Finding the voice : planning and evaluation of social media in cultural institutions.

Fleming, Rod and Damala, Areti (2016) Finding the voice : planning and evaluation of social media in cultural institutions. In: Museums and the Web 2016, 2016-04-06 - 2016-04-09.

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Cultural institutions have sought to develop social media as a means of engaging with their audiences. However, there is a lack of guidance about how to effectively evaluate performance. A study was carried out to explore contemporary practices in cultural institutions to better understand the challenges, methods, and strategies. This involved in-depth interviews with social media managers at eight Scottish institutions and a worldwide survey of one hundred organisations. The participants were asked about how they use social media, what their objectives are, and whether use of frameworks, toolkits, and strategies were useful or indeed feasible. Results showed that despite various approaches, many institutions share priorities and challenges. Although some preferred to be flexible, while others more regimented, there is consensus that social media helps deliver on wider institutional goals and strategies. There is also evidence that institutions want to better understand the impact of their social media but often have problems capturing or interpreting relevant data, and all institutions are responsive to tools that might help them do this. The research tested the principles of one tool in particular, the Culture24 Evaluation Framework. Discussions with participants revealed that while its concepts were relevant and valuable, there remained issues with how it could be implemented, given incongruity with existing operations. Consequently, the research proposes recommendations for developments in social media and evaluative frameworks. The research concludes that institutions that have more defined strategy, even if practices remain flexible, are more decisive and effective in their use of social media. Having objectives and cycles allows better implementation of specific tools and frameworks. Furthermore, careful consideration of the functionality of specific social media platforms allows them to more effectively address specific targets and metrics.