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I love the Brooklyn Museum

May 1, 2008

I’ve never been, but I love it because of the ways in which they are experimenting with Social Media. Here is a list of things they are using:

  • Blogs
  • Twitter feeds
  • Video
  • Podcasts
  • Flickr Groups
  • Tagging
  • RSS Feeds

That’s an impressive list of new media. So when a blog that I subscribe to wrote about a recent campaign, I was interested to read what they had to say.

They said the campaign was good. They talked about things that worked, and then they got to the part about things that don’t work. And they said this:

What Doesn’t:
Although straightforward, the website for the Brooklyn Museum is not nearly as innovative and user friendly as the online exhibits.

Which sort of set me off, so I wrote a note in their comments. Here it is:

The website should be improved? How, why? They are a museum that makes money when people come to it.

I think the better question is this: why do they have a website? They have a flickr group, a twitter feed, blogs, video channels, podcasts, RSS feeds. If you want to contact them, you can pick a number of ways. But mostly, they want you to come to the museum.

So, why do they have a website? You think they should make it better, I think they could make it go away. The days when we ‘have to have a website’ are gone thanks to social media. And none too soon. People never had to have billboard ads. Or had to have radio spots. But they had to have websites. And many other people think they have to be better.

I think 2008 and 2009 will be the year that people pull the plug and really think about interaction instead of just blindly thinking they need a website.

Now, in their defense, they didn’t say that the website needed to be updated, they said that the strategy was wrong.  I agree, but for different reasons.

When the commercial internet really began taking off in the mid-90’s, things were great. I remember working on a web site for a major gas company. It wasn’t going to be one of those boring online brochure-type things, it was going to be closer to an ad (we were an ad agency, we did ads).

It was gonna have flashy java scripty things all over it. And cool stuff happening. The client was paying boatloads of money for it, and we had three weeks to concept. The site looked great, the client loved it.

But outside a little bit of interaction with the reader, we had no idea why we were putting it up. Still, everyone else was putting up websites with flashy things and cool stuff, so we should as well.

It just sort of took off like that didn’t it? Now it’s just a fact that every brand, service, product should have a website. And that website should be refreshed, updated, whatever the word is, every 2 or so years. Right?

But we’re smarter than that. The commercial internet is much older now, more mature. We get that local businesses can gain an advantage using social media (and not a website). So now, as we think about the strategy of their website, can we take a step back to the beginning and ponder about the website itself?

Does the Brooklyn Museum need a website? Or should it simply be a page that links to their presence on the social web? Take a look at Google Search for Brooklyn Museum. If their site didn’t come up first, the other places they are  would. Their Flickr group. Their MySpace page. Their other social media (and this doesn’t count Yelp, outside.in, and other local referral sites).

The reality is, if people are looking for the Museum, they will find them. (And the way Google is experimenting with search results, it appears they’ll find them on a map very soon).

So really, why have a website? More importantly, why care what it looks like? Make it a hub for the social web, and get people moving on and coming to the Museum. Because that’s the interaction they are looking for.

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