on Flickr (since November 2008) and 30 activities (only in 2014) transmitted via streaming, which were followed by more than 6,000 spectators. In addition, the Center has 8 Twitter accounts and 5 Facebook pages, manages 6 digital platforms, 5 projects online and a television program in collaboration with TVE (Soy Cámara).
Seen in this all together, these numbers may look like an obstacle in the achievement of common objectives, especially in terms of consistency of public. Eva Rexach, community manager of @cececebe and @Kosmopolis does not agree. Numbers as such can be considered as the multiple voices of a story: it is a strategy that is based on the idea that segmenting the audience means offering specific content and quality, and thus ensuring effective interaction with all types of users.
Digital planning is crucial, along with an organization of people that makes this possible. A multidisciplinary and flexible team that is responsible for its own public and take care of the specific areas of interest. These are some of the essential elements for any cultural center, as the CCCB has among its objectives “to understand, explain and transform the present. Create bridges and shared spaces.”
Many channels, coordinated action
D: 8 Twitter profiles and 5 Facebook pages: why did you decide to focus on so many channels? Aren’t you risking a dispersion of the public?
E: Visitors of the CCCB are very different: some are interested in literature, other in debates, there are those who have small children, there are professors, and we also have an important group of people concerned with musical activities and research in the cultural field. We have created different profiles in order to contextualize the many activities that we organize, so that everyone can choose their area of interest. The generic account @cececebe acts as agenda, while the other channels offer quality information, more specific to each activity.
We thought about the risk of scattering the public, but there are many followers who follow all the pages and all (or many) of our Twitter profiles. We believe that separate the communities is the only way to offer content and add value without excessively contaminate their timeline.
D: How does the digital team work?
E: The digital team is very varied, since it is composed by people who have profiles and trainings different from each other. At the moment, we are in 7 people to manage social networks: from coordinators of the departments (in the case of CCCBLab or CCCBDebats) to subject matter experts (as it happens for @publicspaceCCCB, managed by an architect, or for @CCCBeducacio on educational projects). We are all in charge of social network and, at the same time, we carry out other tasks as part of our daily works. In my case, I am a journalist and manage the account @cececebe, while I am also part of the Kosmopolis team, whose social communication is under my responsibility. From our point of view, it is better that each department has a person responsible, daily involved on projects and able to understand contents and shares. Obviously, we coordinate different accounts, such as with RTs or mentions, to highlight particular activities.
Establishing a relation of trust with the online public
D: In 2014, the CCCB has celebrated 20 years since
its opening. On this occasion, you created 20 specific actions, including both physical and virtual ones. Can you tell us some of them and what kind of contribution there was in terms of “loyalty”?
E: Virtual actions were focused on online projects, as Pantalla CCCB and the contest Gandules, and on the International Award for Cultural Innovation. We pursue loyalty every day, through contests or other call to action. For example, in March 2014 we dedicated the #MuseumWeek to the 20 years campaign and gave away merchandising to our fans through Twitter.
D: What does it mean today to generate trust and closeness with the audience? Can you give some examples related to your strategy?
E: It is a matter of “being there”, listening to the public and getting to know your audiences; of being involved in conversations and being interested in what people are talking about. Social networks are fundamental to keep us in touch with the audience, to answer their questions, welcome comments and give value to their opinions. In 2011 we organized a photography exhibition dedicated to Brangulí in which we encouraged the public to share their own photographs to create a sort of exhibition inside the exhibition: the project had an incredible success!
Share the museum and “be shared” by the audience
D: The CCCB has two blogs, VENUS and CCCB Lab. Which were your needs when you created them and what has changed since then? Do you consider them as a starting point or as final goal in your digital strategy?
E: The CCCB Lab blog is closely tied to the activity of the homonymous department and is primarily a space for reflection on cultural innovation, new public, future media and technology. It was born with the creation of the department in 2009 , as an archive of content with a high level of detail. On the contrary, the VEUS blog was born (also in 2009) with the intention of creating a space to give voice to people who work with the Center, and it has become a platform to learn in detail the activities that we organize involving experts, curators, and producers. The contents are always published on these blogs before the real activities, in order to create a context: therefore, we could say that they are a starting point for our online communication.
D: An interesting fact: according to your year-end report on 2014, between 20 and 22% of the people who visited the exhibition Metamorphosis and Big Bang Data did so thanks to the suggestion of others. Do you believe that the “word of mouth” continues to have value in nowadays communication? And how is it possible to integrate it with the digital? Have you been able to compare data from virtual and physical audiences?
E: Of course, the fact that people talk about you continues to be important, both in the digital world and in the “real” one. The two exhibitions had an important impact online because they were both very graphic and this helped visitors in sharing their experiences. The integration with the digital is our biggest challenge: being able to make sure that people who tweet with us will also come to visit us and share their experience. We have seen a definite increase in virtual visits, and 2014 has been one of our best years for the number of visitors to CCCB.
D: What would you recommend to a cultural center similar to yours in terms of multiplicity of activities that wish to start a strategy on social networks? What are the elements that can not – and should not – be missed when planning a digital presence that aims to engage the audience?
E: I think it is important to know which channels are most used by the target audience and what languages are characteristic of these channels. With what purpose people use a particular media? Information? Education? Every content is different accordingly to these questions. Moreover, it is essential to be constant, but at the same time not intrusive, and to always listen to the public and respond.
Domenico Berardinelli has an extensive experience as an art project coordinator in the fields of Education and Exhibition. At the MACRO of Rome, he sensed for the first time that he would have ended up working in the contemporary art world; at the Festival Interferencia of Barcelona, he figured out how to do it; and at the NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano, he managed to combine passion and practice, coordinating for six years the three-year BA in Painting and Visual Arts.
Today he lives in Barcelona, where he collaborates with the International Festival of Illustrated Books. He is deeply convinced of the ability to mediate between Museums and their public that social networks convey. He writes for “Arte e Critica”, and when he is not sitting at his desk, he travels for exhibitions, his ipad and notebook in hand.
Photo credits: CCCB by Adrià Goula, 2011 (n.1); Big Bang Data exhibition, CCCB © Gunnar Knechtel Photography, 2014 (n. 3, 5); other images courtesy of CCCB.