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Digital Connectivity

The 40 Most Viewed YouTube Videos from US Zoos, Aquariums and Museums

This post contains 20 embedded YouTube Videos. If you are receiving this article via email, please consider visiting this article on Know Your Own Bone in  order to play the videos. 

Social media video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo can be critical tools for nonprofits looking to encourage engagement regarding their mission and brand. This is no different for zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs). In fact, with the double bottom line of spreading a mission and “pushing the gate,” these videos aim to serve a dual function. With the rise of Pinterest and a Facebook shifting its focus to prioritize engaging content, it seems as though we may be at a turning point with the way that we use social media. In other words, ZAMS may find themselves producing more and more organic and/or creative, timely videos than they have in the past.  We may be in the midst of this trend. Just check out the creative online initiatives that ZAMs took up for the 2011 holiday season.

In order to keep a pulse on YouTube views and subscribers in the ZAM community, I have compiled the “most viewed” videos from several institutions, which I chose by popular vote and visitation. While there are several similarities among the list in terms of type of videos with significant viewership, there is no magic formula for a popular video. I have compiled viewership information from twenty leading zoos, aquariums and museums. Here are the ZAMs that I monitored, in order of their number of subscribers (with links to respective YouTube channels):

Method: How did I decide this list? Recently, 10best.com held an open, online voting competition which allowed web users to vote for their top-ten favorite zoos, aquariums, and museums. I included #1 – #5 from the list of zoo, aquarium, and museum winners. Because this competition can be easily rigged by stakeholders, I also included a few of the most visited US museums that are recognized globally (MET, MoMA, ect), and I also added the San Diego Zoo and WCS in order to represent the highest-visitation zoos. I only recorded the top two most-viewed videos for each institution to prevent one organization from dominating this list and to provide a more inclusive overview. A thing to keep in mind while viewing these videos: while YouTube views provide an indication of the spread and share of a message/video, an institution’s subscribers (or, self-identified folks signing up to be kept in the loop on that organization’s video happenings), indicate a higher level of evangelism than views alone. In other words, subscribers (above) are a better score-keeper for folks looking to “rank” these organizations.The following article features YouTube videos from the organizations on this list based upon this methodology- It is not inclusive of all ZAMs and does not necessarily represent the ZAMs with the most views.

Of these institutions, chosen by popular vote and visitation, here is a countdown the YouTube videos that had the most views as of Sunday, March 4th, 2012: 

20. Tour the Georgia Aquarium (110,855 views)

Promotional video for the Georgia Aquarium

19.Primordial Soup with Julia Child at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (119,627 views)

“Julia Child cooks up a batch of primordial soup and explains how these simple ingredients produce amino acids – the building blocks of life. This video played in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Life in The Universe gallery from 1976 until the gallery closed.”

18. Stadivari Violin, “The Antonius,” Played by Eric Grossman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (127,659 views)

This video features Eric Grossman performing the chaconne from JS Bach’s Partita no. 2 in D minor on a violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1717.

17. A Day at Shedd Aquarium (146,026 views)

Promotional and informational video regarding a trip to the Aquarium. “Charting your course to a fabulous day at Shedd can be smooth sailing! We want to make it easy for you to plan your visit. From ticket prices to directions to daily dive times, visit www.sheddaquarium.org to connect you to all the information you need to come face-to-fins with the fun stuff.”

16. Fantasea at Shedd Aquarium (164,404 views)

Official trailer for “Fantasea” which premiered in October of 2009 at Shedd Aquarium. “Dolphins soar, belugas dance, and penguins parade in Fantasea, the new aquatic show at Shedd”

15. Cute Baby Sea Otters at Monterey Bay (223,852 views)

This video of baby sea otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium discusses the Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.

14. Seahorses Mating from the National Aquarium (233,026 views)

“Did you know it’s the male seahorse that becomes pregnant and delivers the baby seahorses? See how the female transfers the eggs to the male!” This risqué video was created as a Valentines Day promotion for special couple’s packages in 2011.

13. Pallas Cats at the Prospect Park Zoo (246,351 views)

“They may look like the fattest felines you’ve ever seen, but the Prospect Park Zoo’s new pair of Pallas cats, Nicholas and Alexandra, aren’t full on lasagna—they’re built for the chilly climate of central Asia.”

12. Freshwater Otter Plays the Piano at Monterey Bay Aquarium (254,925 views)

“Dua, an Asian small-clawed otter at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, plays the piano as a behind-the-scenes enrichment. This activity was created to give Dua something interesting to do and extend his feeding time, while showing off his species dexterity.”

11. Tim Burton MOMA Spot (270,928 views)

Promotion for the Tim Burton exhibit on view at MoMA November 22, 2009-April 26, 2010

10. Beco’s Tub Toy at the Columbus Zoo (276,898 views)

“So what kind of toy do you give a 600 pound baby elephant? How about a 2-foot round blue plastic ball? Enrichment items such as Boomer balls are commonplace in zoos today. These toys and activities add variety and exercise to the animals lives and help to encourage their natural behaviors. As for Beco and his Boomer Ball that enrichment has double benefits it also helps mom Phoebe get a break from looking after 600 pounds of bouncing baby elephant energy.”

9. Jell-O Enrichment for Squirrel Monkeys at the Bronx Zoo (332,503 views)


“In the Bronx Zoos Monkey House, squirrel monkeys receive a holiday treat unlike anything they’ve seen-or felt-before. Keepers offer them Jell-O with blueberries, a jiggly concoction that immediately stimulates their foraging instincts.”

8. Kookaburra Calls at the Cincinnati Zoo (416,869 views)

“The Kookaburra has one of the most identifiable calls of all birds. The Cincinnati Zoo has one trained for its Wings of Wonder bird show, to call on cue.”

7. Otter Pups Swim Lesson at the Columbus Zoo (667,013 views)

“Otter pups arent born with any innate knowledge of how to swim or handle themselves in the water. And since otters depend on water to survive, mom has to teach her babies how to be as home in the water as they are on land. In March, Audrey, the Zoos North American river otter female, gave birth to three healthy male pups. At around 30 days old, the pups are strong enough to begin their swimming lessons although sometimes, theyre not the most enthusiastic students much like kids everywhere.”

6. Voice Piece for Soprano & Wish Tree at MoMA. Summer 2010 by Yoko Ono (802,659 views)

A video of Yoko Ono performing in conjunction with the exhibition Contemporary Art from the Collection at the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was on view through May 9, 2011.

5. Cheetah Sets Record at Cincinnati Zoo (812,604 views)

“Many have asked why our cheetah only averaged 36.5 mph. This was a run based on time, not top speed. A sprinter can be faster than another but if he stumbles and doesn’t finish it doesn’t matter. There is a cheetah in South Africa, Zaza who will be doing the same thing in October to try to beat Sarah. The cheetahs are starting from zero, not full speed because that’s how the previous time of 6.19 seconds was set. The previous rules also stated that the record was based on 3 runs, so even though we are sure Sarah can run faster we don’t get a redo. People have also commented on the lure not being far enough ahead, if the lure gets to far away the cheetah will stop, not wasting energy on something it can’t catch.”

4. Baby Hippo Ballet at the San Diego Zoo (888,474 views)

This video is simple, organic, short, and has an outstanding number of views. The popularity of this view may illustrate that simplicity (without too many bells and whistles) can go a long way.

3. Baby Elephant Born at the San Diego Safari Park (923,340 views)

On March 11, 2007 17-year-old African elephant Litsemba gave birth at the Safari Park. This video shows the little guy and features commentary from staff experts.

2. Science Bulletin: Whales Give Dolphins a Lift from the American Museum of Natural History (1,559,880 views)

This video is also from the American Museum of Natural History. “Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins “rode” the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back down.”

1. The Known Universe by the American Museum of Natural History (9,856,645 views)

This video by the American Museum of Natural History takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. This film was created by the Museum as part of an exhibition,  The film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition: Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan

Most Viewed YouTube Videos from US Zoos, Aquariums and Museums: #21 through #40

21.  Moving the U-505 Submarine. Museum of Science and Industry– 107, 841 views. Over several days, the team guided the U-505 submarine 1,000 feet to its new home. From the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

22. September 11 FAA Closure of US AirspaceSmithsonian National Air and Space Museum – 99,037 views. This animation was created by NASA using FAA air traffic control data from September 11, 2001. It shows the rapid grounding of air traffic across the US, and redirection of incoming international traffic, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

23. Sharks Invade Georgia Aquarium. Georgia Aquarium – 86,544 views. A video celebrating the Aquarium’s new sand tiger sharks.

