TECH MODULE 4.5: Social Media

Social media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks. Social media depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. Technologies include blogging, picture-sharing, vlogs (video blogs like on YouTube), wall-posting, music-sharing, etc. (Source: Wikipedia).

The "beauty" of social media is its "broad-casting" (to the user community) and its "virality", i.e. the spreading or super-distribution probabilities.  Some social-media sites have greater virality - defined as a greater likelihood that users will reshare content posted (by another user) to their social network. Many social-media sites provide specific functionality to help users reshare content - for example, Twitter's retweet button, or Tumblr's reblog function. Social media are great to reach out to large groups of people (broad awareness raising) but you will never exactly know how many you reach. They are very useful to spread word about your cultural heritage collection, events, exhibitions or to promote your own website. They are best used with other tools, like crowdsourcing  or co-creation tools (e.g. tumblr, instagram). They enhance each other, e.g. when sending a facebook or blog entry to scoop.it and then "twit" it on. 

The use of social media is quasi unlimited. They are usually linked to a dedicated website and should be integrated into an overall communication strategy. A good and efficient example is in an area that does not seem, at first sight, very prone to attract facebook users: Cultural artefacts of the (Catholic) Church in Portugal. Already the website, although relatively simple and only in Portuguese, is attractive. Its facebook page achieved more than 26.000 likes in a short period of time. How is it possible? Through the dedication of one person who keeps it up-dated and interacts with likers (not as a main job, but as a side activity when he has time!). It proves that a lot can be done but continuous efforts need to be dedicated to social media to achieve an impact.
facebook page of Cultural goods of the Church in Portugal

If you want to reach out to a community that is larger as your usual database, or that has another profile (e.g. yougsters), the use of social media might be the solution. But social media are not an automatic panacea for on-line presence and promotion. Communities behave in different ways, and have different interests. In this context, the experience of the Brooklyn Museum is most interesting: "Splitting content to platform makes sense": While the blog was read mainly by people interested in technology and its use in the museum environment, the content proper (images, description etc.) were not important. On the other hand, when the museum put its content on tumblr, it increased its visitors considerably, but those were not at all interested in technologie. For more details, read the article.
Another issue is how to mix your communication tools: a revealing article is "Has social media killed the newsletter?" that compares the pros and cons of both media and how to best use them.
You may want to visit www.edgital.org: "Talk at the edge of museum education and digital media" (from which the upper links are taken) that regularly publishes most interesting and  relevant articles on technology and cultural content & education.

Peter Šepetavc held a hands-on coaching course at the eCult Summer Stage in Maribor. His presentation on "Setting up your social media presence"
gives a thorough insight into the "Does and Don'ts" for social media. It helps you decide which type of social media is the right one for your purpose, and how to make the best out of it. And he gives examples how others did it (using the most interesting www.museum-analytics.org website).

In the framework of EU projects, it is also interesting to read the presentation of the Swiss NCP: Social Media in EU research projects.

  The Tagcloud project links its mobile apps with social media. See, as an example, Scenario 2.