Introduction by Sharra Grow
We are thrilled to now have a section of NiC dedicated to students and emerging conservators. To kick it off, we will be featuring a short series of articles on how to utilize social media in our profession. It is no surprise that the rising generation of conservators is the most tech-savvy when it comes to the latest and greatest in social media platforms, and so we are turning to a team of graduate students who have led the way in developing an Instagram following to promote and educate the wider public about our amazing profession. Melissa King, Marie Desrochers, and Isaac Messina are three of the account managers for the WUDPAC Instagram account, and they have shared with us some of the tips and tricks they’ve learned over the past couple years.
By Melissa King, Marie Desrochers, and Isaac Messina
All of us can agree on the importance of the work we do in conservation. Even though there is some bias, we can also agree that conservation is fascinating and undoubtedly has great public appeal. So why are we still struggling to explain what we do to the public? We believe that the field of art conservation could do more to promote our work through social media. As students, we have been attempting to do this at the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) through our growing Instagram account, @ud_artconservation, and we are excited to see the work of other similar accounts. We thought it would be helpful to list a few of the tips we have found useful when managing the account in hopes that it may encourage others to promote their work in this way:
1. Instagram is a visual platform. This is your chance to use your photography skills to create beautiful images and quickly catch a viewer’s eye. Think of your account as a whole and not just as a series of individual posts. Many will open the account page, glance at the top few photos, and either decide they want to follow the account or move on. The images should be striking, diverse, and work cohesively.
2. Try not to post more than 2-3 times a day, and each post should be at least 3 hours apart. Think about the times people are most likely going to look at their phones, such as around lunchtime or when the workday begins winding down. When making decisions about when to post, you may even want to consider the time zone of the majority of your followers or windows of time that may work well for multiple zones.
3. Use hashtags! As many as possible. Experiment with adding both conservation-related hashtags as well as others that may reach users in allied professions. For our account we like to post them as the first comment immediately after sharing the photo to avoid cluttering the original caption. Conservation students from Queen’s University (@queens_art_conservation) have been trying to grow the hashtag #thisisconservation, and we hope you will adopt it as well!
4. Try to minimize the number of photos with more than three people. The less people in a photo the better, typically.
5. Diversify! If the most recent photo was a picture of someone working, try to follow up with a time-lapse video or a detail of an object.
6. Whenever you are referencing a location such as a museum, always use the institution’s username in the caption on the original post AND tag them in the photo (use the location tag as well if it makes sense). We want to encourage these accounts to repost our content!
7. We try not to use text on images or use Instagram as a platform for posting fliers that advertise upcoming public events or lectures. Instead, we will select an image that represents what we are trying to advertise and use the caption as a way to include pertinent text or event details.
8. When writing the caption, keep in mind that our followers may know next to nothing about art conservation. Think about how to describe what we are doing in a way that is interesting and accessible. Minimize the use of conservation jargon, or consider defining words that you think may not be easily understood by the general public. For example, instead of using the word “consolidate,” synonyms such as “stabilize” or “readhere” may be clearer to someone outside of the field. Also, if we share some interesting facts within the posts, we are providing real value for our followers.
9. Follow other accounts, and look at what people are doing, taking note of what you find successful. Use and adapt different approaches that you see in other accounts for your own feed and posting goals.
10. Have fun and be creative! We have started to use the Instagram Stories feature to create fun quizzes and interact with our followers.
Keep in mind that developing a social media account takes time, and it is something that we have been working to develop for several years. The longer you work at it, the more you will be able to observe and understand what is most successful for you. Working as a small team has greatly helped us grow our account. We have found it valuable to have multiple voices and minds to generate more content, to bounce ideas off of, or to seek feedback from before posting. These are guidelines that have worked for us. We have learned many of these tips by reading blogs or articles about social media marketing and by speaking to social media managers at other institutions. We encourage you to do the same and share the wonderful work we do in conservation with the world!
Melissa King is a third-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in preventive conservation. Prior to starting graduate school she managed a business painting pet portraits called, “Pawblo Picasso,” which fueled her love for creative marketing and social media strategies. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)
Marie Desrochers is a second-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in preventive conservation. She completed her first-year summer work project at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and is looking forward to delving into her major projects. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)
Isaac Messina is a second-year graduate student at WUDPAC majoring in paintings conservation. He first discovered his passion for the field of art conservation while studying and working abroad in Italy, where he previously completed a master’s degree in Italian Renaissance Art History at Syracuse University in Florence. (Photograph courtesy of Jim Schneck, Winterthur Museum)