24. The Harvesters. Metropolitan Museum of Art – 83,823 views. Metropolitan Museum staff members discuss The Harvesters (19.164) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder with producer Christopher Noey.

25. See what wonders await you at the National AquariumNational Aquarium – 78,518 views. Promotional video of the Aquarium experience.

26. Ford Model T Assembly Line. The Henry Ford Museum – 64,472 views. Opens with shields and running boards being positioned and secured, followed by views of Highland Park workers on the assembly line assembling the Ford Model T. Includes crane lowering chassis to body, securing the fenders, installing the radiator, placing the hood, installing and filling the gas tank, assembling the dash, and attaching wheels and tires. Close-ups of engine, transmission, starting button, and generator. In closing, a Model T is driven on a deeply rutted road.

27. Jellyfish Gallery Video Preview. Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati – 38,861 views. The Jellyfish Gallery contains eight tanks containing hundreds of these amazing creatures, as well as new, fun interactive elements and state-of-the-art displays.

28. The Hope Diamond. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – 34,584 views. “45.52 carats – The Hope Diamond–the world’s largest deep blue diamond–is more than a billion years old. It formed deep within the Earth and was carried by a volcanic eruption to the surface in what is now India. In 1958, Harry Winston donated the Hope Diamond to the Museum, and it now belongs to the people of the United States.”

29. QuadricycleThe Henry Ford Museum – 28,108 views. A video of a man riding a quadricycle in Greenfield Village.

30. MEanderthal. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – 22,511 views “Try morphing yourself backward in time with MEanderthal, the Smithsonian Institution’s first-ever mobile app. You might be surprised when you see your face transformed into the face of an early human.”

31.  Month at the Museum Finalist: Kate McGroarty. Museum of Science and Industry– 18,545 views. This was Kate’s original audition video for the museum’s first, famous Month at The Museum initiative.

32. Tree Kangaroo Feeding. Saint Louis Zoo -18,132 views. In this soundless video, “Zookeepers use target training with Matschie’s tree kangaroos Kasbeth and her 1 ½ year old son Teptep. The ‘roos are given treats when they touch their nose to the object on the end of the target. Training is enrichment for the animals and gives the keepers the opportunity to observe each animal closely.”

33. Tree Kangeroo JoeySaint Louis Zoo – 16,684 views. “A little Zoo present has popped up just in time to give a pounce of holiday cheer! “Nokopo” (pronounced NOH-koh-poh), a female Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey, has begun poking her head out from within her mother’s pouch at their habitat in Emerson Children’s Zoo at the Saint Louis Zoo in December, 2010.”

34. Lego Master Builder at Work. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – 14,713 views. Speed video. of builders creating a castle for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis traveling exhibit – Lego Castle Adventures. The museum’s second most popular video is similar.

35. A King is Born. Newport Aquarium, Cincinnati – 13,303 views. “After the announcement of three new Gentoo chicks last month, Newport Aquarium revealed another hatching: a King penguin chick was hatched at the Aquarium. Making it noteworthy, this King chick is a second-generation Newport Aquarium penguin. Its parents were both born at the Aquarium four years ago.”

36. Polar Slide. Phoenix Zoo – 4,938 views. ” 200 Feet of Excitement. The Phoenix Zoo and Summit Adventure Systems bring you simulated snow technology created by Neveplast in Italy. The surface is used by professional skiers and snowboarders in Europe to train in the off-season. We are the first zoo in the world to have this technology and we’re very excited about it! The Polar Slide is fun for all ages! It’ll have you and your kids smiling the entire way down the 200 foot track!”

37. Bear. Oklahoma City Zoo – 3,428 views. Promotional video to visit the bears at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

38. Lion. Oklahoma City Zoo – 3,385 views. Promotional video to visit lions at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

39. Journey Tribute Band. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – 2,343 views. ” Frontiers, the nation’s top Journey Tribute Band, helped us kick off our rockin’ summer at the opening of Rock Stars, Cars, and Guitars!”

40. Meerkat PSA. Phoenix Zoo -1,846 views. “A little Zoo present has popped up just in time to give a pounce of holiday cheer! “Nokopo” (pronounced NOH-koh-poh), a female Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey, has begun poking her head out from within her mother’s pouch at their habitat in Emerson Children’s Zoo at the Saint Louis Zoo in December, 2010. “

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Digital Connectivity, Trends 4 Comments

Why Your Nonprofit’s Number of Social Media Followers Doesn’t Matter

(…nearly as much as most organizations think that they matter)

Would you rather have 100,000 Facebook “likes” from folks who never visit your museum or donate to your cause, or 10 Facebook “likes” from folks who do?

It’s important to have an ongoing presence on social media because customer interactions build powerful word of mouth marketing opportunities, it is important to be accessible, and transparency is an increasingly important social priority for successful businesses.  However, I’m always surprised when I start working with an organization and the marketing department’s social media strategy focuses on gaining Facebook likes or Twitter followers rather than engaging online audiences or getting people through the door. This happens all the time. Really... it happens all the time. It’s a good idea to aim for high quality followers, but focusing on  collecting sheer numbers is a waste of time and using this as key metric for success is a distraction. Having thousands upon thousands of social media followers is not necessarily indicative of an engaging online presence and may not be working to your organization’s benefit at all.

Your number of social media followers can and should be used to track growth and engagement, but aiming simply for high numbers misses the boat. Here's a photo tip from John Haydon.

Social media follower numbers are a big tease. They are displayed prominently on social media sites and organizations yearn for a way to measure ROI for social media. Thus, organizations often measure success based upon the pure number of people who follow them. These marketing managers are distracted.  Goals for social media should be no different from the greater goals of the organization. At the end of the day (for museums, for instance), that goal is to increase visitation, evangelism, and educate or inspire the public. An organization’s ability to do this is not dependent upon the number of followers or likes that they have, but the quality and level of engagement of those followers. Stop focusing only on this number and making it a single point of celebration.


The value of social media followers:

To reference a metaphor that I use frequently, engaging folks online is  like managing and setting up a community marathon race.  If getting runners to complete the marathon means that you’ve converted the individual into a donor, then getting a “like” means that somebody has signed up to join your training program. Generally, training programs are important to have for many reasons and there’s reason to pay attention to the number of people who sign up. However, not everyone who joined the program will finish the marathon… and many more people will likely complete the marathon who haven’t signed up for the program (or who aren’t represented in your “likes” on Facebook).

Though number of “likes,” followers, and subscribers is far less important than the quality of the evangelism in these folks, likes actually do have some value on their own- it’s just not as significant as some make it out to be. It’s important to understand how this number (alone) can actually help your organizations reach its goals on social media:

  •  Social media followers are self-identified evangelists and collecting followers increases the likelihood that people will see your message thanks to placements in newsfeeds or the Facebook Ticker.  However, they do not mean that people will share, promote, or engage with your message- or even that their level of evangelism reaches beyond that single “like” or “follow” click. Focus on engaging audiences and inspiring conversation (which increase your reputation, a proven driver of visitation to a museum) instead of increasing your sheer number of low-level followers.

  • An organization’s number of social media followers often indicates credibility to potential donors or visitors. However, a small number of followers isn’t likely to deter high-level evangelists who feel a connection to your organization. This benefit of having sheer high numbers of social media followers does not outweigh a misdirected effort to focus on this metric above all else.  Try to get social media followers when you can, but aim for individuals who are likely to communicate your message and don’t make sheer numbers your top priority.

What should you measure instead of focusing entirely on your number of social media followers? Your organizations’ conversation rate, amplification rate and applause rate are good places to start.

 

The whole point of collecting social media followers is to get them to do something.

 Recently, Rick Schwartz (@ZooKeeperRick)  of the San Diego Zoo aimed to prove the “power of social media” by taking on a challenge to get 30 new Twitter followers in 3 days. Rick more than succeeded; he reached 30 followers in just the first day and collected over 96 new followers by his deadline three days later. The goal of this was- very simply-  to gain followers… Any followers. In this case, it was likely that the audience reached in this initative could be classified more as social media fans than zoo advocates so it’s hard to say if this experiment demonstrates a certain level of evangelism or even strengthens Rick’s online influence… But he achieved his goal and made a point: “social media can get the word out, and quickly.” All too often, this is where social media goals end: after the initiative to get more social media followers ends.  But what’s the point of having any followers at all if not to spread a message? Why exert an effort to get followers if there isn’t even more effort put into getting these followers to do or support something?

