Is your Chief Executive twitchy about Twitter? Your Fundraising Manager funny about Facebook? Or your Curators worried about wikis? After all what is all the fuss about social media and why should you bother with it anyway?

Well if these challenges sound familiar here are five (tediously music themed – apologies for that) reasons to support the case for why museums and other forms of arts, culture and heritage venues should embed the practice of using social media platforms across their organisations….

1) The Things We Could Share – Social media channels allow people to share information more quickly and more easily than ever before to their friends, their family, their colleagues even their enemies. This distribution goes far beyond forwarding funny cat videos, they can share their likes and dislikes on an increasingly frequent basis – loving or hating that might be about your organisation and opinions that have power. Research undertaken by Museum Next (in April 2011) demonstrated that 83% of people were more likely to visit an exhibition if a friend recommended it on Facebook, with this figure rising to 93% for Twitter.

2) Wide Open Space – The Museums Association definition of a museum states that “Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.” In using social networking sites it can provide levels of increased openness and transparency to the public – allowing them closer to the organisation, their staff and the collection – allowing for the democratisation of the knowledge the museum holds.

3) Talk Talk –  Channels such as YouTube, FourSquare, Quora allow your visitors or those yet to step through your doors to talk to you and for you to talk back. Barriers are lowered between CEOs, curators, marketers, front of house teams and so on and the public. This can be scary and that’s understandable, what if someone says something that reflects negatively on your organisation? Well wouldn’t you rather know about it than remain in the dark? Maybe it’s something you can fix. And don’t forget online people can say lots of nice things about you too – there is nothing like it for making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

4) The Best Things In Life Are Free – Most of the ‘mainstream’ social networking sites cost nothing to access and use, making them ideally suited to a sector where financial resources are often hard to come by. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they don’t need any form of investment though, as ‘getting it right’ takes time, a plan of action and creativity.

5) Made To Measure – There is an on going debate about the degree to which the impact of social media can be measured. For example companies such as Dell have attributed millions of dollars worth of sales to Twitter. While others argue that social networking sites are about more than sales and conversions and are part of the exercise of brand building. Wherever you sit on this issue there is no denying that social media generates a mind boggling amount of data – both quantitive and qualitative. Having access to this information can allow you to better understand your audience, assess ROI, review the success of campaigns, revise accordingly and make informed decision on how to develop further activity – remember knowledge is power.