The #DollyPartonChallenge Magnified the Best and Worst of Museum Social Media Manager Life
Let me tell you why.
(But first, if you were busy yesterday with your “9 to 5” and don’t know about the Dolly Parton Challenge, you can catch up.)
The Dolly Parton Challenge could have been just the next social media meme to explode onto our streams on any given ho-hum day. These memes bring that much-needed laugh and extra sparkle to the list of otherwise depressing trending hashtags.
When these trending-hashtag-driven memes appear out of the blue, it brings with it a jolt of excitement and adrenaline for the typical social media manager. When I say “typical,” I mean the social media professional who has resources, time, and the ability to focus on their core role (actual social media coordination and execution.) Most know that any good social media strategy takes a mix of both pre-planned content and nimble, in-the-moment opportunities. But that ability to jump on those in-the-moment, relevant pieces of content is dependent on a lot of things. For the atypical social media manager — the one that wears countless hats and likely doesn’t have “social media” in their title — their immediate reaction to a fun meme like the Dolly Parton Challenge is very different …exasperation, frustration, the nagging feeling they should’ve done more.
A tale of two #musesocial experiences
I watched this play out on Friday among friends who hold the reins of museum social media accounts from New York City to London to New Delhi. At some point in time that day, everyone came upon a version of the meme and — in true social media pro fashion — would figure out the situation. Immediately it’s obvious: THIS is a moment for museums to shine! Social media does its job best when it presents the chance to cleverly share collections objects in a way that’s snappy and relevant. Beyond that, it’s a chance for lesser-known museums to break through with a post that resonates and showcases their brand on a wider stage. Opportunity abounds! But you can’t win that social media lottery without first buying a ticket.
Here’s how it looks when you either do, or don’t, buy that ticket…
THE REASONABLY-RESOURCED MUSEUM SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
This is likely the person who has “social media” or similar in their title. I’m calling them “reasonably-resourced” because that is more accurate in relation to the rest of the corporate social media industry, which has significant resources.
The day-in-the-life of this colleague of mine might have looked something like this (or maybe not like this at all).
- They have a very full schedule of marketing meetings and pre-planned social content, but noticed the #DollyPartonChallenge and immediately began thinking it over.
- This person may have the resources of a second digital marketing team-member (who is equally busy). But they can bounce ideas off one another about what collections objects they can share as they run from meeting to meeting before lunch.
- While eating lunch (likely at their desk, or in a meeting), this person pulls together a photoshop file on their laptop, or beg their digital design team member for a favor to squeeze it in so they can post it that afternoon ASAP. (This is social media after all!)
- While trying to multitask in their first afternoon meeting they go over and over in their head if their caption is clever enough for this most epic meme that they know will be important. But here goes nothing. TYPE THE POST. SEND. (While simultaneously answering questions about social strategy in said meeting.)
- Obsessively watch metrics roll in on all posts for the rest of the afternoon and attempt to just as cleverly reply to comments. If things go exceptionally well, they will try to find the time before they leave work (or stay late) to write up a team email about the smashingly successful metrics for this post, explaining why it was important to those who won’t get it.
(And remember, this is the dream job!)
THE MUSEUM SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER WHO DOES EVERYTHING ELSE
This is the atypical social media manager who may also be the PR person, volunteer manager, or even curator. They probably don’t actually have social media in their title, but they are the one who does manage social media — well!
The day-in-the-life of this colleague might have looked something like this.
- They have a very full schedule of everything-under-the-sun meetings and aren’t worried about social media because they pre-schedule most content one day a week and monitor as-needed.
- A well-meaning fellow staff member texts them the meme and asks them why they aren’t posting about something so fun that the museum could easily connect to. Their stomach drops.
- They head to their next meeting and read up on the meme, understanding that this does look like a relevant thing to jump on, but knowing they don’t have the time (and neither does the staff who sent it.) They work on crafting a friendly reply back to the text. (They try to not be too snippy; after all, they are agitated that they don’t have 10 spare minutes to pull something together.)
- While managing an unexpected emergency (plumbing issue in their house museum!) they get notifications popping up on their personal Facebook account from friends suggesting the museum join in. (Man, this meme is REALLY going crazy!)
- On the train ride commute back home they catch up on all the posts that the other, bigger museums were able to do that day. Frustrated, they join in a thread in the community Facebook group with the other #musesocial managers who also didn’t have the time to post.
- Tomorrow is a board meeting that will include a social media metrics update. And it won’t be pretty.
It’s just a meme though right?
It is just a meme. But one trending meme can make or break a social media manager’s day. Those in the corporate social media world get this. They live and breathe these strategies, just waiting for the next trend they can leap on and somehow loosely tie their brand to. Museums are far more relevant than these corporate brands ever will be when it comes to connecting their collections with quirky social media trends. But because museum social media managers aren’t given the resources they deserve, museums still struggle to stay relevant.
When it comes to making museums matter to our audiences, this sort of content is the low-hanging fruit. Museum social media managers know it. And that’s why every time there’s a trending topic like the #DollyPartonChallenge, it puts a pit in the stomach of the #musesocial pro. Imagine if they could instead act on that creative adrenaline rush and focus on being awesome at their jobs? Would we have more lists of the best Museum #DollyPartonChallenge responses instead of the best Celebrity responses? We just might.