Social Media in Public Gardens
Member Highlight: The Morton Arboretum
Interview with Sarah Clark, Public Relations Specialist
APGA: How are you engaging your visitors via social media and could you please elaborate on what channels you currently use?
We currently use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn. One new way we are working to engage visitors is by incorporating social media into our interpretation opportunities. New exhibit panels and campaigns have featured hashtags and encouraged visitors to post pictures to our channels. On our channels themselves, we push out user-generated content, which encourages more people to post and interact. We try to use user-generated content for one-third of our Facebook posts.
APGA: What are your strategies for success?
Post consistently. Pay attention to what people are responding to, and use that knowledge when planning future posts. Be conversational and invite participation.
APGA: What do you consider a 'win' in social media? Can you provide a specific example?
A ‘win’ for us means a post has generated a high level of interactivity – shares, likes, comments, etc. Recently, we posted an image of a new bench installed in our Oaks Collection to our Facebook page. The bench rests on large metal letters that spell the word ‘strength.’ This word embodies a key characteristic of oak trees. This is the first bench of its kind and we hope to install more across our collections.
Instead of simply posting the image and stating that this is a new endeavor, I attempted to personalize the post by asking, who in your life should come take a seat on this bench and why?
Overnight, the responses poured in. People shared stories of personal hurdles and the strength it took to overcome those, and the people who lent them strength along the way. Quickly, this became a top performing post in the Arboretum’s social media history. Why? Because people on social media sites respond strongly to posts and images that allow them the opportunity to self-identify. They want to share their stories – and this post allowed them to do so.
APGA: What is something you have learned about social media that you'd like to share?
When our fans and friends speak about the Arboretum, you quickly pick up on how personal this place is for them. It is a gift to have a community of people who care deeply about this place and our mission.
We have to respect that sense of ownership – and foster it whenever we can. When we introduce something new about the Arboretum via social media, we need to remember that many of our constituents will take this change personally. We need to be quick to respond, consistent with our mission, transparent and personable. We can use these opportunities to foster new, positive conversations about the Arboretum.