On social media, Rick is a huge marketing asset for the zoo. He is engaging, fun, and tweets great conservation and animal information. In several ways, he is a living message and accessible personality for the zoo who helps fulfill the zoo’s goal to educate and inspire.  He’s proved that getting numbers can be achieved (especially when it’s timely and urgent), but he has his eye on the greater point of social media for nonprofits:

 

Focusing efforts on achieving high social media follower numbers misses the point of social media and does not even guarantee that followers will be active, engaged, or share your message. However, making efforts to attract high quality evangelists online is a worthy goal that helps your organization achieves its mission in the long run.  Design your social media strategy for an outcome that meets the organization’s goal (inspiring visitation, securing donations, or raising awareness) and don’t be sidetracked by sheer follower numbers.  The goal isn’t just a high number. The goal is a high number of high-quality social media followers who will actively support your cause.  One person who believes in your organization is worth far more than one million people who don’t.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Myth Busting, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends Comments Off on Why Your Nonprofit’s Number of Social Media Followers Doesn’t Matter

30 Creative Ways Museums are Celebrating the Holidays Through Social Media

Happy holidays, everyone! This is a great time of the year for zoos, aquariums and museums online. There’s an opportunity to engage with timely, intimate content that already has a personal connection with audiences. It’s also a time to be with loved ones- and zoos, aquariums, and museums are places that people can go with the folks that they care about. There are wins all around.

We are seeing a lot of the expected annoucements online being pushed through social media: reminders that the gift shop has something for everyone on your holiday list, friendly reminders that memberships make great gifts, promotions for holiday programs, and some of those end-of-the-year requests for donations. But there has also been a lot of more creative online engagement this holiday season as well! In fact, I found that often, the museums that had taken on more creative initiatives this holiday season really went for it and took on more than one fun project (hence some repeats in this list). It’s clear that the organizations that took the time to think about engaging audiences this season really capitalized on the potential during this time of year!  Here are 31 ways that zoos, aquariums, and museums are engaging audiences online this holiday season.

Interestingly, I keep tabs on an even mix of zoos, aquariums, and museums.. but aquariums really had a lot going on this season! Getting this post via email? I suggest clicking here to see all of the great videos posted.

1) Turns out Santa takes breaks from managing elves to hang out in the fish tanks of aquariums. The photo above was shared on Facebook by the California Academy of Sciences.

2)   This year, museums have produced some downright silly, touching, and artistic holiday videos. Haven’t laughed yet today? Check out the holiday video below (complete with puppets AND the aquarium’s CEO) by the National Aquarium. My other favorites include this classy video by Museo Guggenheim Bilbao and this nice video by the South Australian Museum. I love that it has an intimate feeling about it with staff members presenting artifacts throughout the museum. Oh, and this holiday video makes me laugh from the Saint Louis Zoo, too!

3) The Smithsonian wants to know: which Santa is the scariest? My vote was for the Wild-Eyed Santa… but A Santa Hold-Up is a tad alarming.

4)   The Tennessee Aquarium highlighted a six-armed Bat Star (typically with five arms) that looks like the star of David. Simple and sweet.

5)   Can a person die of cute-overload? Presenting: San Diego Zoo’s Special Moments of 2011:

6) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is rocking the holidays on social media– especially in regard to making santa accessible. They conducted a live chat from the museum with him the week before Christmas.

7) The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis also has spunky YouTube interviews with Santa. Spoiler: his favorite cookie? Chocolate chip.  And his favorite reindeer? Olive, obviously.

8) An important aspect of being part of a community is sharing the love and promoting other things that bring out the holiday spirit. So I need to include the Exploratorium’s cool blog post and informal interview video about Weaver’s Winter Wonderland.

9) The Contemporary Jewish Museum is using Flickr to highlight one picture for each day of Hanukkah 2011. It is simple and rather lovely.

10) Speaking of Hanukkah and the Contemporary Jewish Museum… they want to know:

11) Check out the Wreath-cycled challenge conducted by the Shedd Aquarium! Facebook fans could vote for their favorite wreath created by local K-12 classrooms made entirely out of recycled materials.

12) Okay. This one is random. The Museum of Science, Boston has created cup holders (perfect for this cold, holiday season) to promote their Pompeii exhibit. The cup holders change color when they get hot, which is cool… but there’s something about the seriousness, attempted silence, and scrappiness of this Facebook video that makes it kind of funny and rather charming.

13) How fun is this? The Shelburne Museum shows us how to print holiday cards on their 1954 Heidelberg Press:

14) Who doesn’t love Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Herbie Hippocampus? He’s in the holiday spirit and spunky as always.

15) There were LOTS of create-and-send your own holiday e-card options from zoos, aquariums, and museums this year. Some examples: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, and the Chicago Zoological Society.

16) On a related note, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art lets you tap into high-resolution pictures available without restriction so that you can make your own holiday card. Three cheers for image accessibility and sharing!

17) Georgia Aquarium staff conducted a surprise attack holiday dance party on site:

18) They also have a Singing Holiday Grouper:

19) The Smithsonian shared mistletoe facts from one of their botanists.

20) Museums represent! The Museum of Science, Boston asked Facebook fans to vote for them as their favorite gingerbread house. You can vote for the New England Aquarium’s gingerbread house, too. Eek. Stiff competition.

21) The Tennessee Aquarium took members on an expedition to Antarctica this holiday season. That’s cool, right? It’s cooler that they are reporting back with videos from the adventure.

22) A twist on the traditional donation request, the St. Louis Zoo is sharing and promoting an Animal Wish List this holiday season.

23) Love the pictures and little story about Ollie the Otter’s First Snowman from the Aquarium of the Pacific.

24) Simple and sweet, the Art Institute of Chicago says Happy Hanukkah.

25) To celebrate the new year, the Newseum will ask online audiences to vote for the best headline written this year through Facebook.

26) The Victoria and Albert Museum showed off photos of their  stunning Christmas Tree by Studio Roso

27) The Henry Ford has a blog category for weddings and a sweet post and slide show of a “winter-wonderful” wedding.

28) The Shelburne Museum hosted a Brick House Holiday Party for museum members and captured the experience on Flickr.

29) Did you know that the Statue of Liberty has inspired a Hanukkah lamp? I know that now, thanks to the Skirball Cultural Center.  And while we’re at it, who doesn’t want a delicious latke recipe?

30) Santa visited the Shedd Aquarium’s sea otters and, of course, gave them a big disk of fish paste. Yummm…

Do you have more examples to share? Post them in the comments section to contribute to the list!

*A little reminder in holiday good spirit: If you use or reprint this post, please give proper attribution to Know Your Own Bone. Similarly, if you use this post as a significant lead for an article that you are writing yourself, please be kind and show some love.  Happy holidays!

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Digital Connectivity, Trends 4 Comments

Why Your Organization Needs You to Build a Personal Brand

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably the kind of person who already knows that professional resumes have transcended the boundaries of a sheet of paper. They’ve transcended beyond our LinkedIn profiles and seeped into everything that we do… because much of what we do (and what happens in the world) is online.  Information about you is online whether you put it there yourself or not. There are pipl and spokeo profiles that can give the heebie-jeebies even to people who are quite certain that they do not exist in an online space… and those are just online white pages. Combine that with industry news, social media profiles, and public records… and someone can find out a good amount about you and your interests.  Think you can benefit by NOT being online? That may indicate that you have not done anything worthy of recognition within your industry- and that’s not usually a positive perception either.  You very likely exist online and therefore already have an online reputation (a lack of an online presence says something, too). You can let that reputation go unchecked or you can manage it. Many people argue that you should manage it- and for very good reasons. If you’re a museum or nonprofit professional, there’s another good reason to manage your personal brand:

Because during this particular time of social media evolution and frequent Facebook change-ups, your organization needs you to have a personal brand.

An online reputation is often called a personal brand. For many people– especially nonprofit professionals who do not work in marketing– the idea of having a personal “brand” feels somehow insincere or contrived. It’s not. In fact, the best personal brands are authentic and transparent.  Personal branding means knowing what people are saying about you, being diligent and conscientious, and helping to paint an accurate picture online.

