While it is easy to get carried away with the number of followers that your museum attracts on Twitter or Facebook, it’s important to be objective about why you are using social media.
Engagement is quality rather than quantity – regular sharing between a number of fans on Facebook demonstrates more engagement than a high number of fans who only leave one post on the wall and never come back. Starbucks and Coke are prime examples of mass scale Facebook groups with low levels of engagement.
At the start of any social media project, you should think about your goals, and it is these objectives rather than how popular your organisation appears to be that matter most when measuring our online success.
There are hard and soft measures for demonstrating success. Hard metrics include standard web metrics such as:
• Visits and referrals
• Search volume terms
• Analysis of stats to evolve procedures into more effective ones
• Numbers of followers, fans, friends
These hard metrics make it far easier to record the return on investment in social media than traditional media, it is for example virtually impossible to accurately measure how many people act on a newspaper advert.
Taking the influence that social media can have on the public further, and trying to measure how many people who interact with you online visit the physical museum is a little harder, but in no way impossible.
In 2009 TATE offered fans on their Facebook page a discount voucher for an exhibition by British artist Chris Odofi. This voucher was redeemed by over 10,000 people, showing a direct link between those interacting with the gallery on Facebook and those paying to attend an exhibition.
In addition to using tools like vouchers to measure the effectiveness of social media, you should also include relevant questions in your annual visitor surveys, finding out if your audiences are active on websites like Facebook and Twitter and asking if they are aware that your museum has a presence on them.
Also measure the quality of your interactions, for example if you ask people a question on Facebook, how many people respond and what are they writing? Facebook’s Insight analytics gives you the tools to measure how much engagement is taking place around your content on the social network.
You would also look beyond what people are saying directly to you, monitoring any mention of your museum on social media platforms and recording both positive and negative responses.
While social media can seem like a low cost resource, it can take a lot of time to manage these platforms and you may need to justify your activities, especially if you have a management team who are sceptical about its usefulness.
Measuring the response to your museums and to social media activity is also important to record progress, record success and to learn from – you will never really know if what you’re doing is having any impact if you don’t record.
I also feel that museums can have tremendous success using social media, and this should be recorded to justify the time managing these websites.
How do you measure your social media success?