What is Social Media?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social media was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - nhoneysett nhoneysett Aug 16, 2013 Seems to me that there two separate topics described here, one about the use of social media to create community and engagement around our collections and programming, the other about what we can learn from, and how we can use social graphs. Maybe the social graphing topic needs to be embedded in one of the other themes? Maybe we define a broader topic of analytics that would include social graphs and learning analytics in the educational definition. For creating community and engagement, I think there's no question that social media is one of the most powerful tools we have available to us right now. - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Aug 26, 2013
  • - portwayv portwayv Aug 25, 2013 agree with Nik, two topics, the latter being far trickier
  • social media tools have proved their mettle in the quickly evolving and fast paced and evolving environment (nod to Moore's Law). I agree with Nik, there are two topics: 1) the use of social media to create community 2) analysis of culled consumer data to ensure effective and efficient way to understand vistors / visitors needs. - s-sarraf s-sarraf Aug 19, 2013
  • - ekuslansky ekuslansky Aug 21, 2013I would add making the data available to users
  • - JohnS JohnS Aug 25, 2013 For the most part it has been marketing and communications departments that have exploited the opportunities of social media. Education and Learning departments have yet to realise the full potential of social media so this continues to be an area still requiring further exploring. +1- adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 26, 2013
  • Expanding on Nik's and Suzy's comments, there is perhaps a third topic: creating/authoring work (e.g. artwork, curriculum/lesson plans, etc.) in a social context. Whereas the outcome of crowdsourced projects is typically a single piece of output (e.g. a Wikipedia entry, a Kickstarter project, etc.), social media projects have the opportunity to represent the unique identities of individual community members in a way that is more a reflection of personalities as opposed to something that is something more concrete. - Jonathan.Munar Jonathan.Munar Aug 25, 2013
  • - portwayv portwayv Aug 25, 2013 Social learning through shared museum experiences, onsite and online. We often bring small groups of social media users physically to the museum to meet with our experts and go behind the scenes, which they share with everyone through social media. It brings an entirely new set of voices and a rich array of perspectives on our content, exhibitions, and activities. It's a great learning experience for the participants, our online audience, and for museum staff. I see potential for more collaborative and inquiry-based learning through social media.
  • (- jfoley jfoley Aug 26, 2013) Agree that there seem to be several topics here. As John notes, it seems like social media is usually marketing/communications, and that using sm for engagement, education, and interpretation is something that has not yet been leveraged widely.
  • - adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 26, 2013I agree that drilling down into two separate topics might be helpful here. The analytics still stump many and some guidance would be appreciated (she says selfishly). Working at a smaller museum, I've come to rely heavily on social media to tell our story and engage visitors.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Cautionary themes: privacy, security, proprietary tools, archived data, parlay technology/data/metrics to the next new social media tool - s-sarraf s-sarraf Aug 19, 2013 - shazan shazan Aug 24, 2013 (- jfoley jfoley Aug 26, 2013) Concur.
  • Big data and real time 3D visualizations
  • - JohnS JohnS Aug 25, 2013 Social media websites come and go. We can a successful project on Posterous. Now it is gone. Geocities now just a memory, etc. If there is lasting value (and I think there is if done right) in the interactions and content generated via social media, then preservation and longevity are issues. - susan.cairns susan.cairns Aug 26, 2013 Seconded.
  • That social media is not just Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Social media can happen both on platform and off platform. Social media tools/platforms/projects can also be created entirely independent of the popular platforms based on an individual organization's needs and/or concerns about data being in the hands of an outside company. - Jonathan.Munar Jonathan.Munar Aug 25, 2013 (- jfoley jfoley Aug 26, 2013) Agreed.
  • Social media for collaborative and inquiry-based learning, connecting onsite/online audiences - portwayv portwayv Aug 25, 2013
  • I think it's worth noting the 24/7 nature of social media, which can erode ideas about normal work hours, and the blurring between public and private identities, particularly for those who are using social media in a professional context. - susan.cairns susan.cairns Aug 26, 2013
  • - adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 26, 2013Conservation/archiving of social media interactions. How is this best achieved?

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • - nhoneysett nhoneysett Aug 16, 2013 I think its already been defined in previous reports, but its still very much relevant.
  • - ekuslansky ekuslansky Aug 21, 2013The possibility of real time evaluation (- jfoley jfoley Aug 26, 2013) Agreed.
  • - shazan shazan Aug 24, 2013 connecting with the visitors, public debate, all still very much relevent
  • - JohnS JohnS Aug 25, 2013 Audience development. Ongoing relationships with audiences and becoming part of their daily lives and how they think about the world. Whereas four years ago, we would have spent resources on creating and editing content and then building a microsite publication, now we find ourselves doing less of this and instead creating social media accounts and hiring Community Managers to work with audiences in these spaces.
  • In addition to the already proven impacts (e.g. community/audience development, visitor engagement, etc.) museum use will continue to evolve as the popular platforms evolve, and as newer platforms come and go. For example, with a relatively new platform like Instagram, social media managers first had to integrate the platform into their overall social media strategy. Then, with the addition of video to the platform, social media managers had to learn how to adapt to the feature addition, if at all. Social media use will only continue to grow, and will therefore require additional staff and/or adding new responsibilities for existing staff. - Jonathan.Munar Jonathan.Munar Aug 25, 2013

  • - portwayv portwayv Aug 25, 2013 Not only relationships and educational engagement with our audiences, but also on the internal culture of our organizations. Social audiences are self-selected enthusiasts and often can be great advocates eager to actively participate in the museum's mission. Great focus groups for evaluating educational and interpretive programs. Because each platform's audience is different, and takes significant resources to manage, museums must be selective and strategic in how they chose to engage on various social networks.
  • (- jfoley jfoley Aug 26, 2013) There is the possibility for educational engagement, although I think it is important to keep in mind that not every visitor wants to engage that way, and even for those that do, not every platform is one that they will utilize. In addition, because most of the initial sm use by museums has been marketing, I think many visitors have an idea of what museums use sm for and may not respond to it as an educational experience.
  • - adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 26, 2013Branching out from traditional marketing messaging to interpretation, conservation (particularly of digital media), and education.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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