And (contrary to a possible knee-jerk misconception associated with the word “brand”), personal brands aren’t always self-serving. In fact, when it comes to museum and cultural nonprofit professionals, developing and maintaining a strong, personal brand can be an incredible asset for your institution.  Professionals with strong personal brands carry their social missions into their online identities and can be incredible assets for telling the kinds of stories that spawn change. 

Thanks in large part to the rise of social media, the traditionally-stark line between peoples’ “personal” and “professional” lives has become blurry online. Last week, I gave an overview of some museum professionals who are successful in not only representing their museums in an online space, but in moving those organizations forward in online engagement through their own personal brands.  Though we always represent the institutions for which we work, some museum professionals go beyond merely “spreading the word” about their cause by actively blogging, tweeting, and engaging audiences online to strengthen both their own and their institution’s brand. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you establish a personal brand. But why do it? Here are four, important ways that personal branding and becoming engaged online helps strengthen your organization in the long run:

 

1. Personal branding increases your organization’s reputation, a key discretionary motivator for visitors. Through a recent, large-scale study on museum awareness, attitudes and usage, IMPACTS has found that perceptions of a museum’s reputation plays a very important role in whether or not a visitor will decide to attend a zoo, aquarium, or museum (ZAM). In fact, reputation is a top-five influencer for the U.S. composite and it is one of the top-two driving motivators for the average high propensity visitor at a ZAM. In sum, managing a ZAM’s reputation is critical to achieving visitation and reaching the organization’s financial bottom-line. A good way to increase an organization’s positive reputation is to align it with someone who already has a positive reputation. The brands strengthen and lend credibility to one another. Let’s give a written fist-bump to a side-step of the transitive property here: if a person working for a nonprofit is perceived to have talent, then the nonprofit is perceived to have talent.  A goal of personal branding is to manage your online reputation and paint yourself (ergo, your organization) in the best light possible. Brand management is reputation management.

 

2. Personal branding allows the organization to reach more targeted audiences with increased credibility. ZAMs have high propensity visitors. That is, people who are most likely to visit… and they have relatively specific profiles. All nonprofits have these specified audiences and it is up to the organization to know who these people are, where to find them, and what these people like to do so that they can be most effectively engaged. Effective, broader marketing strategies target these high propensity visitors. However, maintaining a personal brand alongside the institution allows you to engage other audiences or more closely target a subset of your high propensity visitor. This may be an audience of industry professionals (if you’re the CEO), an audience of history buffs (if you’re a curator), an audience of mommy blogging friends (if you’re a mommy-blogging PR rep), or an audience of Gen Y socialites (if you’re the well-connected visitor services intern)… You catch my drift. In other words, building a personal brand allows you to connect more personal friend-circles with the things that excite you about your profession. In this way, professionals are important evangelists for the causes for which they work. Word of mouth marketing is powerful, and positive messages to the inner-circles in which professionals are personally involved allows the organization to reach a targeted group with more built-in credibility.

 

3. Personal branding increases opportunities for transparency and provides an alternate avenue for engaging storytelling. Just look at how some top CEOs are using Twitter; they do it with their own style and authenticity… and that’s why it works. They lend a tone and message to their organization. This can be an especially terrific asset if your organization has a more formal, less-personal informational Twitter account. Tweeting about your day-to-day life (to an extent… too much of this looks solipsistic real fast…) shows folks online that the organization’s leader is a living, breathing, relatable human being with hopes, dreams, desires, a sense of humor, and sometimes-terrible spelling skills. A professional with an online presence can also be an avenue for telling engaging, personal stories. Putting a face, or a storyteller, to a story can make a big difference. A quick favor to branded professionals who engage on their organization’s Facebook wall: disclose your relationship with the nonprofit in your comment, or it looks like you are playing us as fools. Love always, the online community who will chalk up “untrustworthy” points for organizations that try to play us (whether they mean to or not). 

 

4. Personal branding can inspire earned media. Twitter users are three times more likely than other social media platform users to be critics (think Yelp reviewers) or creators (think mommy bloggers). From that perspective alone, personal branding with relation to your organization has a huge benefit: instead of one, faceless account Tweeting for a cause, online advocates can tweet from their personal accounts, increasing opportunities for earned media. This is strongly connected to reaching new audiences and increasing reputation. Earned media often functions like word of mouth marketing— it is media for which the organization did not have a monetary transaction. It is often organic and timely. Having advocates online, whether they work for the nonprofit or not, creates opportunities for securing earned media. Branded professionals can be seen as go-tos for information on cause-related information. This happens organically and it can be heaven for the organization if online employees are advocates of the mission… but it can backfire faster than the Formula Rossa roller coaster  at Ferrari World with staff members who may be online and are unaware of the important role that they play in word of mouth marketing for the organization. (A solution here? a social media policy).  In sum, earned media is an important aim for online engagement, and developing a personal brand can help your organization increase the likelihood of spreading word of its mission and inspiring this kind of media.

 

What can museum professionals do to get started on a personal brand? There are a lot of terrific resources out there. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg, but it sure is a good place to start:

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 3 Comments

Personal Branding and Museum Directors: A Look at Two Industry Leaders

There are plenty of benefits to having a personal brand, just as there are incredible benefits to hiring someone who has a personal brand. It allows you to be a thought leader, have a voice, and necessitates keeping a pulse on the online community, social trends, and evolving communication methods.  Perhaps most importantly, though, having a personal brand allows you to be a better storyteller. CEOs with strong personal brands carry their social missions into their online identities and can be incredible assets for telling the kinds of stories that spawn change. They become spirited leaders of not only an organization, but of a cause. And the person, the organization, the cause, and the constituents are all beneficiaries in this personal-branding-for-social-change love-fest.

For most cultural nonprofits, there’s an un-tapped opportunity to build credibility, authenticity, and infiltrate your story with a professional demographic… and that opportunity lies in nonprofit’s CEO or a public-facing department leader. 

Personal branding– also connection with brands and building networks online– -are big for the Gen Y crowd, but most nonprofit CEOs are not Millennials (yet…although I think this may take longer than Tierney’s proposed decade to occur due to merging nonprofits, late-retiring boomers, and other reasons). Folks build a personal brand to engage, to network, and to establish credibility as a thought leader. It makes sense that some of the biggest tech CEOs have personal brands like Mark Cuban (of too much to name), Marc Andreessen (of Ning), Craig Newmark (of Craigslist), and Guy Kawasaki (of Alltop). A large portion of their work takes place online, but increasingly, a large and important portion of all nonprofits’ work will take place online in the form of storytelling, online engagement, and building transparency- an already- important public attribute.  We can learn from these tech and social industry leaders and their brand management. I’d say that they are good places to start, but museums already have some professionals with well established web presences.

An interesting thing about working in museums is that they have different departments and different opportunities for engagement. For some institutions, the leader in the online space is not the CEO at all. Here’s a very (very) select and diverse group of professionals with clear personal brands, and who successfully bridge personal and professional to be advocates for their museums. Their tribes range in size, they have different tones, and they appeal to different folks. Here are a few:

In many situations, professionals who run social media or have tech roles within the museum are social tech savvy, so keeping an eye on them can be a cheat-sheet for current happenings. So where are the museum directors? I’m glad you asked. Here are two, stellar examples of museum CEOs with terrific personal brands. Both of the museum directors below use their personal brands to their- and their institution’s- advantage.. and they do it in different ways.

 

Nina Simon (@ninaksimon)- Director of the Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz

Leveraging thought leadership to build community and elevate the museum. It’s no surprise that many (if not most) of the professionals online keeping updated blogs and personal brands are consultants and writers. This makes sense, as consultants’ credibility often depends upon their symbolic capital. Nina Simon was a writer and consultant before taking up her relatively new position as Director of the Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz. Her blog, Museum 2.0, has thousands of dedicated readers and her book, The Participatory Museum, is a hit. The Smithsonian has called her a “Museum Visionary”, and with cause– just check out her projects and publications! The coolest thing about Nina Simon’s career is that it happened in large part because of her deciding to establish a web presence. In fact, she credits her blog for much of her career path and success. Here’s (a few of) the many things that Nina Simon did right that leveraged her brand (and reputation) in the long run:

  • Nina Simon built a brand
  • She carved out a timely niche (participatory museum experiences)
  • She became an expert (the expert, arguably) in her niche
  • She built a strong community and made herself known as the go-to person for her niche
  • She embraced multiple online platforms, utilizing Twitter, Blogging, Facebook, and became involved in various committees and online communities
  • She became the Director of the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz
  • She told everyone
  • Now all of her followers and communities have this museum on their radar and the museum gets to benefit from the symbolic capital of having an established thought leader and author leading their institution (and their brand).
In one of my personal favorite posts by Nina Simon, she says that getting hired for her was a matter of “what you want, how aggressive you are, and what ideas you can offer.” It’s the ideas and aggressiveness that have and continue to set Nina apart from the crowd.

