In the world of Social Media Marketing

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Well…it’s been quite a dry spell. Poor, neglected blog! I’m sitting in my hotel room at the Social Media Marketing World (SMMW14) conference, and I of COURSE suddenly feel inspired to blog again. :)

So what’s happened in the past few years? Big news! I’ve moved from the museum field into the world of social media marketing. I really enjoy learning more about digital marketing (content marketing, social media, SEO, websites, whoa there’s a lot to this digital marketing thing!), and I love the challenge that the lightning quick changes this field provides.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love museums, and will always have a soft spot for history museums in particular. For now, I’m an outsider looking in, but I’m still watching and learning about how museums are evolving.

I’m sure I’ll find lots to inspire me over the next couple of days, so I’ll keep it short for now.

Hello again, blog! I’ll be back soon.

Everything is changing, all of the time

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Change is hard. It requires adaptability and flexibility, which is tough when you’re used to something and comfortable with it. There’s been a lot of talk about change this past week. I’ve been talking with a colleague about change behind the scenes at the museum she works at. Some people are adapting better than others. I like to say when you’re cleaning, the mess always gets worse before it gets better. It’s all about toughing it out, trusting that it will get better.

Another topic that relates to change is Facebook, which announced this week that it is making some pretty big changes to the site. Mashable does a pretty good summary of the changes. But one of the changes is a doozy – a complete overhaul of personal profiles into a format called Timeline. What is Timeline? I’ve seen it called a “social scrapbook” or “curated biography.” But the basic thing you need to know is that your profile will soon show all your activity on Facebook as blips on a sort of historical timeline. For me, that goes way back to 2006, when Facebook was still limited to colleges. Yikes.

I’ve seen a whole array of responses to Timeline, from “the greatest thing Facebook has ever done” to many angry tirades on Facebook itself. Instead of joining in on either side of the argument, I find myself more interested in how strongly people react to change, especially when it involves something they use all the time.The loudest reactions usually start with anger, and progress somewhat through the five stages of grief. I even found a really great article on SimplyZesty connecting the five stages with how people react to changes in social media.

Like most people, I’m a little wary of what these changes mean. I also know it will take a while to get used to. But I also know that eventually, inevitably, I will get used to it. Facebook has seen major changes before. I might not like it at first, but I’m the kind of person who likes to sit and wait out the upheaval, trusting it will get better.

Combating writer’s block

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I wrote a few months ago about a struggle with writer’s block. At the time, I had written the blog entry simply as a means of trying to overcome the writer’s block. Turns out, I had the right idea. I’ve been reading social media guru Seth Godin’s blog, and he wrote just this past week about how to overcome writer’s block. To summarize a bit, he says that practice makes perfect. He recommends writing often, daily, if possible, without worry if the writing is good or not. After a while, the writing gets easier, and hopefully, the quality gets better too.

I’ve found this to be true for myself. When I am regularly writing press releases (in the “marketing speak” zone, I like to think), I find that it’s a lot easier to sit down and churn out a document. And after the first few releases, it gets a lot easier to have it turn out closer to what I was aiming for. You know that feeling, where you get the phrasing right on the first try? Ahhh….satisfying. But if I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of writing for a while, it becomes like pulling teeth. I have to force myself to sit in front of the computer, while I stare at a blank Microsoft Word screen.

Writer’s block can be like procrastination – you know what needs to be done, but you can’t – or won’t – do it. Sometimes I end up overcoming procrastination by doing another task that needs to be done, even if it isn’t first on the productivity list. All I end up doing is getting satisfaction of working on a task that needs to be done, without relieving the pressure of crossing the most important thing off my list. But even that small dose of satisfaction is enough to nudge me towards doing what needs to be done.

Which reminds me – I’ve got a PowerPoint presentation to work on.

Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

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Since I’ve never had formal marketing training, I sometimes lack the confidence to stick to my guns at work. But every now and then, I remember that hey, I’ve been doing this for a while now, so there’s a good chance that I’ve got the right idea. It’s times like these where I have to fight the urge to stand up and say: “Trust me! I know what I’m doing.”

A big part of any job is common sense. Does it fit in with what you are doing? Your mission? Does what you propose follow the general practices of your field? Pretty basic stuff.

But sometimes, it is more than just common sense. I’m a self-described marketing nerd, so I do a lot of reading up on current trends in the museum field, in non-profit marketing, and particularly social media. (I was a history major in college, I can do a lot of reading.) After a while, you kind of learn to trust your gut. Digesting all that reading, best practices, how stuff works and how successful it is, can make approaching marketing somewhat intuitive.

I’ll be honest, all that operating by gut can lead to appearing impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip, or reckless. I react pretty quickly (and strongly) sometimes when someone brings up an idea (mobile app, anyone?). I get it, I look like a kid who doesn’t have formal training and who got stuck doing this marketing stuff because I was the most comfortable using Facebook (sound familiar?). But I’m the only one on staff keeping an eye on trends, and at some point on-the-job experience needs to be taken into consideration. If you’ve got even an ounce of passion about what it is you do, then you’re going to do that job to the best of your ability.

Trust me, I know what I’m doing.

