Museum of Art & History di Santa Cruz: “Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment!”

1The Museum of Arts and History of Santa Cruz is not one of the first museums that jumps in the collective imagination of the Italian public as an institution at the forefront for the use of social media and online communication. Instead we should include it within the top positions.
The museum is directed by Nina Simon, author of the book “The Participatory Museum” and of the popular blog Museum 2.0, it is attentive to the needs of the communities with which it interacts seamlessly as well as the involvement of the public.

All this is translated into the mission of the MAH: “ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections”. But the main passage, which might explain better the approach of the Museum of Santa Cruz, is the phrase that closes the presentation of the museum: “There’s a lot we could tell you “about” our organization. But the most important thing is that we are about you–our community”.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Elise Granata, Community Engagement & Marketing Associate MAH, and we hope that her answers will be useful and will serve as inspiration.

Which background

1. How many people work in your communication and social media department? And which kind of university formation they have?

E: We don’t exactly have a defined social media department. All staff and interns have access to every MAH social media platform. This really opens up the breadth of content we are able to post; staff and interns are generally scattered in different places around the museum during events and throughout the day. They see different things, experience different moments. To limit this ability to post to one person would narrow the diversity of perspectives we achieve through opening it up to staff and interns. This being said, we do have guidelines for posting on Facebook and Instagram to better regulate what people are posting.

My position (Marketing & Engagement Coordinator) is the closest thing to a social media department. I handle daily maintenance of our social media platforms with special focus on Instagram and Facebook and am the front line to responding to folks through those outlets. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts Management from State University of New York at Purchase College.
2. How is the Museum of Arts & History choosing and using its channels, and how is it making them appealing to its audience (also, what kind of audience do they reach to)?

E: The MAH has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and Pinterest. Here’s the breakdown of our approach:

Facebook: our main line of online communication with the community, second to our website. We post mainly event-based content here: promoting upcoming events or posting media content from past events. Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular ways locals connect with the MAH, so we focus our best and most engaging content to these mediums.

Instagram: Behind the scenes, day-to-day, less polished photos. We will post images here from an event in progress, a funny moment during yoga after staff meeting, or the way the sky looks awesome behind our big ‘PARTICIPATE’ banner one Wednesday afternoon.

Twitter: Used to signal boost other Santa Cruz organizations, make larger calls to action (our Twitter following is mostly non-local and international). Only 2-3 posts per week are made here. In the future, I am interested in seeing how we could ramp up our engagement on Twitter by using it as a live function during our events. There are so many great, brief moments during events that may be well framed in a tweet.

YouTube & Vimeo: Vimeo usually houses our more polished video content while YouTube is an archival place for them.2

Flickr: Mostly an internal tool for staff and interns for reference while developing new events, finding images for press, showcasing our process to collaborators, etc. We “dump” all photos from an event here and select 40-50 of the best images for the public on Facebook.

Pinterest: A transparent way to gather ideas for our events under specific themes. We have boards for all of our themed events and collect visual inspiration that relates to the theme. One example is “Poetry and Book Arts Extravaganza” which is chock full of awesome tricks to do with books and paper.

3. Which are your engagement strategies?

E: We don’t have articulated strategies for social media engagement. Unofficially, we try to be authentic in voice and regular in response. Our vision statement (“to ignite shared experiences and unexpected connections”) is one that transcends staff philosophy and is reflected in our social media voice. One example of how this manifests itself is in the length of our Facebook or Instagram captions. As much as we can (depending on the volume of activities at the event), we keep our captions short and shareable. Their intention is to start a conversation, not finish the story. We just had an event called PechaKucha, which is a series of short lecture talks. Rather than a long, descriptive run-down about the details of the event– “PechaKucha is a short lecture series around the theme of Obsession from 6:30 to 8 tonight”–  I instead wrote something short and descriptive: “PechaKucha Night: the only place in town where a local will talk about their obsession with peace signs in front of 200 people. (Probably.) Get your tickets starting at 4:30.” It’s about keeping it shareable. It’s about hooking people in and driving them to the pages we have already populated with the nuts-and-bolts of times, place and details.

44. You have paid many attention to school programs and resources for educators and teachers during these years. Which are your principal goals and which advantages do you have in that?

E: Our main goals are to connect students and teachers to art,  history, and culture in a way that is relevant to them. We do this by offering hands-on learning experiences and thinking of ways in which art and history can relate to the students’ life. As far as teachers go, we want to be a resource for them that can help them further student learning, whether it be at the museum or in their classroom. We hope that by providing tours and educational resources for educators, students and teachers will come back to the museum and experience everything else we have to offer.

5. Imagine to have in front of you a director/curator/responsible of a small Italian museum. Which kind of tips and suggestions would you like to give to him/her to start a social media or an engagement strategy? (Must and must-not)

E: Be unafraid of experimentation. There are so many resources to receive instant reports about your social media performance: Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, MailChimp Reports are just a few we use offhand. Take advantage of that instant feedback to inform how you develop your content. Also, stay far away from exclamation points (http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2011/07/no-more-exclamation-points.html).5