 

Max Anderson (@MaxAndersonUSA)- Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (until January)

Being the face of an institution reinventing online engagement and making it a priority. Max Anderson was named CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2006. This last October, he announced that he was leaving IMA and moving to Dallas to head up the Dallas Museum of Art (effective January 9, 2012). Anderson was the Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art for only five and a half years– but those were particularly good years for the museum and online initiatives. In fact, under Anderson’s watch, the IMA was credited with significantly pushing social technology forward for museums and the larger nonprofit industry. For a moment, let’s forget the fact that Max Anderson added over $30 million to IMA’s endowment through gifts and pledges and more than doubled museum attendance…and focus on the topic at hand, here: the man has a web presence. Perhaps they are related. Most importantly, he led the way as the museum took up three initiatives that arguably changed the world of museums and social media:
  1. Anderson led IMA in creating its famous IMA Dashboard in 2007. This initiative was well-timed and has gained significant and much deserved recognition for leading the way for online organizational transparency in all sectors.
  2. After receiving a suggestion from blogger, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes, on Twitter, Anderson promptly bet famous works of art on the 2010 Superbowl… through his personal Twitter account. The initiative displays the importance of listening to an online audience, acting quickly, and well… just being cool. Unfortunately, the Colts lost the Superbowl, but the IMA held up their end of the bargain: they lent Turner’s The Fifth Plague of Egypt, 1800 to the New Orleans Museum of Art for three months. We’ve all looked to this as a great example of online engagement and local community cultivation ever since. And now these bets are becoming tradition.
  3. Artbabble is a community that showcases video art content in high quality format from a variety of sources and perspectives. It was created so others will join in spreading the world of art through video– and it’s working. The initiative now has over 30 museum partners throughout the world and a cool, online-friendly tagline: Babble on.

Max Anderson not only aided his museum through his own personal brand, but he gained recognition for the institution as an online community-building leader during his time at IMA. He was an advocate of social technology and information-share. Here’s a bit of what Max Anderson did right to help create and elevate his brand:

  • He came into IMA as the Director
  • He realized the potential value of online engagement relatively early (he’d dappled with some online information-share initiatives in the past)
  • He supported efforts to engage online communities through new initiatives
  • He used social media himself (fearlessly, in the case betting artwork on the Superbowl)
  • He  made information about himself and IMA accessible
  • He encouraged IMA to take up initiatives in the online space and made a (good) example out of the institution

 

Both Nina Simon and Maxwell Anderson are considered thought leaders in the area of museums and social media. And in fact, by very large measure, both of their successes stem from their personal/professional involvement in the online space. Through this involvement, both Simon and Anderson have moved their organizations forward and propelled them into the future… through two relatively different approaches.

Want to figure out how to take the first step in branding yourself as a museum professional? There are a lot of resources out there to help– but I’ll post some of my very favorites on Thursday (December 8th) to help get you started and outline some basics.

In the meantime, please comment and share examples of your favorite museum and nonprofit directors (or department leaders) involved in community engagement. There are some great examples out there and I’d love to hear your favorites.

*Photo credit

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 2 Comments

Millennials and Social Media: Why Nonprofits Need Them to Survive

This video is a must-watch for all nonprofit leaders.  It is a keynote given by John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium Institute, at the most recent Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) conference in Atlanta. Though the speech is geared toward zoo and aquarium folks, the message here is powerful, relevant, and well-articulated for all organizations with a social mission. It is about inspiring change, remaining relevant, engaging audiences and telling stories. As with most speeches worth sharing, it’ll likely give you goosebumps. Start at minute 7 if you are pressed for time, but really, I encourage you to watch it all if you can. There is incredible thought-food here and you won’t regret it.

Within the speech, Racanelli discusses the importance of understanding and engaging Millennials. He also discusses the communication method that we grew into and have thus developed an integrated knack for understanding: social media. At some points in the keynote, Gen Y and social media are discussed separately. At other points, they are explained together. The brilliance of this speech, though—and perhaps the reason why it is so powerful—is that all of the talking points (industry evolution, remaining relevant, social media, inspiring audiences, creating change, building emotional and social bonds between people) are interconnected… and that interconnectedness seems to be necessary for zoos, aquariums, museums, and nonprofit organizations to accomplish their goals.

Often, I find that my most valued contribution to my line of work is my role as an “ambassador for my species” (the Millennial species, that is). I travel nationally and internationally to work with ZAMs and help nonprofit leaders develop ideas and initiatives by contributing a Generation Y mindset (actually, to aid in online engagement, but I cannot always divorce the two). More often than not, I’m the youngest person in the room by at least twenty years. And I’m the youngest person in the fancy restaurants, always.

We Millennials are a unique group. We are also very confusing. Especially in regard to motivation and especially for boomers (and even X’ers) trying to speak to us in our language: Boomers worked their way up the professional hierarchy but we don’t have much regard for that ladder.  Generation X fought for workplace autonomy but we’d all rather work collaboratively. And then there’s the issue of money: we are the most educated generation in history, and we have by far the most debt. However, when looking for jobs, we seek out the ones that provide mentorship, work/life balance, an opportunity to “do good” in the world, and allow us to hang out with our friends. Heck, we even value the use of a mobile device to connect with our friends more than a high-paying salary. In addition to this, we are generally skeptical about long-term loyalty to an organization,  (raising the question, “how do we get these kids to commit!?”)  … but we’ve got some good points, too! We are entrepreneurial, optimistic, and civic-minded. (Or better stated, confident, connected, and open to change).

No matter how you cut it, understanding both the growing importance of Generation Y and online engagement are absolutely necessary in order for organizations to not only remain relevant, but to inspire individuals to create positive, social change. Extrapolating (completely independently) from the powerful points made in Racanelli’s keynote, Millennials and social media – both separately and combined- provide some not-so-secret sauce for moving organizations forward. Here’s how:

 

Millennials and social media make it possible to tell the compelling stories that will achieve social change. As John Racanelli points out, “We, in this industry, have one of the most powerful platforms for which to tell our stories, if we tell them extremely well.” Stories (telling them and showing them) are essential in communicating social missions. We create buy-in, awe, and wonder by telling stories. As Racanelli points out: ZAMs (and all nonprofits, I’d argue) have the capacity to inspire people. That’s a role that we live up to through the stories that we tell, exhibits and programs that we share, animals/artifacts that we care for, and broader conservation/education goals.

  • Generation Y knows how to tell stories and share information virally. Millennials like to share information—which has actually garnered us negative attention. But this characteristic has some pretty serious organizational benefits, too. Millennials tell stories all of the time, and we are often well-connected to peer groups outside of the workplace. Growing up on social media, this generation already thinks in organic, online content- the kind that tells the best stories online. Many of us use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr personally. And arguably more than previous generations, we have a good grasp on what is/is not likely to be spread, shared, and well received by our peers in these spaces.
  • Social media and word of mouth marketing can increase the credibility of stories: That sounds silly, right? It’s not. People trust their friends and social media keeps people connected to their friends (and, lucky for us, their friends’ interests). This is good for organizations because barriers to entry are low for spreading a message online; people can experience a nonprofit’s story from a computer at home, on their own schedule, and they can save, share, and revisit information as desired. Social media keeps organizations “top of mind,” which aids in attracting donors and evangelists. (As a related side, social media has the potential to be especially important in telling stories for zoos, aquariums, science centers, and other organizations with animals. In fact, organizations that serve animals (and children) have the greatest success on social media. ZAMs can find a way to tap this, too.)

 

Millennials and social media help bring people together to build communities for change. John Racanelli calls zoos and aquariums “a sociological force with power to bring people together around ideas.” That’s a good quote, I think, for reminding ZAMs of their social power. It’s post-on-the-whiteboard worthy. But I like this one, too: “The sooner we see visitors as communities, the sooner we can activate them.” Change “visitors” to “evangelists,” and you’ve got a message that is relevant to all nonprofits.

