On April 8th I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine White who is the Assistant Manager of Education and Programming at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. An undergraduate of Connecticut College with an MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Catherine has worked in various museums in China and the US before landing in her current position. One of her many tasks at the IMSS is maintaining the social media accounts and this was the main focus of our interview.
The IMSS is a small museum so we began by discussing the multitasking that one has to do when there are just a handful of employees. We both laughed about our small museum experience which included so many things – managing the membership, volunteer, internship programs, writing newsletters, and “on top of that facilitating, taking out the trash when necessary and all those kinds of other duties.” She went over the platforms they use for marketing and outreach, such as iContact for newsletters and WordPress for the website. Social media took up the rest of our interview: “We have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter which are the big three. A little bit on LinkedIn but that never really took off.” The #HistMed (history of medicine) hashtag and community is very popular on Pinterest and that is another platform that may be in the works for the IMSS.
We discussed the importance of tagging posts properly so they can be seen by your audience. She shared her social media guide with me which had a multitude of hashtags that she uses on her posts and the themes for each day of the week. For example, on Mondays “people want motivation to get them through the first day of the work week, so commiserating with feeling tired etc. or sharing fun & interesting imagery/facts“ was a recommendation. Some suggested hashtags were #MorbidMonday, #MuseumMonday and #MotivationalMonday. Her guide/social media calendar was thoughtfully compiled so an intern or volunteer could easily perform posting duties.
Catherine went over the importance of knowing who your audience is and responding to their needs. She has found that there is an intersection of people who enjoy science/medical history and people who are into morbid curiosities. So using the appropriate tags on social media (mostly Twitter and Instagram) ensures that these audiences are served.
We discussed the ways a website is used vs. how social media is used. Her observation is that the website is for people who are looking for logistical facts, such as hours and location to plan their visit. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. on the other hand are a great way “to use social media as a medium for education. So that you didn’t necessarily have to come through our doors to get a little piece of medical history.”
One of the challenges we discussed was in regards to negativity and hateful commenters on social media. An example she recounted for me was about an article she posted during Pride month. The post honored a famous medical professional who was also the first “out” lesbian in the US military and there was backlash in the comments about queer people serving in the military. Catherine was clear that while she does agree that people have a right to voice their opinion, she will “hide” hate speech and not engage with these individuals.
As previously mentioned, Catherine shared her social media strategies with me which included the social media calendar and a social media market research/strategy report. The calendar was a thorough guide to what kind of stories to post and what the best days and tags are appropriate for them. Her marketing report outlined goals (such as increasing engagement and traffic), the benefits of advertising on various platforms, and helpful information from a third party website (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-advertising-strategy/) regarding the cost and benefits of paying for advertising on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time chatting with Catherine. One of the things I mentioned at the close of our interview is that younger millennials such as herself are so well suited to managing social media because they have grown up online and have the personality for it. Her enthusiasm for her projects at the International Museum of Surgical Science made for a very fun and engaging interview.