A local authority museum’s path to Facebook

Rick Wallace

Rick Lawrence

[This week guest poster Rick Lawrence, Digital Media Officer for the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM), shares his museum’s journey to a public Facebook page.]

Following a discussion at our Spring Meeting in Birmingham I agreed I would post an account of how we persuaded our local authority to allow RAMM to have a Facebook page.

Process and timescale

Our first step in summer 2008 was for our management team to agree this was an appropriate activity. The key to this was finding a way of working that would not need anyone to be a full time Facebook monitor. We decided to have a group of staff to spread the workload and to ensure all areas of the museum are involved.

I then prepared a business case and submitted it to our authority’s audit section. This was agreed in November 2008 and we moved onto setting up access with our IT Services.

Allowing access through the security system proved a challenge, and we never did get administration emails from Facebook through the email filter. In February 2009 we could post events, photos, and videos but our Communications team would not permit comments and wall posts.

In summer 2009 our authority started to plan a social media policy and we were included in this planning as the only people doing anything! Other parts of the council wished to use Facebook and Twitter and became involved in a user group set up to develop the policy.

Over the next six months the policy was written and feedback from all stakeholders was incorporated. Finally it was put to senior management team and agreed in June 2010 and we were permitted to fully use Facebook from mid-June.

Limitations

However, there are a couple of caveats. Only two of us who piloted social media at RAMM can access Facebook from our PCs at work. Other colleagues have to book a PC with a dedicated external connection in the Civic Centre on the other side of Exeter. This approach is because IT want a physical separation between social media access and their network to avoid any risk of unfortunate accidents to data held on the council network. If any member of the public posts anything to do with council policy we must ask a trained press officer to respond.

For future social media access we now need to complete a business case pro forma. Having to fill in the boxes does make the process easier. Only two people may have access to publish to any platform so this is making our plan for a group approach spreading the work hard to do without staff working at home.

Lessons learned

From our experience the key points were:

  • Spend time explaining what social media is and its uses to management and colleagues
  • Provide a detailed business case supported by museum management
  • Explain how you will resource social media
  • Give details of intended use including how any negative posts are dealt with
  • Demonstrate an awareness of council concerns (IT data security and safeguarding the council’s reputation)
  • Meet with council stakeholders to discuss concerns face to face and establish credibility by providing supporting information

You can see the end result now and do ‘like’ us and post a comment! http://www.facebook.com/RAMMuseum

Any suggestions and feedback welcomed as we are now at the challenging stage of trying to get fans to participate!

Posted in Article, Guest posts on cultural heritage technologies
One comment on “A local authority museum’s path to Facebook
  1. Dan Frydman says:

    Great article. It’s sad that the public sector takes this long to approve this kind of engagement. I wonder whether a mobile device out with your network might get around the online participation issue – a smartphone with a standard browser and 3G access would allow more members of staff to access Facebook.

    Wishing you all the best in the future.

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