Museum’s Featured Exhibit: Social Media Integration

Like all forms of media, social channels work better when connected. A reality of contemporary marketing — Super Bowl Sunday aside — is that one size no longer fits all. Instead, it’s about being where your customers are and participating in the media they use. It’s about being relevant and accessible.

As I spent time this weekend online pulling together notes for a book I’m working on, I ran across the Brooklyn Museum. A lot. Nothing was very intrusive, it was more like “background radiation.” The museum appeared just about everywhere I went; it was always part of the conversation and never an interruption.

I first noticed the Brooklyn Museum on Twitter, as part of the main Twitter content stream. The museum struck me as interesting, so I started following.

The next day, I was online again, researching “animation” with my seven-year-old son for a school project and ran across a reference to video at the museum. That took me to YouTube, where I was also looking at Nike+ clips and Formula 1 testing in Jerez, Spain.

At this point, I started paying more attention to the museum, in part because it seemed to be making pretty good use of a variety of social channels. In my last column, I examined the connected use of social media, including Robert Scoble’s starfish model, something that draws from the touch-point maps of integrated marketing yore. The whole idea of integration — reaching an audience through a cohesive plan spread across a range of channels — is central to what’s happening now on the social Web.

The big difference between social and traditional media is that social Web communities — unlike say, couch potatoes — amplify and radiate content. Couch potatoes are more likely to soak content up and hold onto it, only occasionally spreading some of it around the office water cooler or over beers at the local pub. The social Web, by comparison, is a continuous stream made up of newly generated and reflected information. It’s a stream that can be tapped by both spectators and participants.

How do you tap it? The easiest way is to participate. Jump in. You can start today by taking small steps.

Look again at the Brooklyn Museum. How hard is it to use Twitter, and how far wrong can you really go? Compared with blog posts or printed releases, the Twitter stream essentially evaporates on contact. It’s easy, quick, and free. And people notice.

To be sure, the museum is doing bigger things right, too, and obviously has a savvy community team. It has an up-to-date, easy-to-use Web site. The information you’d expect to find is right where you’d expect to find it. Its blog is current, and the photo galleries are full.

Speaking of photo galleries, the museum scores here, too. From the museum Web site:

The Brooklyn Museum has noticed that our visitors are capturing wonderful images of the Museum and uploading their snapshots to the photo-sharing site Flickr.

Visitors are welcome to bring their cameras to the Brooklyn Museum. Show us the Museum through your eyes by adding your photos to the Brooklyn Museum Group on Flickr. See this tutorial to get started and learn more about displaying your photos on this page. Before you come to the Museum to shoot, be sure to read our photography policy.

Wow. What an incredibly sensible approach! Wal-Mart and Whole Foods would do well to take notice. The Brooklyn Museum isn’t only connecting with yet another social channel, it’s also connecting the online social experience with the real world. Bring your camera. Take your pictures. Post them along with those of other visitors. And guess what? You just know that every person who posts a photo from the museum is going to tell five friends (social connections, part one), then post the reference and share it online with 100 more (social connections, part two.) It’s no wonder I noticed them. This museum is everywhere.

The Brooklyn Museum is making smart use of the social channels that are relevant given its audience’s consumption habits. This amplifies the online and offline presence it’s built up over time. It’s using social media — blogs, photo-sharing, and video — to connect visitors’ real-world activities with the social Web, leveraging its investment in community. Brilliant.

The Brooklyn Museum’s initiatives are within the grasp of other e-marketing professionals. And a lot of what it’s done is either free — over and above the hard work and brain power that’s been invested — or audience-driven. With some thought, some solid strategic planning, and a sense of adventure you could be doing this.

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