I am just the right age and just the right demographic to remember a time before computers, cell phones and social media. But times, they are a changin’. The first computer I got came in a big cow-colored box and arrived in my 18th year on this earth (1998 for those wondering). The first cell phone that I had came a few short years later. I was however, a social media holdout for many years. I eventually gave in with Xanga, and then followed the trend and masses from MySpace to Facebook where I currently reside. It is a unique thing because in many ways I have witnessed and been a part of the birth of something that, for better or worse, is going to shape future generations.
Let’s talk some pure numbers. 54% of Internet users in the United States are on Facebook. From December 2008 to December 2009 Facebook grew 286%. During this same time period, 25% internet page views in the United States occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up 83% from 13.8% in December 2008. This article at the SocialBeat website presents these impressive numbers about the growth of social media. For my young nieces and nephews, the internet is Facebook. Everything from email (messages) to shopping (sponsor ads) is driven through the site. Regardless of your thoughts on it there is no denying that social media is expanding rapidly and quickly becoming a powerful force in the modern world.
How does this relate to the museum field? That is quite a good question. Perhaps not the answer you expected, but only time will really tell what social media will mean for museums. For now many institutions, including the Museum of Aviation, have embraced social media. We maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, here on WordPress and are investigating the use of other sites such as Flickr and YouTube. The use of smart phones as it relates to museums is of particular interest. With one device and complete simplicity museums can now post pictures and thoughts of interest directly to their social media accounts. This provides “digital patrons” unique access to the museum and its collections.
As social media develops into a more mature version of itself it is important for museums to embrace it. Twitter can be used to increase awareness of events, drive visitor numbers and provide instant updates. Facebook can be used as a research tool and to promote museum exhibits. These are just a few possibilities. As the museum fields understanding of social media and its place in society grow so will the ways in which museums use it. Those are my thoughts, in brief, on the subject for now. I plan to address more thoughts on this topic in a later post. In the mean time, embrace the future and go check out the Museum of Aviation’s Facebook page and Twitter.