Social and Digital Media
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.
- V&A posted on their Facebook page that Dorothy’s red slippers would be in their Hollywood Costume exhibition and the post received 590 ‘likes’ in under 10 hours.
- MOMU Antwerp used their Facebook page to tell followers about Hamish Bowles’ visit to their Madame Gres exhibition to see the dress he lent.
- The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto regularly uses their Facebook page to share specific objects with their followers.
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.
- The Fashion Museum, Bath, has a great Twitter stream, full of information about exhibitions, photographs of items from the collection and responses to followers’ comments.
- The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, used Twitter to tell followers about their last chance to see an exhibition, with a shortened link back to the website page ‘Final day of Unexpected Pleasures: The Art and Design of Contemporary Jewellery. Come quick! http://ow.ly/dbYAC ‘
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.
- In 2008 the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art accompanied their exhibition blog.mode: addressing fashion, with a blog of the same name, allowing them to share details of a different dress each day http://blog.metmuseum.org/blogmode/
- Senior Curator of Fashion and the Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, Beatrice Behlen, regularly contributes to the Museum of London blog with insightful and engaging pieces about being a fashion curator: http://www.mymuseumoflondon.org.uk/blogs/blog/author/beatrice/
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.
- The Museum at FIT has a range of different Pinterest boards including those organised by century and one with images from past exhibitions.
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.
- Use a social media savvy volunteer or intern; it would make a great project, whether it’s sharing material kept in museum storage or as a way of enriching an exhibition. Perhaps it could form part of a local university or college course, or even a high school project. Using younger people to shape your social media presence could really help to enhance your physical offer and reach new audiences.
- Keep it simple and realistic. Maybe you have ten pieces that you’d like to share – ten star exhibit items or ten treasures (mysteries from the store eg) with a photograph and simple description or quirky fact. You could decide to upload the information each week or each fortnight. Simple need not be simplistic or worthless but just straightforward.