My Big Mistake

Introducing new technology at my current place of employment was, and is, not an easy task. When I started, blogging was new, or at least newly accessible; I thought we should be doing it, and made the proposal.

The conversation didn’t go well.

My colleagues were hung up on oblique ideas of what the technology was: a blog, to their mind, was a thing that some individual wrote in their underwear to advance wacky crackpot theories. Were I to try this again, my approach would be to focus instead on how this new technology helps us do what we already do.

So, instead of blogging being new and interesting and worthwhile in its own right, I would have made the case that it would have made it vastly easier to distribute information.

I’ve been kicking around some thoughts from the recent Wild Things conference (my report), specifically relating to social media. I think there’s still a lot of hostility to the practice in a professional setting. At the social media session that I attended, people seemed to approach it as something that they were being forced to do so they might as well get it over with and never think of it again, or something bizarre and scary, or something that would bring the world of criticism down upon them. Social media came up in a few other sessions as well, primarily in terms of “things to avoid.”

The thing is, the mechanisms of social media—the sites that you use, the policies that you have for dealing with this situation or that, or the technicalities of how you get involved—they’re really not that important when compared to the purpose. So the case that I would make to a reluctant supervisor is this:

We share knowledge. That’s our business. And we already work to build a community of supporters, because they then support us. Social media is better, in at least some ways, than what we currently do to accomplish those goals.

For the former, it’s faster, and it delivers information in bite-sized chunks, and it’s pretty easy to give people precisely as much as they want. It won’t replace museum visits, which are as much an experience as they are a dispensation of knowledge, but it will complement them and probably improve them.

For the latter—which is more important, from a marketing perspective—it’s much easier to communicate with community members on a daily basis, and it gives them a ready opportunity to communicate back to the museum, or with other supporters, and to share their involvement with people who have no connection to the museum yet. Again, it doesn’t replace museum events and the member newsletter and volunteer opportunities and the like; it does, however, extend them.

It’s different in form from what we’re doing, but the intent remains the same.

Would this have helped me in my current job? Probably not, for, well, a lot of reasons, most of which shouldn’t be relevant or interesting to the average person. But I am hoping that it will help me in my next one.

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