ProSpeak: The Dilemma of Social Media: Staten Island Museum

Having recently attended a Bloomberg Philanthropies two-day social media workshop by VaynerMedia for small to medium-sized not-for-profit organizations, I had time to reflect on the topic that is on every marketing professional’s mind these days: What is the return of our investment in social media — in my case for a general interest museum?

To answer this question, we need to think of the goals of our social-media strategies, which for many organizations are to increase attendance, participation and financial support. These goals determine how we use social media. All too often, we broadcast our programs and fundraising appeals in the traditional “push” approach, perhaps even using the same text as in our print materials. The result is the recipients do not “like” us and do not “follow” us.

At the Staten Island Museum, the primary goal in social media is to raise awareness and engage new audiences. This is in line with what the team of VaynerMedia pointed out: To succeed in social media, you want to engage with your Facebook friends and Twitter community by sharing interesting content, tips and photos with them. If they like it, they will post it and share it with their friends, further helping more people gain awareness of your organization.

Now, the beauty of social media is that we can engage with and raise awareness among a population that normally does not come to the museum, i.e., teens to 30-year-olds. We have often seen that people visit the museum in an elementary school group and return only when they have children of their own or are older. In addition, social media allows us to be the resource that we envision to be: a museum without walls. That way, we stay connected with former program attendees or people that share our enthusiasm — in our case, those interested in arts, natural science and local history.

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