  • Generation Y is hard-wired for social connectivity, increasing information-share and creating communities. As mentioned above, Millennials are a social, well-connected bunch within their circles. They are also public service oriented and they care about change. This makes for a winning combination: Millennials think globally and act locally. It takes connections to connect folks, and Generation Y’s social mind-set is ideal for connecting people, spreading social messages, and managing communities- especially on social networks.
  • Social media provides a platform for “rallying the troops” and building a community that is location independent. Social media can play upon the strength of weak ties  in accomplishing goals related to “rallying the troops” online. We know from experience now that social media can be an effective tool for organizing movements and bringing people together on issues. Here’s an article from Mashable about how even a smaller organization made it happen. (Please notice that this is an example tied to people coming together for the benefit of animals—Oh, the possibilities for ZAMs!)

 

Millennials and social media help increase public-facing transparency, which elevates trust in the organization. Here’s another little verbal gemstone from the keynote that, I think, is worth sharing: “Well, Of course [zoos and aquariums] matter. I believe our real challenge is to honor the trust our constituents and communities place in us by giving them the hope, the motive, and the inspiration to be part of the solution.” This equation cannot happen without first inspiring trust in an organization. Gen Y and social media can help.

  • Generation Y aims to build trust- and more than that, Generation Y can be most trusting. Or, at least more trusting toward organizations than Generation X or Boomers ever were, as Racanelli points out. We’ve got some over-share going on and when friends or organizations don’t also share organic, timely messaging, we lose trust. We wonder what is being hidden. Our trust is hard to gain through traditional marketing methods. Millennials are beneficial in the area of building online trust because it ties in to the way that we understand organizations ourselves.
  • Social media is a mecca for word of mouth marketing and honest reviews of organizations, helping to bring to light the effective “behind the scenes” of organizations. The best organizations on social media embrace this. They use online platforms to share “behind the scenes” information that creates a community of “insiders” (read: potential evangelists and free agents for your cause). Studies have found that people online don’t trust an organization’s website as much as they trust social media sites. Social media sites are thought to be more honest and transparent… and using them well can help increase a nonprofit’s perceived trustworthiness.

 

Millennials are not the only demographic using social media. Not by a long shot. But Generation Y came of age when social media was the cool, new thing. It is integrated into our daily lives. Most of us do not keep on top of happenings in the social technology realm because we are paid to be in-the-know on such topics. On the contrary, we do it because it is how we connect with our friends and how we understand the world.

Use us to help your organization spread its social mission.

Here’s a link to the quiz from Pew Research (How Millennial are you?) that John Racanelli mentions. And if you want to read a bit more on the role of Millennials in the workplace, check out an article that I was asked to write this Summer for Museum Magazine.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Millennials, Nonprofit Marketing, Sector Evolution, Trends 5 Comments

The Four “T”s of Online Engagement

I recently  had the opportunity to give a presentation to folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and members of the Monterey community  on The Best of the Best of Online Engagement. (Big thanks to the aquarium for being great hosts!)  Though I have shared similar versions of this presentation before, my prep got me thinking about easy, “cheat sheet” ways to tie together not only these terrific examples of online engagement, but nearly all successful initiatives in this arena.

I came up with four elements that make for a successful social media initiative and overall mindset. None of these necessities are new or unique. In fact, they are the opposite: tried-and-true elements that make up a successful social media mindset and have been proven to position organizations to better reach online engagement goals. The “cheat sheet” part? They are presented as four “T”s.

It may also be the cheesiest part, but don’t judge. Mneumonic devices can be helpful, folks say… and to be missing even one of these elements in your engagement strategy could really cut your organization short of reaching its engagement potential. So make sure that your organization has integrated these things to develop a strong foundation, and then move forward from there.

 

Transparency

First thing’s first, and the first thing is absolutely transparency (or perceived transparency). That is, providing enough content to tell behind-the-scenes stories and give folks a peek though the alternative entrance. Transparency is achieved through the content that is shared. This content must be ongoing, often organic (not planned in advance), and portray a sense of honesty. Trust is built online through transparency, which challenges the way that we traditionally think about marketing. Traditionally, marketers would go out of their way to hide flaws. While it’s still not a good idea to scream every internal  issue from the rooftops, sharing select, relevant PR issues (before they come up on their own), is a good idea. In other words, if your organization is taking a risk- trying something new, publicising the birth of an animal with a high mortality rate, or doing something that might garner negative attention later- let your online audience know what you are up to.  Show them that you are taking that risk. When you engage in radical trust, the trust is often returned.

 

Timeliness

This has two parts to it: being timely in your responses to community members, and taking on timely initiatives. Being timely in responding to community members is simple and boils down to answering questions on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms as quickly as possible. Don’t make people wait. If someone asks a question or posts a comment related to public relations (as opposed to admission price, parking, etc) it is just as important to respond in a timely manner- if not more important. Aim for a few hours (4 max, with exceptions for overnight). People will notice a silence online if you don’t respond. That silence is particularly awkward if you wait longer than 24 hours.

When dealing with a particular online initiative, “timeliness” means taking into account the broader context of the world (or your demographic) at large during the time of the project. Often, the most successful online strategies capitalize on things that are happening in the world around us. Take, for example, The National Constitution Center’s Address America project.  This initiative took place in the time leading up to Barak Obama’s Inaugural Address. The timing of the initiative lent relevance and buy-in to the project.

 

Touchability

Or, accessibility. Successful online engagement minds don’t just post information directly to social media outlets. They filter it through a sort-of “touchability” lens so that folks can relate. As we know- especially in zoos, aquariums, and museums- some content is important, but dense. (This is true for nearly all nonprofits, especially those with messages regarding legislation which can make certain people “check-out” quickly). Online, it is important to have simple messages that can be understood immediately, or people won’t read the content. A few organizations that I work with have expressed frustration with this, commenting that people will post comments on the nonprofit’s blog without reading anything more than the title of the post- and completely miss the point. If your headline is something that is meaningful to people, then they are more likely to listen. In fact, if your content OR initiative are relevant and “touchable” to an audience, then it is more likely to be digested and shared. When coming up with an online engagement strategy, make it about your online audience- not about your organization.

 

Tone

Be human. Also, show and don’t just tell. On Facebook, users engage with brands as if they are their friends. Embrace this (read: be very careful of excessive “hard sells”). Would you be friends with someone who could not stop talking about how your giving them money would make you a good person. I sure wouldn’t. It would be exhausting. Not to mention, that’s not a functional relationship. The folks who like you on Facebook will engage with your brand in exchange for relevant information- and a product that they feel fulfills a purpose for them. Don’t tell them to donate or visit too often- show them why they should donate or visit. Being “human” about it will help. We all know that there is someone behind the computer screen. Be transparent (circling back to T #1) and have personality. We have seen time and again that tone makes a big difference. If you take on a human voice, people will be more drawn to your organization as well as your initiative.

 

So print this out– or even just jot down these four words and put them on the online engagement team’s whiteboard. If you are the only person running social media for your organization, you can jot it on a post-it and put it above your desk (that’s what I do!). Whatever floats your boat. Regardless, I hope that these four Ts put words to the things that you already knew to be effective in online community management or pointed out something new to help your move forward.

Have items to contribute to the list? I’d love to hear from you. (extra points if your additions start with T!)

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 2 Comments

6 Reasons Why Your Organization Needs a Social Media Hub

My line of work involves writing a fair amount of Diagnostic Audits for the terrific zoos, aquariums, and museums with which I have the opportunity to work. This involves making assessments about social media and online engagement strategies. Very often, I find myself recommending the creation and execution of an effective “hub” to help organizations achieve their online engagement goals. I’m always amazed how many organizations don’t have an online home to help them drive website visitors to the organization’s desired social media outcome.

A hub is an important part of an online communication strategy. The hub serves as a landing page for engaging content (stories, videos, anecdotes, etc). The hub functions much like a blog– It is critical for community building and, unlike most websites for visitor serving organizations, it must be updated constantly. Some organizations merge website and blog formats successfully by integrating their hub directly into their website. The hub is a place where social media links are directed and content is aggregated. Not to mention, having a hub is resourceful and it makes achieving online goals a whole lot easier.

