Ahead of his AMA workshops next month, digital engagement specialist Abhay Adhikari puts the case for arts organisations to re-define their digital identities.
As the use of social media becomes more widespread, arts organisations have to compete in a crowded and fragmented digital landscape to catch their audiences’ attention. The sector can get a much higher ROI by using social media with a value based communication focus rather than constant technological innovation. This transition requires a culture change of moving away from a vertical hierarchy to a flat structure with greater presence of staff on social networks. Institutions can use this opportunity to redefine their Digital Identities, become more accessible and engage new demographics.
Making the transition – from resource centres to vibrant hubs
The Digital Identities of arts and cultural organisations have long been defined by their fantastic collections of artefacts and archives that are available online. These include museum collections, multimedia content or digitised recordings of past performances. However, just offering these resources without access to specialists who work behind the scenes is a lost opportunity to create genuine engagement.
The alternative is to use social networks to create vibrant hubs that encourage an open exchange between specialists and audiences. This discussion can create new content as well as generate useful meta-data. For example, users can be asked to respond to a video on YouTube by posting their own video using the response function. Similarly, SoundCloud allows users to add comments and links directly onto the waveform of a recorded sound.
The Sh*t People Say meme is a great example of how this principle works. While it might come across as trivial, through a process of video responses on Youtube, the meme has transgressed cultural, social and class barriers to create humorous and uninhibited observations on stereotypes based on race, gender, sexual orientation, occupation and so on. Something that many digital storytelling projects aspire to achieve!
Getting buy-in from specialists within arts organisations
Using social media to create similar hubs where institutions aren’t the sole creators of content and experts exist alongside audiences presents interesting crowdsourcing opportunities. For example museums have started using Twitter to crowdsource exhibition themes. This approach requires effective curation and content managements strategies to work. So there is a strong case for social media to be decentralised and used by staff with specialist roles such as curators, archivists, producers, creative directors and so on.