In conducting my research I asked participating museums to indicate the duration of time their organisation has had a presence on Twitter.

Overwhelming the answer came back that tweeting was in the main a ‘new’ activity for these museums. With 60% stating that they had been tweeting for no more than 1 year, and 44% of these organisations for less than 6 months.

Jim Richardson‘s global data taken in July 2009 (415 museums) and January 2010 (871 museums, estimated figure closer to 1,000) reflects a huge surge in museums using Twitter in the second half of 2009. Seemingly an upward tread that has continued into 2010.

Interestingly however 37% of these museums that had begun using Twitter in the last year were updating their feeds infrequently (weekly to as little as less than once a month). A common complaint for the disadvantages of social networks that arose in the data was the time it takes to maintain them and keep the dialogue going – I wonder if this begins to explain these figures.

If audiences are to by developed through these channels it is all all very well to use them as listening posts – of course what audiences are saying about you is important. Yet surely this needs to then be taken further with consistent and balanced engagement needed to ensure meaningful relationships are built and maintained?

Museums have had a historic reputation for being elitist institutions therefore I question being in the ‘room’ if you’re not conversing, has it even got the potential to give a negative impression? Is it not better to focus efforts into another platform where as less frequent dialogue is needed, for example a well written and insightful blog? I’d hope audiences would forgive you not being in the Twitter-sphere if your online activities still pointed to becoming more inclusive and outward facing.

Image c/o mallix licensed under Creative Commons.