Tag Archives: Twitter

Is Twitter Effectively Engaging Your Audiences?

twitter-afpWith the new year on the horizon, I’ve been evaluating my projects from the last year to determine how I can help historic places better connect to their audiences. For the past two years, I’ve used Twitter to share news about history, historic sites, historic preservation, and history museums.  Each morning I scan the New York Times and other newspapers for stories, aiming to tweet about three stories daily to my @maxvanbalgooy account so that my followers can quickly learn what’s happening.  The result? I have created 4,180 tweets and attracted nearly 500 Followers since I joined Twitter in June 2009.  This blog, on the other hand, has 1000 subscribers, so it seems my time is better spent on my blog than Twitter.  It could be very different for you, but how do we decide if Twitter is effectively engaging your audiences?

A useful place to start is with the metrics that Twitter provides: Followers and Likes.  Likes are a low level of engagement because they only require that readers support a specific tweet or find it especially useful or enjoyable—but that’s it. Followers are a mid-level form of engagement because it means that a reader wants to engage with you and read everything that you tweet (“read” is probably overstating things; “scan” is more appropriate for Twitter). Retweets engage at a high level because your Followers share your tweet to their Followers (did you follow that? it’s about the impact of the multiplier effect)—unfortunately, there’s no easy way to measure Retweets (but boy, we would have more impact if we promoted Retweeting instead of Liking).

To better understand how effectively Twitter can engage audiences, I collected statistics for a variety of major history organizations to measure Tweets, Followers, and Likes as of today (December 8, 2016) to develop the following chart: Continue reading

AASLH/MMA Meeting Recovery and Recap

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It took me several days to recover from my conference hop in Detroit last week.  I’m not sure why I ended each day exhausted. Was a joint meeting of the Michigan Museums Association and the American Association for State and Local History too rich for my brain cells? Was it the non-stop activities from 7 am to 9 pm? Was it the Cobo Conference Center, so large that I had walk two city blocks to a session after entering the building? No matter the cause, I was a mindless zombie for a couple days afterward but I did have a great time.  I’ll definitely be at AASLH next year in Austin, Texas.

The use of Twitter grew tremendously at the conference.  I heard that more than 1,500 tweets went out from sessions, so many that AASLH created a summary via Storify (and further proof that Twitter isn’t just for the young digerati).  I experimented with Periscope, which provides a live video feed on Twitter. I’m still getting the hang of it (first rule: be sure you’re pointing the phone camera at the scene, not looking down at your feet, when you’re fussing with the phone to start recording).  I was skeptical about its ability to attract an audience but surprisingly lots of people watched it immediately (Periscope provides statistics both during and after recordings; 96 people watched my video of the exhibit hall). You definitely will want to see how you might want to use this smartphone application for promoting events, lectures, and programs at your museum or site. Everywhere on the web a Tweet can go, a Periscope can go, too.


Tom Segrue’s plenary presentation about Detroit’s history also included observations about the impact of racial segregation, manufacturing, and economic redevelopment has had on its successes and failures, which is a cautionary example to other cities around the country.  My hometown of Rockville, Maryland is much smaller than Detroit, but I immediately saw the parallels around segregation and redevelopment for the last 50 years. His book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, has mostly attracted the attention of academic historians (and a couple prestigious awards), but preservationists and public historians should learn about him as well because of his analysis of downtown revitalization efforts and gentrification. His presentation is now available free from AASLH via SoundCloud and iTunes.  AASLH has provided another dozen audio recordings of sessions from this meeting, many that relate to house museums and historic sites, and in a month the webinars of selected sessions will be available. Thanks, AASLH!

I was involved with a couple sessions during the conference and in case you missed them, I’m sharing the handouts of resources and contact information that we distributed:

I also learned a lot, both in the sessions and in the hallways chatting with friends, so I’ll be sharing those in future posts so this annual meeting will continue to live on for a few more weeks.

Cruisin’ and Musin’ in Motown with AASLH

detroitI’ll be in Detroit for the next few days enjoying the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History.  I’ve been a member for about 40 years and I don’t think I’ve missed a conference during the last decade—does this make me a history nerd?

I hear this conference will be among the largest in AASLH’s recent memory and in partnership with the Michigan Museums Association, they’ve assembled some intriguing sessions and events.  As usual, I’ll have to split myself to attend several sessions at the same time but spending Saturday afternoon at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village will be the highlight.

Of course, seeing friends and colleagues from around the country is always great fun (sometimes it seems the entire conference is just one long reunion) and if you’ll be attending, I’d love to chat.  I’ll be at the evening events on Wednesday and Thursday, plus I’ll be participating in two sessions this year: Continue reading

Professional Development is Taking on New Forms This Month

Historic Annapolis logoProfessional development (aka staff training) is one of the key elements for developing capacity at house museums and historic sites, but it’s often considered a luxury because of the cost.  This month, for example, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, and Historic Annapolis are hosting a two-day workshop, “Preservation Leadership Training: Invitation to Evolve” on September 8-9, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland and next week, the American Association for State and Local History and Michigan Museums Association are hosting their conference, “The Spirit of Rebirth” in Detroit, Michigan.  Both demonstrate the continuing trend of partnerships among organizations to provide professional development to increase attendance, reduce expenses, and improve the quality.  I’m not sure if others do this, but I can only commit to two conferences per year: one is always AASLH and the other rotates among one of the other organizations where I’m a member.

