Q&A for “Like” in the Time of COVID: #Musesocial and Emergency Planning

The COVID-19 pandemic upended museum social media. The transition to becoming the primary outward face of many museums was not always quick or easy. The three panelists will explain their experiences managing social media accounts and adapting to meet their organizations’ needs as those needs rapidly changed.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
All wearing glasses, a blue shirt and I'm sitting in front of a virtual background from last year's and cn of palm trees and the Pacific Ocean at the sunset. I do want to say that I'm coming to you from today from the not be hooking the original territory of the monopoly nation, the original inhabitants of this land. And I want to acknowledge the ancient and the ongoing relationship between the monopoly nation and their territory. Unfortunately, our third presenter, Jay Ricardo, A Rodriguez could not make it today, he was very disappointed. But we will be able to if you have questions specifically for Ricardo, please put them in the chat and we will reach out to him and we'll try to get him to tweet answers out them since you know, something tells me everybody here is good with Twitter and the other social media. Just to summarize for a couple of minutes, before we get started with q&a, our presentations, as Ricardo is the director of the baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland, it's a small institution focused obviously on baseball and the stories of baseball. Among his lessons were to focus on strategy implementation and the outcomes. big focus of his presentation, as he likes to say, with the baseball metaphors, don't ever be afraid to take a swing, when you're out there with your social media, try things out, see what works. So what he, one of the other points that he made is to is to make certain and what he did was to ask visitors what they wanted, ask his users what they wanted, and try to meet visitor needs people. People were missing baseball, they're missing the sense of community that came along with that. So he was trying to help the museum social media provide that sense of community, he had a way for people to upload photos of themselves, probably from previous years, I'm guessing, at baseball games are engaged in baseball activities, to try to recreate that sense of community that was lost due to baseball being being closed down until fairly late in the shutdown. He also talked about focusing on quality over quantity, don't chase likes, and instead get quality content out there. And if you build it, people will like, as he said, my own presentation was about using the Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Instagram account, both to to get out information and to, to the community to again provide the community with the content they were looking for, based on what surveys had said, people are looking for Quick Hits light content. So we focused on that we provided murals, we've provided content for people to take a quick dive into. But also, one thing that I was able to do with other social media accounts and the Johns Hopkins one was to provide health information, especially at the start of the pandemic to say wash your hands, wear your mask, you'll see the wear your mask in my in my Twitter profile that we have we as museums have a tremendous platform power. And this is a chance to use that to cut through all the disinformation reinforce a message, even if it's not our core content area to try to use our social media to get that content out so that too, as a way of serving our communities. Stephanie

Unknown Speaker 03:47
I'm Stephanie Brown, I'm a white woman of a certain age. And I am coming to you from the room where my daughter usually teaches fifth grade. So there are a lot of brightly colored signs behind me that have to do with fifth grade math principles. If things get quiet, then I'm going to move and we're going to talk about fifth grade math principles. So you all have to be engaged and stay on it or we're going to talk about long division. So I want to see a lot of bright happy faces out there. I am on the unseeded ancestral lands of the aloni people who are still very much present and very much active in the area where I live, which is the San Francisco Bay Area of California. In my part of our presentation, I talk about the work that I did with colleagues on the museum on the American alliance of museums Museum Studies network on our Facebook page last spring. I focused on between about the middle of March in the middle of July when I came into my role as co chair with Sarah to Cohen, my my partner in crime from Johns Hopkins. I came into that role as co chair in 2018. One of the things that Sarah and I really wanted to do was create more of a community among museum studies programs around the country. Both Sarah and I are faculty and program coordinator. She's a program director in the Johns Hopkins Museum Studies program, cultural heritage program. And the museum studies network came from the old fashioned committee on museum professional training, which has existed since 1972. And had not changed a whole lot over the course of that almost 50 years. One of the things we did was we started us presence in social media. And that presence didn't really take off, in fact, until last spring, when once the shutdown happened, we realized that a way something that we could do for our community was be visible and be present. And so we used our Facebook page as a way of sharing helpful information. As Sean said, you know, sharing, you know, here's how you can help people who've been laid off, here's how you can find an internship, here's how, here's here's a resource for all the different things that museums are doing. And we just tried to become a kind of reliable, safe source. For calm and helpful information, we tried to keep a sense of humor about it. We tried me insofar as anything has been funny in the last year, which it can be hard, but you know, anything that you can do to kind of lighten the load. And what we saw was that our, our, the number of our followers almost doubled in the course of the course of the three or four months. And I think I'll, I'll stop there. And, Shawn, if I think maybe we're ready for questions.

Unknown Speaker 07:14
I'm ready for questions.

