In early December, AAM sponsored a webinar on social media and museum advocacy. Led by Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates, the presentation provided basic lessons in how to use newer tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to cultivate supporters and engage elected officials. Here are some of Vance’s suggestions:
Blogs: If you’re writing on behalf of an organization, Vance advises avoiding politically partisan messages, but there’s no reason you can’t talk about legislation that affects your museum or ask your audience to let their representatives know how important your museum is to them. She cites I Heart Art: Portland, Small Museum
Association, and Exploratorium Explainers as examples of blogs that do a good job informing and inspiring their audience beyond just marketing.
Twitter: Search for your museum’s name to see who is already talking about you, and respond to those people. Cultivate followers and let them know about issues your museum is facing, locally or nationally. You can follow AAM (@AAMers) to get advocacy action alerts that you can share. Sign up for your legislators’ Twitter feeds and tag them in relevant messages. For example, Michael Capuano (@mikecapuano) is the congressional representative in Tufts’ district, so you might ask your audience to retweet a message asking him to support FY12 funding for IMLS.
LinkedIn Connect to your city councilors, congressional representatives, mayor’s office, etc. and see if you share any 2nd-degree connections. You may find that a former classmate or colleague has a connection that could help your message find its way to a legislator’s desk more quickly.
Facebook The fastest-growing demographic on Facebook are users who are 35 and older, Vance says, and more and more legislators are using it as a major communication tool. You can “like” your legislators’ pages and post on their walls about upcoming events and community partnerships. Search for your museum on Flickr or YouTube and repost links to any user-generated content that shows their constituents are engaging with your organization.
Once you get the hang of in social media as a way to communicate with legislators and cultivate community supporters, make sure you teach these tools to volunteer committees or friends’ groups who are already valuable “real-world” advocates for your museum.
Speak Up for Museums is AAM’s museum advocacy initiative. Check there for more tips and webinars, and to find out more about AAM’s Museum Advocacy Day, February 28 and March 1 in Washington, D.C. You can view a recording of this webinar as part of AAM’s advocacy trainings website.
Kris Bierfelt is a student in the Tufts Museum Studies certificate program, and works as a freelance writer and editor.