But lately, I’ve noticed new forms of training popping Continue reading

What’s the Twack Record for Your Tweets?

Followers Dashboard from Twitter.

Followers Dashboard from Twitter.

The growth of social media has added new layers of complexity to the promotional efforts at museums and historic sites.  Along with mailing newsletters and event announcements and maintaining a website, we feel an increasing need to connect with our supporters through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  But is all this work having any impact? How can I better use these tools to engage my audiences?

You may have noticed that I’ve been experimenting with Twitter this past year, adding a feed to the sidebar of my blog and sending out about three tweets each morning on news related to museums and historic sites using @maxvanbalgooy (@engagingplaces was already taken) and tagging them with #museum or #preservation.  It’s nice to see the number of Followers grow and merit a Favorite or Retweet occasionally (thanks Bob!), but what’s the impact?  You may find some answers in the Followers dashboard that Twitter recently launched.

The dashboard provides several analytical tools that not only highlights Continue reading

SlideShare: Promoting Teen Night Out Using Social Media

In this 17 slide deck, the Lukens Company explains how they promoted Teen Night Out at the Seattle Art Museum using social media.  Since 2007, the museum has held thirteen Teen Night Outs with over 8,000 attendees.   You’ll find that it’s a well-rounded campaign that carefully defined the target audience and used several measures of success.  If you want to reach teenagers, you’ll want to check this out.

Predictions for Education Technology in 2013


Image courtesy of HamiltonRentals.Wordpress.com.

Image courtesy of HamiltonRentals.Wordpress.com.

T.H.E. Journal brought together five technology experts who work in schools to predict the future of technology in the classroom–and may help you decide where the opportunities lie for your museum or historic site as you work with students and teachers. Here’s a quick summary, and if you want more details, check out the entire article in the December 2012 issue.

  • HOT: Common Core Online Assessments. “As more and more curriculum departments align their learning resources to the Common Core, the next step will be to create the systems for implementation, including content management and new methods of assessment. Mobile devices will play a role in Common Core assessments.”  [Every history organization that works with schools should notice that this issue not only suggests following and understanding the Common Core but that schools continue to have inconsistent and unreliable computer technology, so providing information only online may hinder students and teachers, rather than help.]
  • HOT: iPads. LUKEWARM: Tablet Computers other than iPads. “iPads will continue to Continue reading

Remembering the 1,933rd Anniversary of the Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

Animation still from “A Day in Pompeii,” You Tube video at http://youtu.be/w82yVDOMIa0

This may seem far-afield from the interests of most historic sites, but 1,933 years ago today, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii (resulting in one of the world’s most popular historic sites about 1,700 years later).  The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is marking the anniversary by tweeting the last day of Pompeii as it happened, starting at 10 a.m. today by @Elder_Pliny (formerly known as Pliny the Elder, who witnessed the events) in preparation for an exhibit on Pompeii opening on September 14.  So far, he has more than 3,000 followers and he just tweeted that he’s preparing his boat to get a closer look (should I warn him?).  Along with the tweets, the Museum has created a mashup with Google maps to follow Pliny around Pompeii, is hosting “Bacchus Raucous” (a fundraising gala dressed in a Roman toga) and is featuring a lecture on Ceren, a Mayan village that was also encased by a volcanic eruption centuries ago.

Thanks to Sandra Smith at the Heinz History Center sharing this clever approach in interpretation.

Nonprofit Benchmarks for Online Communications

Email Messaging Benchmark infographic

Online communications–electronic newsletters, Facebook, e-fundraising, Twitter–have become a standard for non-profit organizations but often we’re unsure if they’re effective.  We can track the number of Facebook Fans or times an email has been opened, but those numbers mean little by themselves.  Benchmarking is one way to measure effectiveness and progress, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by comparing your results consistently over time (for example, number of Facebook Fans on December 31, 2012 compared to December 31, 2011).

But to really see how you’re doing, you need to compare yourself to similar organizations.  The American Association of Museums has developed an online benchmarking tool for comparisons across the museum field, however, it doesn’t include e-communications at this time (they’re collecting lots of data in other areas, though, so please participate).  M+R Strategic Services and the Nonprofit Technology Network just released its 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study as an infographic to show the highlights.   These results are based on a study of 44 leading nonprofits in 2011 and among the many benchmarks are:

  • 12-15% of email messages are opened, with a response rate for advocacy around 4% and for fundraising at less than 1%.
  • The average one-time online gift is $62.
  • For every 1,000 email subscribers, nonprofits have an average of 103 Facebook Fans and 29 Twitter Followers.

The full study will be released on April 5 at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (although you can attend in-person free in Washington DC) and will be presented as a webinar on April 18.

Exclusive Twitter Account Launched

If you use Twitter to keep up with what’s happening, you can follow this blog @MaxvanBalgooy.  Every blog post is automatically shared on Twitter, plus I often use Twitter to quickly report on immediate events at meetings and conferences as I encounter them, such as a speaker’s pithy quotes and breaking news.  If you’ve been following @MaxvanBalgooy, those tweets will now focus on my professional work in historic preservation, community engagement, and urban design (and I’ve moved my personal tweets about my hometown of Rockville, Maryland to @MaxforRockville).  Thanks to Scott Wands at the Connecticut Humanities Council for the suggestion (and alas @EngagingPlaces has already been taken).