Erin Blasco, Blog and Social Media Manager, National Museum of American History

During our conversation, Erin Blasco reveals how to model behavior for digital engagement and provides valuable insight into managing a Kickstarter’s social media campaign. 

Erin collaborates with staff across departments to manage the National Museum of American History’s entire social media presence. She relies on the knowledge of subject area specialists like curators to help draft content and blog posts. The blog is one of the first social media platforms started at NMAH and the most difficult to manage. With full-length articles that need to be reviewed and edited, planning must begin at least 2-3 months ahead of time. While not as time consuming, Instagram requires the perfect combination of stunning photos with text at just the right length, and finding that balance can be tricky.

Not all audiences can be reached through a single social media platform, but NMAH does have target audiences for each program. Erin puts a lot of work into reaching people who are interested in specific content. With the recent acquisition of artifacts from Selena, Erin has reached out to other museums and heritage organizations to talk about Selena and Hispanic heritage. She was able to find three female staff members at NMAH from different generations who shared their memories about Selena, and the public really responded to that. “Sometimes we have to model the behavior we want”, Erin explained. “If we want people to share their stories, we have to share stories with them.”

While managing the #KeepThemRuby Kickstarter campaign, Erin learned that asking people to share their stories is only one of the many angles needed to maintain robust messaging for 30 days. Running out of content is easy, so it’s important to think of every angle possible. For the #KeepThemRuby campaign, social media at NMAH talked about the conservation of the slippers, how the movie was produced, the decision to cast Judy Garland, and more. Erin recommends preparing more visuals than you think will be needed for a Kickstarter campaign like this. Getting clearance for image copyrights can be complicated, and editing photos takes time.

Measuring and defining success is one of the hardest parts of Erin’s job. For a long time she thought that any engagement was good. Now she relies more on audience interaction by categorizing meaningful comments from Instagram. This has helped to capture the range in reactions, and tells much more than just a number. What are some other ways to measure the success of social media in more than just numbers?


  1. jenna nicole says:

    There are so many valuable insights in this interview, what a great conversation! Erin’s discussion of modelling the behavior you want from your audience is very compelling; it doesn’t just demonstrate what you’re looking for and break the ice to get conversations going, but it shows a real commitment to social media as an engaging and sincere dialogue.
    I really like the idea of categorizing comments received and using word clouds, this provides such a better way to interpret and evaluate the types of responses your content is inspiring. I wonder if anyone has used set types/categories of responses (rather than just X amount of comments) as goals or success metrics for certain types of posts? E.G. If you’re posing a direct question to your audience, like in Erin’s example of asking them to share a memory, would you track separately the number of comments that were shared memories? Or, or a more direct post sharing an object in the collection, would you try to target one type of response over another?

    1. Kelly McKenna says:

      Hi Jenna,

      I definitely plan to use word clouds to capture the comments for future social media initiatives! I think this is a great qualitative method to measure the success of social media participation.

  2. Elizabeth G. says:

    Such a wealth of information! I really appreciated the feedback she gave on what to prepare for in the planning stages of a Kickstarter campaign. Having enough content that is varied, eye-catching and engaging for 30 days needs to be well developed.

    Her advice about learning evaluation methods to increase your repertoire for museum work is very insightful. Erin was a delightful expert to hear from – her comment about being more of a facilitator in her position really resonates with me; we cannot all be experts in everything and we are not expected to be!

    1. Jenna Stepp says:

      Her discussion of being a facilitator in helping other experts was really valuable! There’s a real need for content experts to help bring out the wealth of fantastic stories, knowledge and insights that are held across museum teams but otherwise may never reach wider audiences.

  3. Mary Mathias says:

    What a wonderful conversation! The piece that stuck out to me the most was part of what Erin said about the quickly changing platforms and trends: good storytelling and great visuals will never go out of style. I think that’s great advice to keep in the back of your mind for day-to-day social media management. A social media strategy can be built from the idea of telling an engaging story and sharing compelling visuals.

    1. Robin Reif says:

      Mary I agree with social and telling a engaging story. I think it is easy to just think about a great visual but the story builds more content and helps connect on a more individual level.

    2. Kelly McKenna says:

      Mary, this piece of advice stuck with me as well! It’s a relief that at least some things never go out of style with changing trends.

  4. kpolesky says:

    What a great listen. Thanks Kelly! I loved hearing about the #KeepThemRuby Kickstarter campaign–I guess I never knew you had 30 days and if you didn’t meet your goal you got nothing. But 30 days worth of content to keep your audience captivated? That is a lot of work! And the Selena story about staff members sharing their recollections. Very touching and totally engaging. I look forward to following her and the Smithsonian blog from now on.

    1. Kelly McKenna says:

      Yes, there is definitely a big risk of not meeting the goal with Kickstarter campaigns. Considering how much work it is to manage them, the campaigns must certainly be chosen carefully.

  5. Robin Reif says:

    I really was glad to hear about the different challenges in social media. Creating personalities in social media is a lot like creating a dating profile so true.

  6. Christopher Martinez says:

    It was really interesting to hear about a different take on social media from someone who’s managing all these accounts. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was a multistage process and that there would be lots of other people contributing. Really espouses the virtue of organization and planning ahead.

  7. What an interesting conversation! Her comments about snackable content and the current social media landscape were great advice. I appreciated her discussion of tailoring the approach to different media/platforms based on their strengths, and encouraging engagement online. ‘If you build it they will come’ doesn’t always work, but modelling behavior for users is an interesting way to encourage interaction.

    1. Kelly McKenna says:

      Hi Jordan,

      Yes, I think modeling behavior for users can be a great strategy to get people to “start talking”. I think sometimes it can be intimidating to be the first person to engage, so having an example of what a response might look like is encouraging.

  8. Andrea A. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your conversation with Erin. She had some really great insight on how museums can fully utilize social media platforms in engaging ways. Especially when dealing with the evolving technology world. The time spent writing the museum’s blogs and the steps that need to be taken are really daunting and I applaud her for putting all that work into keep these blogs timely and relevant. Her strategy for tackling what works and what doesn’t for social media really resonates that it is a constantly changing realm and that what works this week may not work next week and is really dependent on trends and user needs. Tailoring for the social media platforms independently really seems to e key in this situation.

  9. Zoey Washington says:

    Kelly, her points about working across platform are really smart and I think not often outlined when you speak with social media directors as their role is sometimes seen as a bit of a silo. But I loved how she spoke about the importance of the social media platforms, namely the blog, to bring the “national” perspective to the museum given that many of the audiences of its programs were local.

  10. Jennifer Hall says:

    I’m glad you asked her about personality on social media. The term “social,” as she points out, somewhat mandates personality, but it’s a personality that has to be delicately managed because so much more is at stake when speaking on behalf of an institution. The idea of creating a “dating profile” for an institutional representative is brilliant- very similar to user personas I would guess, with possibly a little more edge.

    Her methods of defining/analyzing success are very helpful. The idea of categorizing feedback sounds like a useful way to understand how people feel comfortable responding and what kind of content elicits certain kinds of responses. I think she hit the nail on the head when she said that good story telling and good visuals never go out of style. I think it’s important for museum professionals to stay grounded with that lesson before they embark on any project, big or small.

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