Social Media and the Institution

Today I thought I would focus on things I have learned while being a Research Assistant at Eldon House. Some of these things seem intuitive but I had not realized exactly how vital they are to operations. And some of my misunderstanding just stems from my own use of different platforms. Specifically social media platforms and how the use of these changes when it is for an institutional purpose.

I have accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter which I check quite frequently. But in terms of posting and adding my own content I am rarely able to post more than once a month. In fact, I often let multiple months go by without adding anything new. This could stem from a few hangups, maybe not feeling like something is interesting enough or up to a certain standard of quality. For my personal accounts the effect is quite harmless. No one is depending on me to post and my followers (i.e. my friends) will be quite supportive of my content if and when it comes out. Based on my social media use I assumed that institutions would be similar. I imagined museums and heritage sites’ posting schedules would be more frequent than mine but not significantly.

I was so wrong! For museums to remain relevant on social media they must have a targeted and consistently adhered to posting schedule. Based on my experience at Eldon House these posts often happen once every couple of days or once a day. And it all must take place across multiple social media platforms. In hindsight, this all makes sense. Institutions don’t necessarily have the emotional draw of friends and family members the same way a personal account does. The account for a museum or heritage site has to stay within view of its followers and contribute something of interest to keep them hooked. While working at Eldon House, I have observed that there are multiple ways to do this. Staying aware of anniversaries and events is a very helpful tactic. If your institution can be interesting in the context of different holidays and events that opens up avenues for many other visitors. Challenges or countdowns can also be very effective. A challenge can provide a sense of anticipation in users who are following closely.

Viewership is another hurdle that museums face. Social media has proven to be a tool that is without (many) barriers. The age of social media users is all over the place which means that posting has to target a wide age gap. I suppose every post does not have to appeal to every person but it would go a ways to keeping your users involved. The question then becomes, how do you appeal to such a varied group? How do you keep language user-friendly and interesting?

I think all these questions are interesting to me because I previously helped run the social media accounts for my Department Student Council during my undergrad. These accounts were targeted at those within the Art History department, who were all around the same age and all engaged in the same activity. The content was mostly memes and reminders of upcoming events. For this particular following the content was fine but if I try and apply that same thinking to an institution it would probably not be well-received.

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.04.16 AM
My attempt at making a meme for the Art History DSC

But then you have institutions like the Museum of English Rural Life who receive widespread notoriety through the use of memes on their Twitter page. This use of social media allowed the museum to become relevant to an even larger audience. So I think the reality is that there is no set script for social media use and the institution. But it is clear that a regular posting schedule is essential. I have learned a lot from observing the posting patterns at Eldon House and I would do well to follow a lot of their habits. For now I will rely on my friends and family to give me those precious likes we’re all fighting for.

Before I close I want to touch on some of my final project work in Processing. I’m not going to elaborate too much (because that’s what the essay is for). I have been enjoying working through some of the more difficult aspects of Processing. My product feels like it is mostly aesthetically pleasing and not necessarily educational in any way. So I will be working on that a little bit more. But I thought I would close with some songs that have been helping me as I attempt to process Processing:

A tune for when you start and are feeling good about your work –

A tune for when you encounter that first error message –

A jam for when you’ve lost all sight of what you’re doing –

And the song that comforts you when you find your way again –

2 thoughts on “Social Media and the Institution

  1. I am so glad you wrote about social media because though I also have accounts, it is nothing like posting for a business or institution. At my old workplace, my coworkers had to go through weekly seminars about Facebook ads and they know way more than I would ever dream of knowing about what goes into a Facebook post. I’m excited to see and hear more about your project…bless you for choosing Processing and I think about everyone could do with a listen to “What Is Life.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you could relate to “What is Life” as well!! It just perfectly sums up how I feel in those moments where I can’t understand how to fix certain problems.


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