An interesting post popped up at ReadWriteWeb yesterday that evaluates our social media efforts across platforms—the author questions if we are spread too thin and in my response you’ll find me making a passionate argument about the choices we’ve made. The post does bring up an issue that we’ve been grappling with over here—when is the appropriate time to pull the plug on a social media platform? This isn’t an easy question to answer and we often find jumping in is easier than jumping out, but we’ve long been planning to pull a couple of plugs and now seems like the appropriate time to do it and talk about the complexity behind some of these decisions.
Many of you may remember ArtShare, the Brooklyn Museum’s Facebook application. ArtShare had good intentions and was an effort to be inclusive to many different types of users: institutions could use it to share works in their collection on Facebook profiles and pages; artists could upload and share their own work; and art lovers could install the app and customize their profiles with the works they liked the most. The app worked pretty well during early days, but we quickly found that Facebook’s changes often came without much warning and every time Facebook would change their API, we’d have to drop everything to fix the app. API changes were one thing, but Facebook soon started changing profile layouts and with those shifts in design we saw the Facebook community moving away from app usage. It has become clear that keeping up with Facebook’s shifting priorities is too difficult with our limited staffing and with fewer people using the application we are pulling the plug.
I wish we could easily pull the plug on more than just ArtShare, but Facebook does not make things easy. We’ve got a legacy Brooklyn Museum group—a holdover from the days before pages—that should ideally be deleted, but guess what? In order to delete a Facebook group, you have to delete every member from the group before the group can be deleted. Did you catch that?? There are more than a thousand people in this group and deleting them all before we can retire the group is simply not a practical use of time. Until Facebook has a better solution for deletion, we’ve had to resort to changing the group to a hidden status and posting a note to redirect current members to the Museum’s Facebook page. This is a heck of a messy way to deal with a problem that should have an easy fix.
After five years, we are finally pulling the plug on the Myspace profile. We’ve muddled over this one for quite some time and most people will wonder why we bothered to keep this at all because “everyone has moved to Facebook,” but things are more nuanced than that. As a community-minded organization we are very conscious of the work Danah Boyd has done on Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and Myspace. While this article was written in 2007, many of the issues it brings up are still true today and given the diversity of our audience and a mission that holds accessibility paramount, cutting and running from Myspace never seemed like a sound idea. Because we had started to see less usage, we got a little closer to shutting down the profile last year, but ended up needing a more active presence there when Myspace Music became a sponsor for Who Shot Rock—that was enough to stop deletion in its tracks. At this point, however, it’s become more difficult to maintain the profile—we are so inundated with spam on the site that sorting through what might be legit posts is too arduous. With lower usage overall combined with higher difficulty to manage the platform, it is now time to go.
Generally, you’ll see us continue to jump into social platforms as we see our audience gathering there. We feel it’s important to have a presence where people are knowing they may not come directly to www.brooklynmuseum.org, but as with any technology we will watch the landscape and adjust as we go along. As audience moves from one platform to another or as platforms modify beyond recognition, we’ll change with them and that can mean making difficult and carefully studied decisions about when to stay and when to go.
Shelley Bernstein is the former Vice Director of Digital Engagement & Technology at the Brooklyn Museum where she spearheaded digital projects with public participation at their center. In the most recent example—ASK Brooklyn Museum—visitors ask questions using their mobile devices and experts answer in real time. She organized three award-winning projects—Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition, Split Second: Indian Paintings, GO: a community-curated open studio project—which enabled the public to participate in the exhibition process.
Shelley was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Crain's New York Business and her work on the Museum's digital strategy has been featured in the New York Times.
In 2016, Shelley joined the staff at the Barnes Foundation as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer.