Spreading the word through social media
ICOM Costume Committee board member
Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media are great ways of opening up the stories of clothing in your collection to a wider audience and reaching a new generation of potential visitors more familiar with fashion blogs and texting than newspaper and text panels. Social media can also help you provide alternative access to objects which might be too big, too fragile or difficult to display. The idea behind social media is the creation of communities and conversations online so once people engage with you through social media you can begin to talk to them, find out what they like and tell them about your dress related events, exhibitions and collections. It can also help you make connections with other museums and their dress collections, widening the stories your clothing collections can tell. This article explores some of the most commonly used social media and some great examples of best practice.
Facebook is a social networking site that allows you to post text, images and videos to share with a wider audience. Your followers (people become your followers by ‘liking’ your Facebook page) can comment and ‘like’ individual posts, as well as sharing your posts with their friends, providing you with an opportunity to begin a conversation with a wider audience. The ‘liking’ and ‘comment’ features allow you to see what appeals to your followers and get feedback from them.
Twitter is an instant messaging system which limits posts to 140 characters. The benefit of the limit is that it keeps things short and simple but allows you to link to other web pages or upload photos. Twitter works well for highlighting specific objects and exhibitions, reminding followers about events and sharing quirky facts about objects. You can also have a ‘live’ conversation; some museums, for example take part in an ‘ask a curator day’ on Twitter.
A blog is essentially an online diary journal which can be as individual as their writers. Posts can be long or short and you can add photographs and videos. Users can subscribe to your blog and be informed each time you write a new post. You can take it in turn with other colleagues to write blog posts so no one has to write all the entries. If your museum doesn’t have a website or it’s not easy to set up a blog on the museum website there are plenty of companies that provide easy to use blogs.
Pinterest is a way of sharing images and videos with others and centres around the idea of collecting the images and videos together in themes, as with an old fashion, physical pin board. Digital images and videos which appear on other people’s websites can be pinned too. A pinner can have multiple boards so for a museum it’s a great way of sharing images of difficult to display objects or gathering material together to enhance an exhibition with an online presence.
Social media is all about having a conversation and sharing thoughts and information. This can take time but there are plenty of ways to make sure all the social media sharing doesn’t fall to one person to do every day.