Unknown Speaker 07:15
All right. Let's go. Oh, and I see that there are going to be questions in chat. Jonathan, are you gonna? Can you monitor chat for us? Thank you. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 07:35
You do have a question in there. Right. Do you want me to read the questions to you?

Unknown Speaker 07:39
You don't want? Could you because I actually can't focus on them?

Unknown Speaker 07:42
Sure. Sure. Absolutely. So one that just came in here. This is from Kate Meyers Emory. She asks, I'm curious whether all of you are planning on maintaining your current approach and strategy, when things go quote back to normal? Or are you going to shift based on the response you've seen? Will this empathetic, more personal, more experimental, working with community partners be continued?

Unknown Speaker 08:06
That's great. Yeah, that's great.

Unknown Speaker 08:09
I would I would think that one of the things we were saying yesterday was why why look back to recreating the before time that we've made in the presentation, like Mike said at the beginning of this presentation, the about the pivot that we're not going to recreate a go back to what was that is that's over. This has worked, I think it's worked for for the accounts that I work with, I think it's worked for Stephanie. So I envisioned that we'll keep it we'll keep some aspects of this new, whatever it is that we're heading towards.

Unknown Speaker 08:49
Yeah. And I I'm so Shawn, and I, full disclosure, Shawn, and I work together on the Johns Hopkins Instagram account and Facebook account, and we just work together. And thank goodness, and he does it all volunteer. And you should all know that. That's how amazing he is. So I have a slightly different angle to take with that. In terms of the museum settings network. I was the only active administrator between March and July. And in the middle of July, when you know we had shipped we had transitioned into a new, a new chair, there were some new membership on the leadership team. And I said, Hey, I need to be done. Now. I need to step away from this and it's time for somebody else to take, take the reins of the Facebook account. And that is still something that's kind of in transition with the leadership team and which is fine. But I think it kind of goes to points that we were hearing yesterday in terms of getting burned out. I think I stopped right before I was burned out. But I could I could definitely see burnout on the horizon. It also goes to, you know, we are all figuring this out as we go along. And in and it's okay to do something and have that be successful, and then to do something else for a while. So I would, I guess my response would be that, that we all have to get a lot. Well, I certainly do have to get a lot more comfortable with having having things be a little less perfect.

Unknown Speaker 10:45
That's great, isn't it? I mean, to kind of maybe stretch that out a little bit. Is there anything in particular, any specific approaches that you've taken that you think are definitely like, boy, I didn't think that this was going to be the thing that worked out. And it it really strengthened our program. And this is now I know that this is the way that it's going to be from from here on Is there any specific approaches that either of you have taken in terms of how you've adjusted and how this is now, the new norm for your, for your program?

Unknown Speaker 11:15
Well, from, uh, from some of the historic houses where I do some social media work. building partnerships is definitely something that a lot of them that I've seen, especially the really, really small places will focus just on their own Museum, their own activities, their own collections, but building partnerships, you know, we all know it, but you know, we got data to support it that it really has done a terrific job in helping expand the museum's reach in getting content out there, people will share each other's content more, I've noticed. And I found that to be that's what helps a specific post a specific tweet a specific anything week through and get back to some higher numbers that we probably got used to seeing before and the numbers for everything kind of came down a little. It's the partnerships, I think that have been the most absolutely fruitful. And this really reinforced that to me, it was a we knew I knew it academically I tried it and but like to really see it in effect that much was really amazing.

Unknown Speaker 12:24
Um, I think I have I have two thoughts around that. For Museum Studies network, what we saw was that there really, the community really did exist it I mean, we've all done enough social media to know that there is always a little part of us that thinks like, it's just my imaginary friends. But in fact, we found that people were tagging us and people were saying, Hey, can you can you post this on your page and, and people responding and people were engaging, and it and it led to more engagement and other places. more engagement, by email between, you know, there were faculty members writing to say, hey, I need somebody to teach this class, you know, who might be able to teach this class, or students writing and saying, hey, how do you do this, I want to learn how to do this. So that and that was fantastic, because the museum studies, programs 10, it has not always been easy to figure out a way to create a real community around that. The other thing I want to say is with with the Hopkins Instagram account, one thing that we did was beginning in early June, we we spent the summer doing street art, mural art public art. And Phyllis Hecht who's here, Phyllis and I were trying to figure out well, how are we going to keep feeding content into our Instagram? Because our usual model was the takeovers. museums are closed, no takeovers, students were every nobody had time to think about what they were going to do for an Instagram takeover. So those sort of core active folks, me and Phyllis and Sean and our colleague, Alana Quinn, who might be here somewhere took turns all summer taking pictures of street art in and where we lived. And it had enormous resonance with our Hopkins community, with the street art community, it with the neighborhoods that we were working with, and and i think that that is a risk that we would not have taken necessarily, if we hadn't had to do something

