Shelley Bernstein talks social media for institutions

I’m about to race out the door to a workshop with Shelley Bernstein. This is a name that every New Zealand cultural organisation should be aware of. Shelley’s work at the Brooklyn Museum is revolutionising the way museums interact with their audiences.

Yesterday, about 400 people were treated to a talk at the National Library. Shelley went through her key points for engaging and retaining audiences with emerging technologies such as YouTubeFlickrFacebook and Twitter.

Remember, it’s about people. Use the cheerleaders in your organisation to interact with your community – don’t just leave it to interns (it’s too important).

Keep it personal. Don’t use an authoritative institutional voice, use real people across the organisation and keep it transparent – if it’s the marketing team, say it’s the marketing team.

Admit your mistakes. Apologise, then work with them. Show your mistake trail. Don’t try to cover stuff up – you’ll lose credibility.

Recognise each community is different and take part in the discussion and engage each on their own terms.

Bring it on home. Don’t keep what you are doing in social networks out there. Bring it into your institutions and bring it into your main website.

Give people the option to support you and take ownership.

Trust your community.

Make it easy on your staff.

I’ll give you a bit more of a rundown after this afternoon’s serving. In the meantime, have a read of this interview with Shelley.

This blog post was reproduced with the kind permission of Lively.

Image 2: Shelley speaking at the presentation. Photographer: Mark Beatty

1 Comment


  1. I’m a big fan of using social media, and it was the work done by Brooklyn on the Graffiti exhibition that made me realise (during my previous existence as Museums Officer in east Lothian, Scotland) that Flickr could be a very simple and effective way of getting collections online (long before Flickr Commons).
    But (and somehow there always is a ‘but’)… you can’t underestimate the amount of staff time it takes to do this sort of thing, and the extent to which doing it properly means re-prioritising other work. Few institutions are in the position of having staff standing around twiddling their thumbs and looking for work to fill the otherwise empty hours :-), so making use of social media – which can deliver vital elements of a museum’s mission – means pulling staff away from other work. Evangelists and enthusiasts often talk about this stuff as if it was a free extra (I know, I’ve done it myself). It isn’t. It _is_ essential, but there will be a cost.

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