Social Media in Public Gardens
Member Highlight: Missouri Botanical Garden
Interview with John Dedeke, Web Editor
APGA: How are you engaging your visitors via social media?
MBG: We like to think of our social media presence as an extension of the Garden’s mission. Whether posting photos of what’s happening around the Garden, sharing botanical research or new plant discoveries, or answering questions about home gardening, our social media interaction allows us to help people learn about and enjoy the benefits of plant diversity and conservation in unique ways, and it helps us better get to know our visitors and what they’re interested in.
APGA: Can you tell us a bit more about the various channels of social media that you currently employ?
MBG: We currently focus most of our communication on our Facebook page, which is home to our largest concentration of online friends. We share news and Garden updates through Twitter and YouTube, and host an archive of more than 5,000 Garden images on Flickr. We’ve also started using Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ this year.
APGA: What are your strategies for success?
MBG: We have different goals for each service, but in general we try to help people discover information that they might not otherwise know, or to bring a little bit of the Garden to them on days when they can’t be here in person.
For example, the Garden is beautiful after a fresh snowfall, and Facebook allows us to share those rare moments with far more people. Twitter has been very helpful for communicating timely weather updates or schedule information to visitors who are on-site during our public events.
It’s especially exciting to be a part of personal experiences. If visitors post about celebrating birthdays or milestones at the Garden, we can respond directly and wish them a happy birthday; it makes their visit just a little more special and it wouldn’t be possible without social media.
APGA: What have you learned from something you tried in social media that didn't work?
MBG: Timing is very important; while information in a magazine article can be discovered by new readers weeks or months after it is published, we’ve learned that the window for reaching visitors or eliciting feedback is more immediate in social media, and we try to plan accordingly.