Social media at the Museum analyze

“In the past, institutional mission and strategic vision were reviewed every four years;

now, they are reviewed every time someone posts to Facebook, comments on a blog, or
opens a new Twitter account-”

-Dana Allen-Greil and colleagues

Social media could themselves trigger dramatic organizational changes, as well as creating
new channels of communication with regard to other changes- For example, social

media are changing the ways in which museums interact with the public, and also how
museum staff communicate and work with each other. Dana Allen-Greil and colleagues
(2011) argue that, used effectively, social media can further the mission of the organization
and foster more agile and collaborative organization cultures- There are many wider
cultural, political, and social pressures encouraging openness and collaboration- Social
media offer a new set of tools with which organizations can respond to those pressures-
Allen-Greil and colleagues studied three museums: the Smithsonian’s National Museum

of American History (NMAH); Monticello, a historic house and research institution; and

the J- Paul Getty Trust (the Getty)- These museums have adopted different approaches to
the use of social media-

At NMAH, social media contribute to public programming, focusing on education and
visitor services, complementing the existing email newsletter, website, and other online
communications- At Monticello, the focus lies with relationships building, and in particular
on increasing the organization’s “social media outreach-” This means using social media
to increase the number of “online visitors-” In contrast, the Getty is using social media to
“get off the hill-” The Getty has a reputation for being inaccessible, as it is located on a hill
above the 405 freeway, and visitors have to take a quarter-mile tram ride to get up there-
Social media thus allow the Getty to “take the collections and programs into the community”
and to promote their educational and research work-

Sometimes the Best Thing Managers Can Do Is Get Out of the Way

Staff who have collaborated on social media projects in these museums have created

new channels of communication and new ways of thinking and working with each other-
The leadership of these initiatives was mainly “bottom-up,” and did not rely on senior
management experts- Allen-Greil and colleagues note that “effective collaboration means
staff members need to cross lines traditionally drawn between different working groups,
and probably across lines drawn between hierarchical levels within the institution-” Social
media may thus lead to flatter hierarchies and “horizontal working-” The study also

found that an increased level of online engagement with the public led to an increase

in face-to-face conversations among staff. Why? Social media project staff had to meet
with colleagues across the organization: human resources, legal department, registrars,

publishers, educators- The authors argue: “Social media are pushing us together in a very
personal way. New conversations between staff members who have never had any reason

to talk before are establishing new relationships and new lines of engagement-”

A Perpetually Beta State of Mind

Senior managers need to encourage staff to experiment with social media to develop

more efficient and effective processes- However, at the Getty, the use of different social
media platforms by different groups of staff meant that initiatives were often uncoordinated,
and some even competed with each other: “In a large, hierarchical institution, thiskind of testing, rapid prototyping, and risk-taking is pushing the
boundaries of the usual,

highly-controlled content development processes-” Although exciting for staff, spontaneous
experimentation may not be sustainable- However, Allen-Greil and colleagues ask

us to consider: “What would it really be like if we could work in a perpetually beta state of
mind? If we could try, fail, and try again? We are closer than you think because it’s already
happening at every museum that uses social media-”

Now that you have read this case, consider the following questions:

1- In what ways could social media applications contribute to the mission of your

2- How could social media change or strengthen the culture of your organization, with

regard to widening collaboration and becoming more agile and responsive?

3- To what extent will your current organization silos and hierarchies inhibit the communication
and collaboration opportunities opened up by social media? Or, will

social media help you to break down those silos and hierarchies, and encourage more
horizontal working”?

4- How should your organization balance the need for management control with the

desire to open up conversations more widely across the organization in order to

encourage experimentation with social media?

5- In your assessment, would your organization benefit or suffer from working in a “perpetually
beta” state of mind, constantly experimenting, learning-and improving-

from the mistakes?



Sample Solution