Museums Use Web 2.0! *IMPORTANT*
„[…] Museums use Web 2.0 technology to excite audiences about museum content and gather a roster of “views” and “friends”; users stay connected with a cultural institution in a medium with which they’re familiar. While museums might not target a specific demographic, defining the audiences most likely to take advantage of Web 2.0 applications and marketing specifically to them help drive traffic and the all-important word of mouth.
Does it hurt that it’s mostly a younger generation who pick up Web 2.0? Not at all. James Chung, president of market research firm Reach Advisors, makes it his job to notice how people use technology. “Those who are 65 and over aren’t as dependent on the Internet. Those who are in their late 20s and older depend on the Internet as a tool, while those who are younger live, eat and breathe connectivity. For any museum that wishes to cultivate this younger audience, technology will be a necessary part of their outreach strategy.” The audiences to which museums reach out today will be President’s Circle donors tomorrow. Staying relevant to that growing audience while staying to true to the museum’s mission is integral to a long-term plan.
[…] The value of these applications is often lost under the perception of constant change, privacy concerns and high barriers to entry.
Recurring themes of Web 2.0 applications are those two pillars Wikipedia’s Wales espoused: trust and tolerance. You trust users to not upload inappropriate content; if they do, you trust other users to report it and Wikipedia to remove the content. Why don’t the founders and webmasters take it down themselves? Those Web 2.0 applications are so popular it’s difficult to monitor every piece of information passed back and forth. Can it be a problem for museums? Sure, but is having too many people access museum content a problem you might be willing to take on? I certainly hope so. And while many museums are just now developing audio for their site, some museums are increasingly turning to video, thanks to the ease and popularity of YouTube.
Peter Foley, MoMA’s director of marketing, agrees. “How do people find you in the chaos? Now you’re a tiny fish in a big pond, and you have to find ways to promote it.”
Museums must be careful and exercise caution over what is distributed to YouTube. Obviously you would not want to offer a behind-the-scenes video of your guards making rounds and punching in security codes. Make sure that permissions and copyrights are in order, and, if you are repurposing a video from a gallery setting to a Web-based setting, ensure the copyright holder approves of the transition. “We just have to make sure that the videos we post and the people represented are made aware and they’re okay with it. Once you put the video out there,” Burnette advises, “you lose a certain amount of control.”
Museums must be cautious of how much control they are willing to lose. IMA currently allows all user comments, but they are checked regularly for appropriateness and have come across no issues to this point. MoMA let “Sleepwalkers” go without monitoring comments. “That’s what YouTube is about—we don’t just want to put up the positive [comments],” Burnette says.
There are a number of ways MySpace can be employed to reach out to the public. After all, being listed as a MySpacer increases potential visibility by at least 150 million people. Signing up for a profile takes about 15 minutes, and MySpacers request to be added to others’ lists of friends. Your profile can be viewed by anyone, and people request that you add them to your list of friends.
Typical with Web 2.0 applications, users can post comments on your MySpace page for the whole world to see. Most of the comments, for museums anyway, have little to do with fulfilling the mission of the museum. On the Brooklyn Museum’s MySpace page, there was a January comment from a photographer professing: “I love being in an industry where the best thing you can do for your career is to die.” […] This miscellany “is just part of MySpace,” explains Shelley Bernstein, manager of information systems at the Brooklyn Museum. “It’s part of owning MySpace instead of fighting it.”
Realizing that users can try to take advantage of the site can also increase its effectiveness. Many museums receive comments from other artists posting notices about gallery openings, online artwork or live performances. Do museums want to be associated with that kind of shameless self-promotion? “Warhol was a self-promoter,” says Wonsettler. “MySpace is an enormous promotional tool. We certainly do not mind a little self-promotion.” This practice only increases the awareness around the MySpace community of the museum’s presence.
Wonsettler says that MySpace is used as a promotional tool to keep those who are interested in the loop. The Brooklyn Museum takes a slightly different approach, focusing on the website’s community-building effects. “We try to be very conscious of our audience,” says Bernstein. “When we’re [on MySpace], we’re serving two purposes: to provide something dynamic that doesn’t take much time and at the same time build the community.” […].“