Online delivery at the Australian Museum, Sydney - my talking points for the ASTC 2011 conference.

Unfortunately the time difference, my travels and the tech have failed so I won’t be joining you folks at ASTC 2011 for the Facebook belongs in mission not margin session. Here’s what I would have been speaking about.

About the Australian Museum

The Australian Museum is one of the oldest natural history museums established in 1827. Our mission is Inspiring the exploration of nature and culture.

  • Around 350,000 visitors per year to College St site
  • Around 10 million visitors to website per year
  • About 200 staff, split between Research and Collections and Public Engagement
  • Over 150 volunteers
  • My unit: manager (me); webteam (2 online producers, 1 web designer/tech); exhibition editor/content producer; audience research + 2-3 interns each year and a volunteer one day/week

Why a new website?
We wanted to provide accurate and accessible information that ignites interest and enthusiasm for nature and cultures and invite our audiences to interact with us and each other, and question our information, collections and processes in an equal relationship.

Principles behind our new website

  • Devolved content model – anyone can author and comment anywhere on the site
  • New (relatively) easy-to-use CMS
  • Staff training and support – CMS training plus web writing training; weekly web clinic for support and troubleshooting
  • Rationalisation of content – 36,000 pages down to 9,000
  • Role of web team changed – now staff support and establish new projects, as well as rich media content production, with less housekeeping and editing
  • Ability to add rich media and now social media to site

How do people use our website?
We attract around 10 million visitors a year, of these only 5% visit the front page. They are after Indigenous content and animal facts.

Why social media?

  • It’s where our visitors are: 71% of visitors to AM have Facebook account
  • Of the general Sydney population, those who visit museums used social media sites in greater numbers
  • People in developed countries spending 82% more time on social media sites, Australia is #1

How do we manage social media at the Museum?
Initially a scattered approach managed by a small group of interested people (but mostly me!). Now we have a more managed approach.

We systematically listen to mentions of the Museum through a monitoring system (MeltWater Buzz) as well as Google alerts and media mentions. We also listen to topics that are relevant to the Museum’s business.

We have seven community managers based on enthusiasm and capability and allocate one day per week to each community manager for them to monitor our Facebook and Twitter accounts. The focus is on engagement:

  • Start the day by checking Intranet group, then the MBuzz reports and look to respond to posts
  • Look for new Museum website content to post (by checking the homepage)
  • Check Twitter and Facebook once (maybe twice) per hour.
  • Post at lunchtime and at end of the day
  • Check especially museum-related accounts/pages
  • Community managers come from webteam; audience research; science; marketing and public program staff

We promote our social media accounts as widely as possible – externally and internally via print material and ads, email signatures, entrance signs at the museum, as well as passing info back to staff – such as mentions in blogs, retweets etc.

We recognise it’s about giving people a free hand. We are getting agreement that:

  • social media is important – or at the very least, worth trying
  • social media is part of everyone's job
  • we work 20% different, not more
  • we use the Sydney Morning Herald test – don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the next day’s newspaper!
  • for a blog post - one image/one paragraph
  • repurpose, repurpose, repurpose!