A few weeks ago, European #MuseumWeek took place on Twitter. #MuseumWeek was 7 different themes developed during 7 days, about Museums, heritage, works of art, the public and points of view about culture and uses. It was a private initiative from Twitter, lead by 12 Parisians museums and joined by many other French museums. At first, the project was a French one, but some days before the beginning, Spanish, Italian and British cultural institutions joined #MuseumWeek. France had 7 themes, and other European countries had 7 other themes, not always linked during the same day.
My article will expose some of my point of view, but obviously a whole analysis takes a a much longer article. So I will highlight key issues.
How we can work, and what we can do ?
The context of the week was really difficult. Twitter contacted some Parisians museums a few weeks before the operation, and we had a very short time to prepare 7 days of content!
For a long time, I have wanted to write something about “why heritage institutions are not start-ups,” but I haven’t had the time to do that yet… but this #MuseumWeek episode is a perfect example of issues that cause this different of corporate culture. So: if agencies can work in a very short time on iterative projects, museums have a harder time. We need to work with several colleagues from the institution: curators, mediator, press officer, top management… It takes time. It takes a long time. It takes too much time… but it necessary because an institution is an opinion leader in some way, an official voice and not just the voice of the Community Manager, for example.
We have also some issues with content: at Centre Pompidou, we need to secure rights to use each picture. And, guess what? That takes time, too! And money.
In addition to these usual issues, we had to deal with particular issues for this #MuseumWeek. 7 hashtags for 7 themes are all a challenge: how can we match those with Centre Pompidou’s strategy and content?
#LoveMW was very tough! We didn’t use to share with our public just sensitive approach : we decided upon #LoveMW to create more engagement and thinking about art. So, we won’t just ask: “what do you love?” Of course, it’s important information to collect. But, during a long day? Hum… I’m not sure. So we decided to program a kind of FlashMob on the Piazza in front of Centre Pompidou, drawing hearts on the floor and inviting people to do selfies and express with creativity their love of our museum.
Two other examples: during the first day, we called upon people from Centre Pompidou community to a livetweet into the backstage. It was a way to involve them, and not just reproduce the goal of #JourDeFermeture (a French hashtag showing the backstage, too!). And for the last day, dedicated to visitor creativity, we ask them to create a cadavre exquis just on Twitter.
A huge opportunity for museums ?
First I was very suspicious about this week. I said that to Twitter France and colleagues from others museums. I for example asked, from a public institution, why we have to work to a private project without any return on (time) investment. Or if we want to work on a such big project with the ministry… but nobody heard me.
My point is : of course, we can work for a private company such as Twitter; Centre Pompidou creates the main part of his social strategy on this social media for the moment. It’s obviously a good point for innovation to mix different points of view doing that. However we have to keep in mind that Twitter and others can live with two different things: data and content. Data is provided by people using content, and content is provided by users. And who are users? People, of course, with the User Generated Content (UGC), and brands or institutions such as museums that managed some UGC, too.
Obviously, if Twitter asked museums to create content during a looooooong week, there is a return on investment: they maybe will use analysis on the flow of data, interactions, and so one. Of course, I don’t know if they are able to do that, but indeed is not very important to me. (French) public cultural institutions have to understand that the further economic model of the cultural field needs to be consistent with the global digital economy. And, this economy will be based on content, data, and the analysis of these two things, won’t it?
So, public cultural institutions can offer these things to Twitter, I repeat it again: this is not the problem. But, what does Twitter offer to them in return?
There are some results, aren’t there?
This week happened in the end of March. Now, it’s time for results!
For Centre Pompidou, we did a not-so-enthusiastic analysis : we won audience, but not much more than a usual week. We created more interactions, that’s obvious, because the attention about culture had really increased and that is interesting. But we can see that the new audience wasn’t engaged on the content in the long term. Analysis from a searcher (Antoine Courtin) seems to show that the #Museogeeks community in France was a very large part of the audience during this week. Can we say this week was a corporate week? Is it really a good idea to engage new audiences or to work on better defining ones already engaged, and engage them more? We have to think that to invest the right time and effort to reach known goals.
But, talking with colleagues about #MuseumWeek during a meeting of #Cmmin (a French community of heritage community manager, initiated by Florence Vielfaure from French Ministry of Culture), points of view are pretty different. Some of smaller institutions had better audience results, and I understood that the effort of Centre Pompidou being a part of this operation is not just good for itself but for the heritage community! And that’s the more interesting reason to be part of it, in my opinion. We need to create a user experience of heritage on social media, and this kind of week is an important step to do this.
Now, we have to work on modalities to touch the right public!