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#hcsmca learning from the ROM

May 7, 2012

After seeing Mark’s presentation about the Royal Ontario Museum’s use of social media at Podcamp 2012, I invited him to be a guest on an #hcsmca chat to discuss A) the use of multiple channels in social media in an institution and B) engaging multiple internal stakeholders in social media. Join us May 9 at 1pm ET.

Guest post by Mark Farmer.

Royal Ontario MuseumThe ROM is active in a wide variety of social media right now, including:

…and more. Probably one of the most interesting initiatives for us is the proliferation of Twitter accounts, which number 22 at last count, including:

…among others.

Our philosophy with Twitter has always been that if there’s a distinct audience and distinct messaging, there’s probably a case to be made for a unique Twitter account to accommodate that audience and those messages. In spite of that, we always recommend that users and departments start out with Twitter through one of the existing Twitter channels, so that they can get a sense for how to use Twitter successfully, and to make sure they can keep up an appropriate amount of tweets and conversation. It’s very easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of social media, and start your own account. It’s quite another thing to develop the practice and experience of using Twitter successfully, and to keep up a steady stream of tweets. By starting users on an existing Twitter account, we ensure that they don’t get overenthusiastic and commit themselves to something they can’t keep up.

We recognize that Twitter isn’t a zero-sum game either. There is no such thing as a cannibalization of audience by having multiple accounts: this isn’t like having a TV set with 22 channels. Twitter is a non-linear system that allows the consumption of multiple channels simultaneously by users. A better metaphor than a TV set might be a network of friends: there’s no downside to having a lot of friends, and if one or more of them mention the same thing to you once in a while, it’s not a big deal.

One other thing that having multiple Twitter accounts allows us to do is to engage the entire museum in the practice of social media. In fact, anyone in the museum can submit interesting content to our blog, YouTube, Pinterest and our other social media. We recognize that the role of gatekeepers in social media isn’t to regiment their use: it’s to encourage and support the content experts in the museum, connect them with the best media to get their message out, and then get the heck out of the way. There’s no real benefit to over-thinking and over-organizing social media.

The only value a gatekeeper can really add to a subject matter expert is to provide basic editorial oversight, coordination and scheduling. Non-linear systems such as this allow large institutions to achieve economies of scale in content production, where enabling content producers to organically bring content forward obviates the need for large, clunky command-and-control systems. Having a central point of publishing creates the necessary oversight and quality control, without stifling initiative and creativity. By doing this, you empower employees and create content faster and more easily than with other systems.

Does this approach translate well into a healthcare setting?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2012 10:50 am

    Couldn’t agree more. AHS has multiple Twitter accounts catering to five different geographic (zone) audiences and a number of different subject areas (jobs, cancer care, media, innovation and research) etc. So far, so good…


  2. May 9, 2012 12:25 pm

    I look forward to talking more about your use of multiple Twitter accounts on the #hcsmca chat.


  3. May 10, 2012 9:47 am

    My workplace has two distinct Twitter accounts. I work in HIV support and education, still a highly stigmatized health condition about which people will say “Oh HIV info doesn’t apply to ME.” Having two accounts makes sense- our organizational brand (@pwn_bc) for the established HIV community folks looking for research, program info, shared resources, etc. The other brand (and visually different) is You Should Know (@youshouldknowca), a more general sexual health education/ HIV prevention stream.


    • May 10, 2012 2:30 pm

      That makes completely sense Janet. I assume the audiences are quite distinct. Do you find that the @pwn_bc helps drive traffic to the @youshouldknowca account to help people understand HIV?


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