Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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Thoughts on museums and digital in 2016

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA https://flic.kr/p/nk9b1w

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA

Instead of wrapping up 2015 I decided to make a list of topics that will get special attention from me in 2016. I don’t mention specific methods or technologies like AR, VR, Big Data, mobile solutions, Makerspaces, 3D-printing, etc. Instead I look at a few areas that are essential for digital transformation. To merge analogue and digital work practice presents the biggest challenge for museums in 2016, and if done successfully will enable the transition towards the postdigital museum.

(Ed. Jan. 12, extending section on ecosystem, Jan. 15 adding to last section The Big Challenge, Jan. 19 link to HBR).

Mapping the visitor ecosystem – and walking the last mile

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Where physical meets digital and paying attention to the last mile: Mapping (and understanding) the visitor experience, and the ecosystem in which the visitor encounters the museum, will move museums one step towards the postdigital realm. As the visitor experience now has to be delivered through multiple channels in a coherent and relevant way, digital and physical must be considered as one:

”Understanding visitor journey also means understanding that a visitor’s experience doesn’t start and end with a physical visit to the Museum. The visitor’s experience starts before they arrive, exists during the visit and extends after they leave. It starts with anticipating, planning and discovering. The experience doesn’t end when the visitor leaves.Thinking about extending the visitor journey with digital channels also requires understanding where your visitors physically are at various stages of the journey, and the digital channels and content types that make the most sense at each stage. A journey may comprise many digital channels, designed to fit specific stages and information needs and types and contexts. They do not expect multiple digital experiences, but one seamless experience with information that hands off from one channel to another and that makes sense for what they need at each stage. Visitors expect information when they want it, how they want it, and specific to the purpose.”
Catherine Devine, The Museum Digital Experience: Considering the Visitor Journey

In this effort to embrace and to deliver the omni-channel experience, an experience that might not ever involve a visit to the gallery space, museums will need to re-think organizational structures and competences. They will have to move towards multi competence teams that master digital as well as physical spaces as well as social media, storytelling and extraordinary user experience design. In this team educators have to be involved.

And most important, mapping the ecosystem will identify the last mile, the end of the museum supply chain, where the visitor (or user) experiences the museum. ”While systems of records are key as they form the backbone of information and data activation, systems of engagement and the last mile of the information process are critical.” This is also where disruptive innovation needs to take place.

Challenge: Museums will have to think carefully about who will lead the omni-channel experience productions.

Rethinking photograph collections

Analogue and digital work practices collide: Photography today is conversation. In the age of social media it has become distanced from its predecessors, the material objects closely associated with memories, as it has spread across different platforms with complementary functions. As Professor Daniel Miller states it:

”Snapchat is the culmination of a movement more generally in photography from memorialization to communication.”
Daniel Miller, Photography in the Age of Snapchat, Anthropology & Photography No. 1. 2015.

When these conversations, public or private, make their way into museums there are several challenges arising. One is to preserve the character of the photographs in the new context, the formal social memory as it is created by the museum. A museum that strives to preserve the cultural objects in fixed forms ”as a way of maintaining its historical accuracy and authorial integrity…” (Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito in Re-Collection, 2014).

And given that ”Records and archives are devices used in the process of transforming individual memories into collective remembering” (professor Laura Miller in Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014) the problem becomes clear. The digital infrastructures of the museum, the databases harbouring our collective social memory and preserving digitized physical objects, are constructed to maintain fixity, ”the world in a bottle, separated from mundane worldly time, in which philosophical objects hand like stars in suspended eternity.” (Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014).

Preserving the social media photographs requires museums to revisit their collection policies, extending documentation and preserving this information in the collection databases, and understanding what needs to be preserved (and how) to accurately present photographs in the future (and then I haven’t even adressed, technological, legal and ethical issues, that will be for upcoming blog posts).

