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Best Practices for Social Media

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 73% of online U.S. adults now use some kind of social media, and 42% use multiple social networking sites. So how can science centers and museums best harness social media to engage audiences and advance their institutional goals?

On Sunday afternoon, Lauren Frieband of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, led “Best Practices for Social Media,” a session packed with social media case studies, tips, and best practices from panelists Kalie Sacco of the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education; Nancy Somers of Science North, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; Janet Noe of the Lawrence Hall of Science; and Mike Steger of TELUS World of Science, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here are some of the top tips and best practices:

  • Make it fun.
  • Find useful tools. (Panelists recommended Tweet Archivist, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, RebelMouse, and Woobox.)
  • Provide opportunities to interact.
  • Engage influencers.
  • Keep it brief.
  • Build social media into your marketing/communications plan.
  • Use #, @, and imagery.
  • Use the platform that works for you and your audience.
  • Foster good relationships between staff scientists and marketing staff to get more science in your social media content.
  • Empower your staff (including scientists) to have access to your social media accounts—but if you have multiple staff members creating social media content, be sure you are consistent in how you communicate.
  • Look at your analytics and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work.
  • Try organizing a sweepstakes or contest. Make it fun, interactive, simple, easy, and quick.
  • Leverage the power of celebrity. Involve celebrities in exhibition openings or other events and fan the flames with social media (as TELUS World of Science Edmonton did by involving James and Oliver Phelps, who play the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies, in the opening events for the Harry Potter: The Exhibition). Get to know your local concierges—they may send celebrities your way!

Halfway through the session, attendees were let loose into the Exhibit Hall to find something they thought was cool about science (something that shows science has “swagger”) and share it on social media using the hashtag #socialswag. By the end of the conference, analytics showed #socialswag had more than 94,000 impressions (i.e., the number of times the hashtag was displayed in different social media accounts).