A little about Jim
Jim Breitinger was an early blogger- he first started by creating emails with stories and pictures that he would send out to friends and family. The positive feedback from these emails fueled his interest in telling stories through the new digital media and soon after started a blog. After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, with a minor in History, he worked in communications and marketing with companies like Novell. But, his interests in meteorites took him on a detour to becoming a meteorite dealer where he traveled the country educating people on meteorites and selling them out of his Airstream. A master’s degree in Environmental History rounded out his education and furthered his passion for storytelling and true content. Utilizing social media in a professional capacity since 2008, Jim has found the perfect place to bring his education and personal interests together at The Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU). The museum uses four social media platforms, a blog, a mobile app with “share” functions, and of course a website that connects with social media.
You can listen to our conversation at the bottom of this post.
“…creating social media content is woven into everything else I do so estimating the time spent on it is tough…”
We talked about having ‘buy-in’ from your Director and Board for social media programming. Jim said some of the people in charge may admit they don’t understand social media but they know the value of utilizing it for the museum.
Jim knows it is important to have a social media strategy, and one that it is firmly grounded in the museum’s mission and brand. Jim says “engaging socially is another way to reach people, and another way to fulfill our mission -so we can really expand our reach.”
At NHMU, the different social media platforms are utilized in different ways to show the broad scope of programming at the museum The blog Jim started for the museum has a strong emphasis on science and communicating their research, where Facebook is utilized more for marketing events. The idea of evergreen content is an interesting angle for social media that Jim talks about with regard to their blog.
The exhibition program at the museum is robust and we discussed the place social media has in the exhibition development process. With ten permanent exhibitions, and the temporary exhibition space changing every 5 to 6 months, I wanted to know how they used and integrated social media.
If you are ever in Utah, definitely check out this museum! A link to the website is here.
I hope the conversation we had gives listeners a feel for what it is like to run social media programming in a mid-sized museum – the various platforms, the time it takes, and the strategies involved. Here is our conversation …..
NHMU on social media:
Sabrina: Jim said something very interesting. He said he uses social media as a means of “fulfilling” his mission. So often, we look at museum missions as a way to justify an action: does my mission cover my action, even if it’s loosely? Jim takes it a step further, to fulfillment.
I was really interested in the specific goals that Jim discussed referencing the blog. In class we’ve discussed how different content can be posted on different platforms so it was nice to hear of his specific references to posts regarding the visibility of researcher’s work. I also really liked his comment that he tries to post things that will be interesting today and in fifty years from now. That has to be challenging!
Nicole- I thought the concept of “evergreen” content was interesting as well, and how Jim thought the blog was a better platform for reaching that goal.
Jim did a great job of giving me a better sense of how to create a social media strategy. He discussed how everything should connect back to the mission of the museum. Social media managers need to make sure that they have content guidelines, they are able to define their audience (which can change based on platform), and have “buy in across all departments”. It was interesting to hear that although the director and board may not understand social media and why it is so popular, they understand its importance to the museum’s mission. His description of people who don’t understand social media reminded me a lot of my mom (who I don’t think will every have a Facebook profile).
I love Jim’s humble beginnings with creating emails that contained pictures and stories in his emails! I like how Jim is a realist in his approach and realizes the important social media really is to a museum. He recognizes and appreciates how much time people spend on social media in general. Also, Jim did a great job breaking down why a social media strategy and a content creation plan is important.
In the early days, where the AIM man ran across screens and “You’ve Got Mail” was a household phrase, Jim was writing engaging emails that essentially functioned as a social media listserv. The evolution from email to blogs to Facebook to Twitter gives him a great perspective on exactly what it takes to engage an audience and be on the cutting edge of new technology. He struck a particular chord as a Marketing & History undergrad that has walked the line between academia and dealing in fascinating objects, and his passion for content and the growth that has come from that is inspiration as I follow along a similar path.
“Social media should be social.” I like how Jim Breitinger brought up the idea of really engaging with followers online by commenting on visitor comments to get followers better engaged and coming back for more. I once had a response to a visitor comment get over 90 likes, because it was an amusing reply to a visitor comment, the post also performed well with over 500 reactions. Jim is right by commenting in return, if a site leaves comments unanswered it doesn’t look good and the museum appears to have a poor social media presence.
I love that Jim was led to blogging via emails to friends and family. You can see a direct line from that to blogging to social media! His passion for storytelling and natural history come across in the way he talks about his work.
I found the part of the conversation about “evergreen content” fascinating… I had never really heard of this specific style of interaction before. His comments about incorporating into their blog makes it seem like it should be something that more people who run blogs should be aware of so that their content is continually relevant– so often we try to be relevant by talking about the most recent happenings but this proves that if you pass up these opportunities and stick to the basics, its more universally relevant! (aka it takes a slightly different definition on how the term “relevant” should be approached.) Thanks for this new information!
Sabrina, I thought it was very valuable how he highlighted the importance of gaining the buy-in of the upper management and the different departments, even if they don’t fully understand it. Regardless of the size of the museum, having this buy-in can lead to more effective collaboration and communication about what is going on in the life of your museum. If the departments do not communicate with one another, then there can be real challenges to find out what is happening. The person that I interviewed saw this at her institution, which caused some challenges when she started her position. By gaining the support of the other departments and upper management up front, it makes managing social media content much easier.
Jim is a really inspiring character in that he had such humble beginnings and is now the Director of Marketing. With all of us taking these courses to help us further our careers, I personally forget that there are people who started out outside of museums and have transitioned into museums. I think that’s a refreshing person to have on staff because they can see the world in a different way that those of us who have started as interns and worked our way up the ranks can see.
Sabrina – Love that you included interview highlights! It made the post really easy to read, it is a great formatting choice. I also liked you that included links to the social media pages for the Natural History of Utah. In the interview Jim mentions his goals in terms of blogging during the interview, which I really enjoyed. “Evergreen” content is an awesome term, referring to content that never gets dated or aged.
“Social media is changing how everyone operates.” That seems so true. Whether on a personal or business level, social media can have such a major impact. Through his business he mentions how its changed the communication strategy and a big extension of their audience. He also makes a remark mentioning how social media is changing museums and changing everything.
I relate completely to being pretty much the only one doing social media at a medium or small museum/organization. It creates a challenge in many ways in keeping up with content, but the advantage as the only one it is often easier to interlink your social media into a broader message that is mission based and allows one to weave a larger story, which can sometime be tough when you have different people handling different aspects of social media.
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