Here are six ways that your organization will benefit from having a social media hub:

 

1. The hub provides a consistent home for engaging content. A hub is a site where you aggregate all of your engaging content including embedded YouTube videos, favorite photos, articles about earned media that the organization picked up throughout the week, animal updates (if you are a zoo or aquarium), volunteer anecdotes, and short stories about that crazy-huge load of fish food that just came in on the loading dock yesterday. Putting all of this information in one place allows an organization to tell an ongoing, cohesive story; the story of the behind-the-scenes life of the organization. This backstage pass is more than a useful tool for coordination and potential visitor intrigue, it also increases the perception of an organization’s transparency– and transparency and honesty are cited as essential values for success in online public relations. In short, setting up this hub is putting your organization in a better situation to avoid (and if needed, address) a PR crisis. To reference one of the very best examples of this (again), here is how the Shedd Aquarium utilized their hub to not only avoid a crisis, but to get into the hearts of their online community after the death of a dolphin calf.

 

2. The hub provides an opportunity for the coordination and curation of stories.The hub is also a place of coordination. The hub is a single site where links are directed for compelling content and, like a typical blog, content is tagged and categorized. Though a compelling hub is constantly updated (about once or twice each weekday), folks need not be overwhelmed by content. Site visitors who are only interested in, say, an art museum’s Modern collection, need only to click on the “Modern Art” tag to see posts related to that topic. The hub is not only a place to tell the organization’s larger day-to-day, behind-the-scenes story, but a place where visitors can turn to find the stories related to their area of interest. Coordinating and cleaning up the hub with tags decreases the energy that someone needs to spend on the site in order to find out information that is important to them. It decreases barriers to potential buy-in.

 

3. The hub is an easy, go-to place for real and potential visitors and evangelists. The hub, if used consistently, can be established as a reliable place for information that is easy for readers to follow. It becomes a go-to site for real-time information (as opposed to closing times and driving directions). If the hub is in a blog format, people can put it in their preferred blog reader, or sign up for updates, or — much more commonly– folks can bookmark the site as a quick resource for timely and engaging information.  This site is helpful for people who want to know what is going on, but don’t want to scroll back through several days of Facebook status updates to find the information that they seek.  A hub doesn’t have missing information on unique happenings. It makes it easier for real and potential visitors to remain “in the loop.”

 

4. The hub allows you to direct messaging so it aligns with your social media goals. One of the most important elements of an online engagement strategy (and of managing your social media expectations) is having a clear goal or a clear reason to be using social media. Popular goals for social media include things like: spreading conservation messaging, educating the public on the value of x, increasing the reputation and credibility of the organization, reaching underserved audiences, accessing a younger demographic and– most commonly– driving attendance. The benefit of a hub is that you are linking people who have self-identified themselves as interested in your organization’s content to a single site, and you can control the messaging on that site. If it’s about getting people in the door, make sure there’s a banner about your newest exhibit. Include messaging about why right now is the best time to visit. You’ve channeled folks to one place… make sure that one place has the messaging to help you achieve your goal.

 

5. The hub also allows you to direct links so that you can better achieve your social media goals. Much like you can control the messaging on the hub, you can also control the link path on the hub. It’s simple but important: link folks to where you want them to go, and adjust your messaging to make them want to go there. If your goal is to increase attendance, link to the online ticket purchasing page of your website. Make it easy for your goals and the visitor’s goals to correspond by coordinating messaging and links.

 

6.  The hub increases site visitation and the possibility of earned media… and it only gets better from there. Because social media channels are all directed toward content on the hub, the hub becomes an easy go-to place with (hopefully) a good amount of visitation. The more people visit the hub, the more people have the opportunity to share content from the hub with their friends and online community. The more people share this content, the greater the opportunity for people to write about or review your organization, contributing to the development of word of mouth marketing regarding the organization.  When more people visit the website and write positive articles, glowing reviews, or even share a Facebook link, the organization may experience an increase in perceived credibility and expertise. This perception elevates the organization’s reputation- and reputation is frequently a key driver of attendance to visitor serving organizations.

 

In sum, a hub is a critical way to harness interest in your organization. Without a hub, social media channels link out to YouTube, Flickr, Facebook statuses that are hard for interested parties to reference over time, various portions of an evolving website that may only be accessible for a few weeks, and other places. A hub gives an organization the opportunity to coordinate content, better meet social media goals, and tell a more compelling story online.

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 8 Comments

A Marathon Course for Online Engagement in Visitor Serving Organizations

I am currently training for the Chicago Marathon. As a total newbie to this whole “running” business (I’m not worthy of using the word in relation to myself without quotations yet), I’m learning an awful lot about training, timing, pacing myself, and creating a plan for the course. As I run through the woods in the Midwest, fighting off mosquitos and hoping that a selection from my holidays playlist isn’t the next song on my iPod (try running to I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas… in September. It throws you off a bit), I often find myself thinking about the parallels of this journey, and how zoos, aquariums, and museums engage audiences online. …Yes, I think about these things in my free time.

As it turns out, the metaphor of a marathon might be a useful way to think about engaging folks in an online space. This is especially true when contemplating how ZAMs should approach online engagement on the more popular social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. In this metaphor, individual online advocates are the runners. , The course is the path to effective online engagement that ends in getting people through the door, and it is the organization’s job to put on the event and get runners across the finish line.

1. Recruiting runners to enroll in your marathon: securing positive earned media and organic (not sponsored) reviews. This process involves inspiring folks to become your Facebook fan or Twitter follower so that they can step up to the marathon starting line and engage with your brand through updates and all of that compelling content that organizations work so hard to create. This is a hard task, and of course it is critical (or why be on Facebook?). The best way to do this is to recruit runners to enroll through word of mouth marketing. This can be done most easily by folks who are already advocates (have already completed the marathon. See #7). Luckily, tools like positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp can inspire visitation if a potential “runner” is out-of-market or does not personally know an individual who has experienced the institution.

2. Developing a training program to help runners make it through: achieving Facebook “likes.” The parallel between online engagement and running a marathon crossed my mind while presenting social media best practices to an aquarium client. During our discussion on Facebook, a member of the marketing team asked me, “What do ‘likes’ mean? Should we celebrate these?” It’s a good question. The answer, I would say, is that on a social media platform, a “like” on Facebook means that someone has enrolled for your organization’s engagement “marathon” by signing up for a training program… and it’s the role of the aquarium (or other visitor service entity) to help get potential finishers in shape. A “like” means that someone has clicked on your Facebook page and self-identified as a potential visitor or advocate. That person has given your organization the “OK” to appear in their newsfeed and engage them on a daily basis. They have taken the first step and opened up to your organization, and now the ZAM must rise to the occasion and facilitate the connection. However, it’s important to remember that signing up for the training program does not mean that a runner will eventually finish the marathon or even get to the starting line. Also, many “runners” who aren’t enrolled in the training program (not following your organization) will complete the marathon. In other words, “likes” are not the most important form of measurement for online engagement. In fact, sometimes they can be a distraction.

3. Treating runners at aid stations: inspiring connection through organic, behind-the-scenes content. This is super important! These are the surveys, fun facts, photos, videos, blog posts, behind-the-scenes snippets, anecdotes, jokes, contests and data that ZAMs share with fans and followers to make them see the organization in their newsfeed and think, “Hey! That’s cool!” This is how organizations keep engagement going, and build upon this engagement so that the organization can “connect” with potential visitors who are compelled by the organization’s social mission (or, just want to see that exhibit in person). Here’s what I’m learning in my training: aid-stations are incredibly important. I know, personally, that I cannot run a marathon without water, or perhaps some lemon-lime Gatorade. Most runners cannot finish a marathon, or even a half marathon, comfortably without aid. Similarly, it is much harder for friends and followers to engage with your organization online without aid (read: relevant content). This is also the area in which I do the most work and the area in which ZAMs and other nonprofit organizations struggle the most. The secrets here aren’t tough (but every organization seems to struggle with them): be human, be transparent, be real (don’t over-plan) and listen to what your audience is saying.

4. Completing a half marathon: Securing an on-site visit. If we were marathon course-planning slackers, we’d stop here. We’ve accomplished an awesome goal: we secured a visitor– perhaps a whole family! This is not a small thing.We’ve contributed to the double-bottom-line of a nonprofit organization by both inspiring (hopefully) an individual with the organization’s social mission and also by contributing to the organization’s financial bottom line in the form of admission.  But there’s still a long way to go to really help runners reach their full marathon-running potential. It would be a disservice to think about the online engagement process as ending here. We are only halfway done!