Unknown Speaker 14:55
that the numbers back that up that strategy. You know, to to The point that Ricardo had made in his section, you know that authenticity and that feeling of we're out there doing this stuff, the numbers really took off. It was I was continually surprised at just how, how responsive people were. It did lead to jump to one of the questions that was in the chat about, you know, how, you know, one of the some of the work that I did, outside of Hopkins was just relying on a deep archive of photos we were lucky to have. That is just too. If you can't get your content, you know, you're you don't have if you don't have remote access to your collections database, if you can't get physical hint of a building anymore. Just get creative. And if the content is related, people seem to really respond to it. People seem to really, even if it's not directly related, it's just show stuff that is making people happy, for lack of a better way to put it. But definitely having stuff that is relatively on point, even if it's not specifically from your museum. People still responded to that. And I think both of our both of our experiences, definitely try to build remote access to your collection in that was just going to lucky on my part. But yeah, if you don't have that already built in, we'll build that into our next round of emergency plants.

Unknown Speaker 16:35
That's great. I'm actually I'm going to thank thanks for the tip. Amy, for those who have asked the questions, I'm going to actually ask you to unmute and ask the question yourself. So Shawn, you actually did touch on Brenda? Yes. Yes. Question. Brenda, if there's anything you want to add on to that question, for follow up for Shawn or or for Stephanie, you're welcome to unmute and ask it, if not no pressure. Sean brilliantly answered your question already. That's fine.

Unknown Speaker 17:01
I hope I did.

Unknown Speaker 17:03
Well, which is great. And I and I think that being creative, under the circumstances is remarkable and commendable. I am from the other side, I'm representing the museum content providers. So I was wondering, are there other ways that content providers can help facilitate discovery by social media professionals?

Unknown Speaker 17:28
mean how to get the content out in front? So social media managers know that there's stuff there? Or I just want to make certain I understand the question, right?

Unknown Speaker 17:36
I'm certainly that is there. Are there ways that we could help promote or organize our information that makes it easier for you to find and make those connections? Are there ways that we could have, you know, slack channels to communicate ideas?

Unknown Speaker 17:52
Just that kind of thing? Slack one concept? No, I think Slack would be a terrific idea. I'm sorry, Stephanie. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 17:59
no, I mean, Brenda, and I can see in the chat and really fuzzy letters that you are working with my student, Jen panglao. Lucky us, right. And so, so but you're, I come from actually a content place. I my work in museums was as a curator before I became a museum studies professor. And so I think a lot about how to that that funny relationship between the content and the social. And, and, you know, I teach curator ship, and my students are often very much like, Oh, no, we don't do that. We don't do we don't tweet. We don't tweet. That's not that's not serious. And I think that a lot of what we're learning really fast and really hard this year, is how we have to break down those barriers. And how, you know, maybe, maybe we're moving toward a place where we're going to have the content folks on the social media team and the social media team may also be working with the content folks in the galleries, you know, that. I my sense, is that while we've all been talking about breaking down those silos for a really long time, that this may be the time that we have to break down the silos. Does that does that help?

Unknown Speaker 19:43
Yes, yes, it does. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 19:46
Hey, I'm actually now going to call a call on my my social media SIG chair, fellow chair Emily Haight. She dropped a question into the chat, Emily, if you want to unmute and ask that question.

Unknown Speaker 20:00
Hi there,

Unknown Speaker 20:01
I'm sorry if I missed this as five minutes late to that session. So if you've already covered it, please disregard. But I was wondering like, has your organization created or refined your crisis communication strategy as a result of COVID? And if so, did you use any other organizations documents as a jumping off point, that's something that I've been kind of trying to work on internally, is a more refined, refined and streamlined process. And also, like, General like a general template to use and like non pandemic times, going forward.

Unknown Speaker 20:38
Not I haven't for myself, I haven't formally rewritten any, any processes or any any or borrowed from any. But in my own mind, once things return to normal, I definitely do plan to say, Okay, this is how we should include social media and and definitely want to do that, I think it's important to say, this is something we should do, these are things that should be covered, with a general reminder to link to and point to your trusted sources of information. And Stephanie to do,

Unknown Speaker 21:12
I, um, because the organizations that I that I do social media for are not there, they are academic and professional, instead of being a strictly museum. You know, we don't nobody has to go. There. We don't have to worry about pipes bursting. Right? Or about the power going out at the institution. Thank God, somebody at Johns Hopkins is on the, it has the plan for that, that. And nobody it would serve no one for me to be in charge of that. But the thing that I think I we've found among the kind of media social media teams, is how important I mean, this is our, this is our primary way of managing crises, right. I'm the day that the the day that the Hopkins shut down for the spring, I was on text with our leadership team, Phyllis and I were on the text with other other folks we work with. When things have come up with Museum Studies network, we text each other, you know, we're just right there. And of course, you can't do that if you are the mat, you know, or if you are the local Historical Society. But I mean, what it points to is having those kinds of relationships, that, that I think social media can help you build up because you can be present with each other in in moments of crisis or confusion.