Here are some of my previous blog posts on photography, digital and museums:

It’s a visual world (2014): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/its-a-visual-world-blogg100/

Remixed photography awarded and on display (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/remixed-photography-awarded-and-on-display/

Photography matters! (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/photography-matters/

Challenge: Museums will have to re-think collecting, as well as preserving and disseminating photograph collections, an effort that will inform other fields within the museum. Please read more about topic at the website of Nordic project Collecting the Digital: From a Photographic Perspective.


Prepare for omni-channel: Take content strategy seriously. When approaching the omni-channel world of museums, that require content adapted for physical, print and digital to be presented as a seamless experience, there is a strong need to prepare for new editorial efforts and skills. This area is important when moving towards the post-digital museum, as it requires skills that span across digital (social, mobile, web), print and physical spaces indoors and outdoors.

Challenge: As more content and skillful multimedia storytelling is required for omni-channel experiences, museums need to scale and coordinate their editorial efforts.

Organizational change

Moving towards a postdigital museum inevitably brings us to the topic of organizational change. Only by looking at the three areas mentioned above, user experience, collecting/disseminating photograph collections and content production we see several challenges, the need for new skills and competences when bridging physical and digital, the need to create and distribute content more efficiently etc. To withstand increased competition and to become a more flexible and responsive museum, adressing organizational change is a must in 2016.

Challenge: Identifying which parts of the organization that need restructuring, and implementing the changes.

The Big Challenge

For the past few years I have paid extra attention to the need for digital transformation in museums, and the rigid structures that prevent this change. Sensing that museums in many ways still are far from a strategic and sustainable response to technological changes, as Simon J. Knell concludes in Museums in a Digital Age (Ed. Ross Parry), 2010, the need to identify the road to success becomes even more important.

Spending the Christmas weekend reading Re-collecting by Rinehart & Ippolito I got more confident in my opinion that the challenges for achieving the postdigital museum lie not so much in the lack of catalysts, or competence or even strategy as in the built-in fear of change:

”…an institution’s plasticity is measured not by the sweeping innovations promised in its mission statement, but by the habits o fits everyday operations staffed by ordinary people.”

It’s about organizational culture, and acquiring a strong digital mindset. Rinehart & Ippolito come down quite harshly on organizational cultures that punish any missteps contradicting the museum’s often ad hoc rules, rules that prevail professional standards.

They even go as far as saying that the employees striving to ”climb up the ladder of their institution’s organizational chart…tend to reinforce the most conservative interpretation of their jobs.”

Supporting this theory are Harvard Business Review who in a recent post state that: ”The very best strategic leadership helps the entire organization understand that all of its choices result in the strategy that customers experience, creating a framework by which every person in organization makes the choices he or she needs to make.” Again, choice is here referring to the individual choices, among staff.

There is a point worth considering here. Many brilliant digital efforts have come from bottom up rather than top down, by individuals who have done outstanding work for their museums in terms of embracing digital. Indeed it has been in many ways, and still is, a path of ”…creativity, diversity, individualism and opportunism.” (Knell, 2010).

Which means that even though many museum leaders today do understand the importance and complexity of digital, truly moving towards the post-digital museum requires moving away from individual efforts (that can be supportive or not to the digital transformation), challenging rigid structures, changing work culture and embracing a digital mindset, perhaps some of the biggest challenges ahead in 2016.

Predictions for 2015

Last year I wrote this short blog post to highlight a few important areas for museums. They are still highly relevant.



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Playing by some other rules #Blogg100

Regardless of what business you are in content marketing and storytelling is central. This is just as true for museums, that are natural storytellers, and where producing content is at the heart of the business. The difference is that now museums have to compete with any brand for attention using the same tools and methods.

The era when museums were primarily talking with an authoritative scientific voice is over. The connection to academia and science is still a founding part of museum knowledge-making, but the rules by which we disseminate knowledge, and connect to museum audiences have completely changed over the past few decades.

Instead museums have had to let themselves be influenced by marketing and communication, by the rules set by the marketing industry.  Which in turn are transformed by the digital social target groups and audiences.

