Optimizing (Social Media) for Epiphanies*

Professional Forum
Chad Weinard, USA , Ashley Weinard, USA

What if social media success was measured not in fans, followers, retweets or marketing metrics, but rather by how well it directly fulfilled an institution’s mission? How do you optimize an art museum social media for epiphanies?

This session will demonstrate concrete strategies for engaging audiences to look, think and learn in deeper ways through social media. On a daily basis, social media managers link to objects in their collection, or visitors post photos of collection objects that catch their eye. What next? How do you start and maintain a rich conversation about a work of art in a way that’s fast, reproducible, requires no art-historical research, and encourages further exploration?

Offline approaches used by museum educators point the way. In the galleries museum educators are trained to lead open conversations with visitors, taking cues from visitor preferences, comments and questions. The starting point is often purely visual, focusing on what the visitor sees, and moves on from there. The initial prompts are prescribed, and can apply to works of art regardless of period or style. The goal is to give visitors the tools to look critically and relate to any work of art–to stimulate a surprising connection, spark a question, create the desire to look again and know more.

We’ll discuss how these in-gallery conversation strategies can be adapted for use on Twitter and Facebook. At the North Carolina Museum of Art, a joint team of educators and social media managers adapted and tested the strategies; concrete examples (successes and failures) will be given in order to inspire further development and adaptation. While social media platforms demand severe constraints, they also afford great flexibility in relating media and resources, and offer the possibility of mission-focused engagement.

* ‘Optimizing for Epiphanies’ is taken from Rob Stein’s question and challenge at MCN 2011



Chad Alan Weinard, Manager of New Media, North Carolina Museum of Art

Ashley Weinard, Educator, Project Director “The Big Picture”, North Carolina Museum of Art


Note: This likely would work much better as a how-to session, or professional forum, than a demonstration or lightning talk (if it’s possible to present in those formats).