5. Breaking out the goo around mile 17: providing avenues for half-marathoners to share their experiences, and facilitating and rewarding this sharing. This is a bit like #3 and it is equally important. Compelling content comes back into play in this part of the journey, but it relies more heavily on interactions. This is where word of mouth marketing is at its best. Encourage visitors to share their stories and experiences, celebrate their pictures, videos, and anecdotes. Remind them, if you can, to post about positive experiences on Yelp and TripAdvisor. During mile 17, runners should be actively recruiting runners for the marathon, and the organization should be facilitating this recruitment by continuing to inspire connections with online audiences by rewarding interaction and sharing visitor stories.

6. Finishing the marathon: A past visitor inspiring new visitors to come to the organization. When positive reviews from trusted sources (friends who have been to the organization before or credible earned media sources) inspire more people to visit, then the marathon is complete, in a way. Engaging content has been utilized beyond simply the clicks that it secures. For this reason and many others, it is silly to place too much weight on the number of clicks that a particular piece of content receives. For instance, a YouTube video may receive only 100 views, but if that video inspires those people to visit, and those people share their experiences through word of mouth marketing (online or in-person) and inspire more visits, then those mere 100 clicks have significant worth… far more than the weight that we typically put on the concept of only 100 clicks. However, this does not mean that every bit of content is a success in engaging audiences. It is critical to listen to online communities and create content that is most inspiring to your audiences. Or, content that you notice receives a response.

7. Placing in the marathon: The original visitor becoming a member, donor, or long-time advocate for the organization. Okay, in a real marathon, not everyone can place. But we nonprofit-folk try to be optimistic. The goal in this particular marathon is to get everyone to win, beat their own PR, place in their age-group– however you’d like to see it. This occurs when online and on-site engagement are so high, or personal buy-in is established so well, that the visitor or evangelists carries out an activity that strengthens the long-term bottom lines of the institution. The development of these folks is most frequently the aim for online engagement. Like any good marathon, if runners have fun, they’ll want to run it again. Thus, alongside this track, it is critical to continue to engage communities online. This especially includes members, donors, and advocates of the organization.

Good luck to all of you nonprofiteer marathoners out there running races this season! And also to all of you online-engagement-marathon planners! We’re rooting for you! And, if you happen to be in Chicago on October 9th, root for me. I’ll take all the support that I can get! See you on the course, folks!

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Nonprofit Marketing, Trends 3 Comments

Barriers to Adopting Social Strategies: Resources

(Or, How Being Scrappy with Resources can be Okay for Your Organization on Social Media)

The question of resources (who is going to run social media and how much time and money will it take?) is often a barrier for zoos, aquariums, and museums looking to adopt social strategies. I have saved this example for last in this series of four barriers to adopting social strategies, because it has the biggest “let down” factor. The let down? The amount of resources you dedicate to online engagement is up to you and your institution. (Clear-cut answers are so much sexier.) There is no right or wrong answer… except that you get yourself on these platforms and start experimenting… Like most things, scale and growth will require investment, but start small. Have one person take the reins and increase staff support as you uncover success in engaging audiences online. Though the amount of time and energy required to get involved in social strategies depends on the institution and the available resources at hand, there are a few helpful tips to help you maximize your resources– or at least ease your mind in the area of resources when considering barriers for adopting social strategies. 

But as a quick side, I want to share a presentation that I gave on August 9th that was hosted by the wonderful Tennessee Aquarium. The presentation is called The Best of The Best of Online Engagement and it highlights an Academy-Awards-of-such of how museums have moved forward in the area of online engagement over the last few years. Consider this resource shared!  Now, back to business:

 

Here are six little tips to consider when your organization becomes overwhelmed or apprehensive regarding resources in taking on social media or online initiatives:

1. Don’t leave it to your intern (but listen to your intern!) When social media first showed up, it was a thing for the intern. PR savvy folks know now that social media is a very important part of a marketing strategy. I’ll reference the Bass Model again: the coefficient of imitation (word of mouth marketing, peer reviews, earned media) are over ten times more effective than the coefficient of innovation (paid marketing and advertising). Again, there’s also data to support that your organization’s earned media is more important than your organization’s website.  Give the role of running social media to the wrong person/intern and you might just have an incredibly embarrassing situation on your hands— a “Marc Jacobs situation,” I’ll call it. While hilarious to read from a distance, an intern going nuts on your Twitter account hardly helps your brand.

Though we’ve moved past leaving social media entirely to the intern, it is still fiercely important to listen to your intern (and young people in general) when engaging audiences. Young people are generally masters of online engagement. Gen Y grew up with it and can use it with sincerity, they are “gatekeepers of dirt,” and perhaps best of all, they are generally energetic. Folks can smell a communications dud from a mile away. A person just going through the motions on social media usually won’t cut it. Tap an intern’s knowledge and energy.

 

2. Work on an effective scale for you. Remember the Brooklyn Museum example? They gave up Facebook and Twitter accounts for their 1st Fans initiative and moved to Meetup.com. They were using too many resources and their operations online were not producing their desired outcome. Thus, the Brooklyn Museum shamelessly and publicly switched it up. They did less to achieve more. If you’re going to get involved on a platform, do it well. Be unafraid to be thoughtful about the time dedicated to social media. Do only what works for you… and if you can, try to do something unique to engage audiences in a way that meets your goals (and then share it with me so I can tell other people about the cool stuff that you are doing, if you’d like!)

 

 3. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Okay, okay. Groupon is pretty big… but it’s not usually worth it. In general, it’s great to reward folks who interact with you online, especially because we are finding more and more that folks look to social media for discounts (Thanks a bunch, Groupon). Discounts and special offers are only one way to do this- especially for ZAMs. There are other creative ways to reward your fans on Facebook and Twitter. Check out those links for some simple ideas. But it’s not just about getting involved on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. The best of the best in audience engagement create their own social opportunities online. And hey, the cost of building a social networking site has dropped to nearly nothing.

When it comes to running a campaign, social media consultancy can get pricey, and this is especially sensitive for nonprofits. Connecting with your contacts within the industry can help side-step some of these fees and you can meet a lot of these folks online. Here’s my “Museos” Twitter list for reference—and I follow a LOT more terrific people who share incredible resources online on a daily basis (Drop me a line on Twitter if you’d like me to add you to the list).  Associations can help, too. I’m a massive fan-girl of the American Association for State and Local History and AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums. I love them because they are run by insanely refreshing, forward-thinking people with an eye to the future. And yup, the future has it’s feet in online engagement. They (and other associations) are dripping with resources.

 

4. Use content on many networks (but use different messaging) It’s cool. You can cheat this way. Just pretty please don’t auto-connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The platforms are different and so are the way they are used and the people on them. Also, posting only Facebook statuses to Twitter doesn’t allow people to interact individually with your brand. From the other side, posting Twitter statuses to Facebook will alienate fans with hashtags and individual Twitter-based shout-outs. And these shout-outs are important (though here’s a fun resource on the best time of day to tweet). I’m focusing on Twitter here because Twitter users are critical for achieving earned media. Folks on Twitter are several times more likely than non-Twitter users to publish content, contribute to wikis, share coupons, post on blogs, review products, and participate in online forums. This means they are several times more likely to contribute weight to your brand.

 

5. Tap into your hub and use it to achieve your goals. This is a personal one from my own experience working with ZAMs.: create a hub.  (You may already have one and not know it, but knowing this space (a blog, portion of your website, etc) is your hub is critical.  A “Hub” is a place where you aggregate content and send people who find you on social media platforms. In other words, it is a page that all of your online initiatives point toward. In my experience, blogs (separate or on the website) serve s the best hubs. The best reason to have a hub is to help you reach your online goals. For instance, if you’re primary reason for being online is to get more visitors through the door, then your social media platforms should link to content on your hub, and your hub should have a clear next-move: driving people to the ticket purchasing page. If you have a hub, you can control the message on the hub. This will help you achieve your goals. This is my favorite little article to explain hubs.

 

6. Other departments are your friends. Here’s the part of the post where I remind everyone that social media does not entirely belong to the marketing department. I know, it happens in nearly every post. And here it is. I’m not saying that the PR person cannot (or shouldn’t) run social media, but I’m saying that the PR person (or any person, for that matter) cannot run social media without content provided by other departments. Social media and social initiative online often involve having an insider perspective of an institution as a whole- not just an insider perspective to the marketing/PR department. So get out there, talk to volunteers, spend some time in membership and learn the little anecdotes. It is the raw, organic stuff of compelling content.

 

Have other helpful hints to share on the topic of managing resources (time, money, etc) when using social media? Please share them below!

Posted on by Colleen Dilenschneider in Community Engagement, Digital Connectivity, Trends 1 Comment