7 Things Seattle Museums Taught Me

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I just came back from a week long vacation in Seattle. While I was there I visited as many museums as possible – with an emphasis on history, of course. Sometimes the best research is done in person! Below is a list (in no particular order) of things I learned, or trends that were confirmed, from my trip. I also took lots and lots of photos of these museums – I promise to post a link to them later.

1.) Rack cards – particularly strategically placed – do a great job of getting out word about your museum. At hotels, information desks, the airport, etc. were a sea of rack cards and brochures. Because I’m a marketing nerd, I collect these. But I think even the average person finds up to date (and well-designed) information helpful when deciding whether or not to visit a museum. Coupons on a rack card or in a brochure don’t hurt, either.

2.) Explaining the rules can make them seem less harsh. At the Experience Music Project/Sci-Fi Museum (EMP), labels outside exhibits asked visitors to keep food/drink outside and to refrain from taking flash photos. Ok, a standard sign. BUT, immediately following the “no” was a clear statement: “for the protection of the artifacts.” As a visitor, I felt more at ease after seeing/hearing the explanation for the rules.

3.) QR Codes are not too cool for history museums. The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) had QR codes all over the place. The first was at the front desk, inviting visitors to become a fan on Facebook. Other codes appeared throughout the gallery, offering more information about artifacts, history, or even the museum’s upcoming move. It made me wish I had a smartphone.

4.) Low tech or hi-tech, interactives are king! EMP unsurprisingly had some very cool hi-tech interactives: touch screen timelines, virtual reality cameras. Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park had some low tech interactives: embossing stations, pencil rubbings, a wheel of fortune style wheel. But regardless, I found myself trying and liking the interactives I encountered. In some ways, the low tech interactives were better because there was no technology to be frustrated with.

5.) Always have branded items in the store. This was actually a frustration I had. As a visitor, there are 2 items I tend to look for: either a magnet or a lapel pin that either shows the museum, its logo, an artifact, or an exhibit. I understand all places won’t have all things, but there were some places where I had a hard time finding anything branded at all in the store. The Seattle Aquarium had a variety of branded items. I ended up with some cute magnets and clever postcards. I like taking away a souvenir other than a photograph I have taken, but at some places I had to leave empty-handed.

6.) Museums are stronger with local community support. Museums like the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience only exist because of a strong community that supports it. The Wing Luke is now in a beautiful, historic building – its third home since its founding. Community support isn’t just monetary – it can also be seen in the artifacts. The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and MOHAI were filled with a wide variety of really cool artifacts. The strength of their collection was a result from a good relationship with the local community.

7.) Even small history museums can make a big impact. The best example of this is the Bainbridge Museum. It’s a small museum on an island with about 23,000 inhabitants. They have a small staff but a strong volunteer core. A temporary exhibit that blew me away was about Japanese interment and Manzanar through the lens of Ansel Adams. The museum also had awards displayed from the Western Museums Association as recent as this year, and even one from the American Association of Museums from 2008. According to their 2010 annual report, this small museum in this tiny community has over 700 members – which is nearly double what the museum I work for can claim in membership, in a much larger community. While there are various factors that have aided their success, regardless it gives me hope that the little history museum I work for can have a big impact, too!

The best part about being a museum nerd is that every place I visit is an opportunity to learn something new.

Twitter again…

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I finally gave in and joined Twitter a few days ago. So far it’s been really fun and interesting. Oh yah, and incredibly, overwhelmingly addicting. Every thought in my head turns into: “I should Tweet that!” Yikes.

But in the grand scheme of things, fun is outweighed by three main goals: 1) Learn enough to not make a fool of myself; 2) Get the #camcon hashtag to stick (short for California Association of Museums conference – I really just want to feel cool and say I started a Twitter trend); and 3) Figure out if it’s worth adding Twitter for the museum I work for anytime soon.

Judging by the lack of activity on the museum’s Facebook page (and believe me, I’ve tried), I think goal #3 might already have answered itself. But, I will wait and see. Maybe people would respond better to Twitter than Facebook. One of the lessons about marketing I have learned time and time again is that sometimes you just can’t predict how people will respond.

Writing about writer’s block

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What do you do when you have writer’s block? Apparently I avoid thinking about it for a long time (therefore neglecting my blog), then I write about it.

I know what you’re thinking (well, probably not, but it’s what I’m thinking) – isn’t it a little soon to have writer’s block? I mean, this blog is barely 2 months old and already I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel? Not a good sign.

Well, every now and then I choose to be an optimist. I choose to believe that this is simply a case of blog and marketing overload. At work we just moved the administrative offices to our new location, leaving myself and three other coworkers behind. Somehow I had forced myself to believe that since I wasn’t moving, I wouldn’t be impacted much. Oh how appallingly wrong I was.

Of course, as should have been expected (I really think it was a case of willful ignorance, on my part), chaos has ensued. And, like the ostrich I can imitate so well, I had stuck my head in the ground while deadlines were looming.

So now here I am. My head has been flooded out of the hole it was stuck in, and now I stare around me, bewildered. Somehow I’ve managed to get deadlines stacked on top of deadlines, and oh yah I’m supposed to be focusing on packing up the archives, too.

I guess this post about writer’s block has instead turned in to a bit of therapy. Breathe deep, stiff upper lip, show up tomorrow, put my head down and hit the ground running. That’s all I can do, right? Unless I find a way to procrastinate and write about writer’s block again.