Jenn Lyon, Community Manager, Colonial Williamsburg

Jenn Lyon is the current Community Manager for the social media team at Colonial Williamsburg. She  describes her background as different than most in social media since she had a PhD in American History from the University of Florida. She has previous experience working in the museum field through internships at Monticello and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She knew while in graduate school that her path would  not lead he into academia or teaching. Jenn believes she is at the job she “dreamed of finding, but never knew existed”.

Although most institutions call this job a Social Media Manager, Colonial Williamsburg has given it a different term. Community Manager, according to Jenn, is someone who handles the social media and much more. Her duties include everything from developing social media strategies, creating a “brand awareness” through posts, converting followers into on site visitors and much more. She sees her job as more than  posting on social media and that is something I admire. Working in social media means more than just posting for likes, it means understanding your audience and how to engage them online and on site.

Jenn manages all the social media platforms for Colonial Williamsburg. This includes: Facebook (both the main page and the Historic Trades and Skills page), Twitter, Google+, Instagram (the main channel and The Taste of CW which focuses on food), YouTube, Snapchat (colonialwmsburg), Pintrest, and even Vine. Jenn explained that some of these formats the site had a presence so that no one else would take the name, but that for the majority of her time she focus mainly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And although she manages the Historic Trades and Skills page on Facebook, the posts and replies are done by the craftspeople themselves. She told me that before she took over each trade had their own page. This created a lot of Facebook pages and confusion for their audience. To help everyone out, the team helped the craftspeople delete all the excess pages and create the Historic Trades and Skills page we see today.

One unique part of Colonial Williamsburg and their presence online is their blog. Making History Now predates the rise of  social media (the first post was in 2009) and is a great addition to the strategy of Colonial Williamsburg. The blog allows people who aren’t necessarily on social media to follow along through e-mail subscriptions. This platform also allows the team to control their message and write more than what can be said in 140 characters. Being able to have blogs written by different members of the staff on all different types of topic gives the audience a great sense of how Colonial Williamsburg is the perfect place to visit and learn more about each day. One of their most popular posts was on April Fool’s Day last year and if you haven’t read it I would suggest checking it out here. I believe that these posts really expand on the social media strategy of the site and show how they connect wth their visitors.

I know that my conversation with Jenn gave me some great insight about how social media should be handled in the museum world. She says that they “want to be the type of brand that can engage with and expect responses”. So please take a listen and comment below!



  1. Kristen Peterson says:

    Rachel: Email subscriptions! I remember those! I recently interviewed a living museum marketing director. When I asked her which institutional social media page she most admirers, she answered Colonial Williamsburg’s Instagram account. I like the “Community Manager” title.

  2. Nicole Beddia says:


    Something clear during your interview was how in tune Jenn is with keeping up to do date with the various events at Williamsburg. Her unintentional pause to take a look at notifications in regards to the hurricane and how it effects Williamsburg shows how she is constantly checking up on things. Social media really does require being up to date, which may require attention at any moment in the day.

  3. Megan Burgess says:

    I will admit that when she began talking about the blog, I thought, “Why on earth do they still have a blog?” Jenn’s reasoning made total sense, though. The point about using Snapchat to attract younger visitors and the blog to attract older visitors made it “click” for me. I also liked the “don’t build on rented land” quote! It seems like social media sites are constantly changing their algorithms (at least Facebook and Instagram, anyway) which changes how and when people see your posts. Having a blog that you have complete control over ensures that visitors always have something to go to.

  4. Caroline Rohe says:

    It was interesting to hear Jenn Lyon stating her educational background as not being the norm for social media coordinators. While I do not have a PhD in history but only my BA, I feel that having a history degree at a historic site enables her to better connect with the historic content and in turn be able turn this subject matter into well researched posts for social media.

  5. Jasmin Mitchell says:

    Jenn is very inspirational! She has taken Colonial Williamsburg and has streamlined their process, kept it up to date and keeps her community engaged. The community manager title is great, it feels complete and all encompassing.

  6. Donny Caltrider says:

    I identify closely with Jenn in her academic pursuits, having found myself in this program (as opposed to a traditional history or art/history graduate program) in search of a wider reach and diversified skill set. I love that she emphasizes the marketability of diverse skills, whether in terms of social media or otherwise, and think it is fantastic advice for all of us in a very competitive industry and economy. There are so many moving pieces to being a community manager or social media manager that the more you can do to “make an immediate impact” as she states, the more valuable you are as an employee.

  7. Lauren Szady says:

    The quote that you highlighted (that they “want to be the type of brand that can engage with and expect responses”) is one of the most important things that I took away from this interview. I have heard from so many different people in the field how amazing Colonial Williamsburg’s online presence is and to hear the person in charge of their social media say that they are aiming for it to be as universal and interactive as it can be made it seem like they had a very distinctive goal and have achieved it!

  8. Katie Montecuollo says:

    Rachel, one of the main themes that I noticed when listening to your interview was the importance of understanding your audience. Knowing what social media platforms your audience is going to interact with you on and what posts they may react well to comes down to understanding who is following you on the different pages and being able to engage with them well. I especially appreciated how Jen highlighted the importance of balance between creating engaging, fun posts but also remaining true to the institution’s mission (30:30-30:35), through the coloring book. It sounds like a great way to engage and educate people at the same time.

  9. Sabrina Sanders says:

    I enjoyed hearing Jenn talk about her job and what being a community manager entails. It was interesting to hear her perspective that organic reach is a more valid metric because you are reaching your core audience, and not pushing your content out to people who do not necessarily want it. The topic of trolling came up a couple times during the interview which is something I don’t hear people talk about very much, and Jenn mentioned the boosted posts can bring more trolling. Also her thoughts on social media needing to be a priority for museums or they will be left behind.

  10. Melanie Claros Rodriguez says:

    The biggest takeaway that I go from Jenn’s interview is that she is always connected and “on”. She obviously cares a lot about maintaining the social media pages as up to date as possible. I was curious as to what a community manager would do but this is exactly what I think that title should be in charge of. She notices what goes well with audiences and what doesn’t and she’s focused on making sure that their voice is on mission and bringing people into the museum to visit. She’s aware of what’s going on inside their own community as well as what’s going on in the world, such as controversies.

  11. Jeana Wunderlich says:

    Great interview! Jennifer sounds extremely knowledgable about social media and social media marketing. I was impressed with her drive: interning full-time to get necessary experience, for example. Listening to these interviews, I love hearing about the different ways that individual sites maximize engagement. Hearing her speak about taking things seriously also makes a lot of sense: social media users really do make quick, snap judgements about pages. If it doesn’t look “serious” or legitimate they are going to click right out.

  12. Jason Rusk says:

    I loved hearing Jenn stating how she knew early on in her college career that she did not want to teach. She made a different type of path from what may have been known as the norm for undergraduate History majors. I was in the same shoes, as I’m sure many of us were. I only wanted to teach for a short time in the beginning of my college career but soon shifted away from those thoughts and look to work more in the field. She has built many different tools/skills needed to be successful in her career path, something that I continue to try and do.

  13. Craig Hadley says:

    I loved her perspective on paid content and outreach. She is so right, it can certainly have a negative impact on a social media campaign and it does invite the trolls, who relish the opportunity to invade a site. Trolling has not really been discussed as a problem with social media, but it can be a very real problem. And it only takes one to cause chaos.

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