Unknown Speaker 22:54
Great. We have five minutes and two questions. So let's see if we could power through both of these questions that we have in the chat. First, I'll call him joy terremoto. If you'd like to unmute and ask your questions.

Unknown Speaker 23:06
Yeah. Hi. Um, yes. I just was wondering whether you have any thoughts about whether it's worth to expand to other types of social media platforms like Tiktok. This came up in the conversation recently.

Unknown Speaker 23:24
I was struggling to keep my head above water, just keeping the existing platforms going. So I'll be honest, I didn't I thought about looking at and I specifically thought about looking at Tech Talk and saying, Is this the time to go on Tick Tock? I think that if I if I figure out that Yeah, we should be on Tick Tock. Wait until we get some semblance of normality. Again. This for me, at least this didn't feel like the time to be adding multiple more variables to the to the mix. That's my personal thought.

Unknown Speaker 23:58
And yeah, I would follow up. Yeah, I'd follow that. And I it goes back to what I think we were talking about yesterday of Take care of yourself. No, you can't. And Shawn talks about this in our presentation. You can't take care of anybody else. If you're burned out.

Unknown Speaker 24:16
Great. So Brittany Nazario, we're gonna ask you to take us home with that final question. Let's see. Let's see if we can knock through this one. All right.

Unknown Speaker 24:25
All right. Apologies in advance my Wi Fi is unstable, according to. Um, my question is, Do either of you have an opinion on how far out we should plan social posts? So should Instagram be more instant? Or is it okay to plan out three months ahead?

Unknown Speaker 24:41
Well, it's funny because we actually do have our Instagram planned out until February. But one thing that we've learned from this is the calendar can't it? It can and should be the first casualty of anything. When we at the beginning of the pandemic, we realized Okay, we've got Content who people are going to be doing live things for us in April, and that wasn't going to happen. So have a calendar, but don't be stuck to it. Just if you need to throw the calendar out, throw the calendar out. So that's

Unknown Speaker 25:16
Yeah, yeah. I mean, do you do the best you can you make a big plan, and then you toss it if you need to? And that then that has to be okay. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 25:31
I'm gonna ask just because I before this session, I came in from a tool petting zoo. Do you guys have a particular platform of choice that you use for your calendars? In terms of your scheduling your planning? Whether you

Unknown Speaker 25:44
don't you know, I mean, we talk about it pretty regularly. We talk about all we do we need to do something we need to Hootsuite or do we need to have something else. And we use we use Google. Google Sheets. Email.

Unknown Speaker 26:00
Yeah, a lot of email. A lot of text messaging. Like Stephanie said, this is how we, this is how we crisis manage. I'll be man and I'll be staffing the Twitter feed tomorrow after late tomorrow afternoon. So I mean, I'll have a few more thoughts about things then. But

Unknown Speaker 26:18
But Sean so Sean, you you had your posts planned out through February for Instagram?

Unknown Speaker 26:22
We do we have things planned out. We had we had another.

Unknown Speaker 26:26
We have people scheduled. We don't know what the pictures are going to be the we have

Unknown Speaker 26:32
scheduled? Yeah. And so they generally it's a it's your basic takeover model. So yeah, they do the they do the posting. They do the picking. We do the scheduling of the weeks. But yeah, again, that we knew that broke down. We didn't even have to follow up with people. When April hit. We realized, yeah, they're not going to be gone to the museum and getting pictures of anything. So just Yeah. It is what it is.

Unknown Speaker 26:59
That's great. You guys knock through a lot and a half hour. I'm absolutely impressed. Agree. I don't think I don't think we actually have any more questions any time to take questions. But in your last slide, you did include your contact information, I will I will copy and paste that contact information into the chat. Just in case anyone wants to follow up with our fantastic presenters. There's certainly this discussion that's going to keep on going for sure. So prepare, prepare yourselves to get a lot more questions.

Unknown Speaker 27:31
All right. We'll keep our to our eyeballs open for Twitter.

Unknown Speaker 27:35
Yeah, there you go.

Unknown Speaker 27:36
Especially here at MC n.

Unknown Speaker 27:39
We could riff for another 30 seconds if you guys want.

Unknown Speaker 27:43
I don't know. I mean, 30 seconds is a long time.

Unknown Speaker 27:46
There we go. There's our cut off. Yeah. Thank you both. Thank you for joining us. Thank

Unknown Speaker 27:50
you. Thank you, everybody. This was really great. We really appreciate you coming. Thank you. Thank you. I