And so we come to Day 2 (read Day 1 here) of MuseumNext. After a stellar meal in Amore Dogs, a meet up in The Caves and a good nights sleep I was recharged and ready to take in some more. As I mentioned on Day 1′s blog I’m not trying to provide an exhaustive list/review of all the excellent speakers, just some notes on projects that feed into my thoughts on good online engagement, and are practical examples that can be shared/learned from.
Rich Mintz - Blue State Digital
Friday opened with a similarly stellar speaker - Rich Mintz from Blue State Digital, the company most famously behind Obama’s fundraising/election campaign, but also well known for assisting the wonderful “It gets better” campaign. I’ve included both of the video’s below that Rich used in his presentation as they’re powerful examples of what a strong emotional impact well-thought out, rich content, can bring to a campaign.
Some key principles of Online engagement
- Build the List systematically. Remember that the Top 3 questions a person will ask at each interaction with you; (1) why am I on this list, (2) what do you want from me right now, (3) what comes next. You have 5 seconds to make people understand why you’re getting in touch digitally, after that you’ve lost the opportunity.
- It’s ok to control your message online but don’t go overboard
- Campaigns that are successful make room for everyone to participate in their own way. Show people what happens behind the curtain i.e. backstage/behind the scenes access
- People love to contribute something personal – help them do that. (something we saw yesterday through the 9/11 memorial)
- Let everyone in – even small donors should feel part of community. And everyone means everyone. You don’t know which small donor might become a large donor in the future. Don’t assume you know how they’ll give.
Key components of engagement:
1. Communicate a sense of Urgency. This is hard for arts, and easier for charities like Red Cross who are dealing with urgent needs for response on an ongoing basis, so try to manufacture urgency
2. Timliness Don’t require 17 people to sign off on electronic copy! This slows things down and prevents responsive, reactive communication which is what social media is about. A great example of this cited by Rich was Obama’s email which went out within a few hours of Sarah Palin’s community organizer attack as a rough and rapid response. It resulted in the single biggest push to donate of the whole campaign.
3. Empower your constituents - arm them with tools. Just having a Facebook page is not engagement, you need to arm them with content they can share, or ways they can get involved with you online. Allowing people to post their own video response to the “It Gets Better” campaign mentioned above is a good example of this
4. Create offline action inspired by online engagement. Let people express their energy
The example here was the 1,500 “Obama Barns“. One farmer painted his barn to support Obama and the campaign highlighted that idea thus encouraging others to express themselves in similar ways, and they could then connect people’s output via flickr photos, youtube videos etc, giving more traction to Obama’s rural platform
5. Syndicate Energy everywhere. Be Authentic, have a clear message, empower people to take action. I agree 100% with this point, it’s important to be authentic, especially across social media, and as rich pointed out- it’s ok to be who you are. Know your brand, and celebrate all aspects of it, a bit like Hugh’s point from yesterday’s “embrace your niches”
I think the key take-away for me was this: Lower Barriers, Higher Expectations. Lower the barriers to people engaging with you, make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and for me this means being where they are, if that’s facebook, twitter, youtube, flickr etc be there and make it easy for them to get involved with you on those platforms. Then when they do get involved deliver more than they expect in terms of response/engagement.
The next session to to give an exciting online engagement case study was actually two speakers; Nora Semel & Francesca Merlino from the Guggenheim New York. I was really excited to hear them speak as I’d followed the YouTube Play project online when I was working with a contemporary visual arts gallery, and I loved how the project engaged but also addressed thoughts around contemporary video art.
By their own standards the Guggenheim weren’t very active digitally nor did they have a budget for new projects, all this is relative of course but it was heartining to know that pre YouTube play they didn’t have a new media or digital dept, didn’t have special projects budget and didn’t even have a youtube channel before project.
When they first discussed the project it was a bit of an experiment to go away from their own site and collaborate with youtube. It’s proof for me that you can use other platforms to then drive traffic back to your own site, not trying to control everthing so it always happens on your site. Interestingly when they collaborated with youtube they decided to take away ads from their channel and tried to create a clean youtube platform to mimic the gallery setting. I wonder if this is an option for others or if youtube is hardwired to have the ads?
what was great about the project was that it was authentic to them- it chimed with their overall mission to provide access to the institution, and they were already collecting new video art – the now of video art as it were. Through the project they were hoping to find what’s “next” in video art. The response was overwhelming- over 23,000 entries all of which were watched by the Guggenheim curators and whittled down to 250 finalists which were judged by a great, diverse panel of artists from several disciplines. What I really like is the respect which the Guggenheim treated the project. Sure, they were crowdsourcing the art online, and youtube can be perceived as a flippant platform, but by putting structures in place to treat the work with respect- curatorial overview, an excellent independent panel, an add free channel, they elevated the project and made it an authentic art project.
Following a theme that we heard about during the conference, they used the online engagement to create an offline/real world event- a series of stunning projections on the facade of the building, and a series of multi-platform events in gallery, a packed gallery show, music events, talks etc.
The project received 3 times the normal amount of international press compared to other shows. It was also great to see them creating a way for facebook users to interact with the project without leaving facebook, again being brave about releasing control of the projects. It also illustrates the benefits of going where the audience is – digitally speaking.
They did use their own platforms, the site and a new blog created for the project, to elevate the critical discussion around the project however, with content provided by the Guggenheim’s curatorial team leading a discussion looking at the history of video art. This multi layered info is a great e.g. of visual arts engagement.The project is also proof positive of Jasper Visser’s point about rich content allowing the life of the event to live longer than the event itself.
Some key learnings from the project that they shared with us, which echoed case studies from the other speakers were:
- Build a Network of Advocates
- Learn to work interdepartmentally
- Use friends & affiliates to spread the message, and enable those affiliates with tools and info
- Communicate collaborate communicate - Develop a social media team across partners- in this case Guggenhiem, HP and Google/Youtube with weekly conference calls.
- Expect the unexpected - Be prepared for anything, be organic, be responsive
- Report and Build Support- Analytics, Reporting and Assessing success and failure is a key. The new blog, despite initial scepticsim, received 90,000 page views, and ended up becoming a new benchmark for success.
For me this is a pretty perfect example of a visual arts engagement project, like Brooklyn Museum with Click, they put structures in place to treat the work with respect, they had a concept that they were interrogating and the online engagement lead to offline engagement- the galleries were packed. It just surprises me that they were surprised that people still wanted to come into the museum to view works when they were available online, people will always want the unique live experience, the sense that you had to “be there”.
There’s lots more to come from Day 2- keep en eye on this page for an updated post