I was once an occasional tweeter. This year, I resolved to share every day about museum org culture. Here's how Month One went.
Twitter analytics did not tell me a pretty story late last year. In contrast to active tweeters in the museum field (looking at you, @artlust!), I had a strong Aquarian streak of not wanting to speak when I thought I had nothing to say. As is true with many jokesters, I can be shy.
But that's not how social works. You don't get traction on your ideas unless you take part in conversations. I didn't have to go the full personal life share on Zuckbook, but you have to give to get.
Then the authenticity alarms go off. Not only "Why should I insert myself into this conversation?" but "Why are my opinions important?"
I've never had a problem submitting a speaking proposal to a conference—though I'm a nervous public speaker, I've been told it doesn't show. Last year, an amazing group of facilitators invited me to my first international workshop and I couldn't wait to go. I have no problem joining numerous staff committees. But in all-staff meetings, there's still that sense of "Why get up to the microphone?" There's no need to toot my horn. (Says the person who never says, "What's in it for me?") Did I mention that I'm shy?
Creatives are often advised to think of marketing as sharing. I believe I have something useful to share on the topic organizational culture in cultural organizations (starting with, it exists!). I write about org culture. I also read about it and pass along the wisdom of others who have been laboring to improve culture—in particular, those who have done brilliant work in the face of oppressive conditions.
So how do you do this if you're not a natural, phone-and-thumbs-always-at-the-ready? Is it different when dealing with the museum field?
If sharing isn't natural, you need reminders (and tools)
I'm easily distracted, and in my role at my museum workplace the requests come fast and unpredictably, so I need regular reminders to ground me on long-term projects. I had tried Google Tasks in the past but for some reason it didn't click until recently. I set up three daily tasks—a morning tweet, an afternoon tweet, and a late-evening-on-the-couch tweet which I'd schedule for the following early morning with HootSuite. Using HootSuite, I could schedule a week's worth of morning tweets. For forgetful types like me, that's very necessary.
I use Airtable to keep track of my weekly blog post topics for the next few months. Longer ideas go into Evernote. If the writing bug strikes me, I'll open up my Ghost blog in a browser (now using Brave instead of Chrome) and start a draft blog post even if it's just a paragraph or a few bullet points.
You have to want to share
The content was there, and I knew that I wanted to share more. How do you turn want into need?
Many people in mid-level positions in museums were trained not to tell others what we're thinking, or to only gripe in the staff cafeteria or in closed-door informal therapy sessions with colleagues. There are all-staff meetings and town halls, and "my door is always open" policies with leaders. These only go so far. Making opportunities for speaking up available is quite different than making speaking up and being heard part of the organizational culture.
Too often our ideas get an airing but only to be dismissed. In museums, we hear:
"Well, we are a non-profit."
"That's not what the donors/trustees would go for."
"That's not how we do things around here."
"We have to do more with less."
Social media can be another way to gripe without impact. I still hope that sharing means something towards driving change in the field. As I said in the book I wrote with Seema Rao, you can start change yourself, but you can't do it without other people. Sharing is the first step in that. The need is there—just look around you.
Are you ready?
The third part of this past month was having content ready to share. I subscribe to several newsletters or digests, from Harvard Business Review (which I recommend to everybody) to Medium (I read a lot there so I pay $5/month) to various consultancies from McKinsey to smaller org design firms. Every morning I have a full inbox, but I scan emails fast and save them into Pocket to read later. So when I need something tweet, I go into Pocket and find an article worth commenting upon. I read and listen to books and the occasional podcast (see What I'm Reading, below).
This is where making your environment your ally helps, having several streams of content you can choose from. (I've become a big fan of "This thread"). Sometimes reviewing your own tweets, and seeing what got the most RTs and FTs, can let you know what you're saying gets the most impressions. This isn't marketing, just knowing what you're sharing is of the most value to others. It's important to to have a position and a voice of your own.
Have goals, if you want
At the end of 2019 I wrote down some goals for this year, with numbers pulled from the ether. Most important for me was to post 50 times on my blog—so far, I've posted 5 times in 5 weeks, so I'm on track. I also wanted to tweet 100 times in January, more than double what I've ever done in a month except during museum conferences. I also succeeded, with 124 tweets in January, the most I've ever done in a month. I got over 67k impressions, on par with back when I was writing and tweeting regularly in 2017.
And yet, I woke up on February 1 feeling again like I didn't have anything to say. If social doesn't come naturally to you, sharing will always be a practice, much like meditation: you never win nor finish, you just get up every day and begin. It may take you months or even years to not apologize to the universe for having something to say. If you remember that you're doing it to make your world—well, really isn't it our world?—better, and centering your colleagues and those who need voice and our shields, then you're sharing for the right reasons.
Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass [e-audiobook from library]
What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics [e-audiobook from library]
Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation [audiobook from library]
I'm not listening to many podcasts now, mainly museopunks and Douglas Rushkoff's Team Human with the occasional Recode/Decode. My commutes are mainly reading library books: e-books on Kindle, e-audiobooks, or print books. I use stickies on print books, highlight the Kindle books and export the notes, or and scrawl notes from the audiobooks into a wire-bound journal.
Cover image by Glen Carrie / Unsplash [Alt text: the word "January" spelled out in letter tiles.]
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