To keep up with the need to produce content for the digital ecosystems museums are now shifting from only, or mostly, producing content for websites, exhibitions and printed books, to a broader spectrum of digital social and online platforms. Moving a huge step closer to the audiences is a consequence of going social digital and the demand for real time communication grows.

Three specific challenges for museums are:

1) Learning the new rules, what works and what doesn’t
2) The need for reliable sources online is growing, especially e-publications that can be referred to from social media
3) Learning how to fit the knowledge-making of museums into the social media platforms on an every day basis

There are of course more challenges, some of which I will return to in future blog posts.


Blog post 5/100. #Blogg100

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Why wouldn’t we go digital? #digitaltransformation


Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965.

Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965. University of Washington Libraries Collections, Flickr Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

”…keys to strong work motivation in three Ms — mastery, membership, and meaning. Money is a distant fourth”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR Blog Network

During several trips this year to present at conferences, seminars and workshops I’ve had to take time to think about what would prevent an organisation from transforming to digital. For example, some professionals still see transformation as a threat. Therefore a risk assessment is central when planning for digital transformation, and here is my list so far of things to adress:

Lack of digital transformation within the museum

First of all, digital transformation has to be adressed. It is possible to just tag along with digital change and to wait for things to happen. But being in charge of the transformation will save time, money and be a lot (A LOT) less stressful to the staff. To enable this we need allocated staff to help the organisation navigate and transform, and yes they can absolutely have the word digital in their job title! Further I strongly believe social media can be a great way to start digital transformation because it requires most things a digital organisation needs in terms of awareness, knowledge, flexibility and readiness.

Fear of losing authority

This is particularly common among staff who’s job it has been so far to build up authority, to argue for their research and to show the audience the strong voice of the museum. It is difficult especially for scientists and academics with a higher degree to have to spend time discussing their work with non academics, amateur researchers etc. To find a common language and a common platform is necessary to bridge this very old and traditional gap. Why not compulsory tweeting?

Fear of popularizing the museum collections

In 2000 I visited Minnesota Historical Society and one thing I strongly remember is a poster with, I think Abraham Lincoln, or some other important historical person, with a red clown nose attached to his nose. This is a great reminder of that we can’t decide how the next generations will come across our collections, what their first encounter will be like. By now we (digital staff and most of our colleagues) know this doesn’t reduce our abilities to enable learning, on the contrary it opens up for new audiences. It’s all about attention and engagement. Again some staff might not see the benefits and thus chose not to participate.

Not sure about the actual value and benefits

This is a highly important problem, since evaluating the benefits of digital and social media is diffucult, it takes time and it’s more than just counting numbers of published items. This is of course something that most museum staff engaged with digital already know, but when working specifically with digital transformation this is central. If we can’t communicate the benefits to our stakeholders, they will neither set aside time nor staff and money.

Lack of funding (or re-prioritizing the budget)

Social media might be free (almost) to use, but working seriously with the digital tools and channels requires reallocating money within the organisation. To boost digital transformation we have to communicate the need for a budget to the management.

Be left in the old museum practice

To work with digital transformation we need to analyse our museum practices. Are they compatible with the digital and social world? Can we change them to be even more efficient in our work. For example when working with museum collections, digital infrastructures were originally built to support internal needs. Not to be the foundation for a social digital online presence. It is about licensing collections, making them available and relevant to online audiences, but also about connecting the digital collections with the different interfaces of today, whether it may be mobile platforms, touch screens in gallery or on web services like Wikipedia.

It’s also about looking at the collections as a resource for the museum work. Social media is completely visual, and this means for example that we need look at the photograph collections as a possible new interface to the online audience. And of course at the same time think in new terms of presenting the collections online to get attention, to engage the audiences and to enable an active and inspiring encounter between the audiences and the collections as well as with the museum.

Requires new skills

To understand and embrace social digital tools and services requires new skills. Both how to use the technologies, and to understand how they are relevant at work, in the museum. Many of us have learned this out of pure passion and interest, further education, endless talks with peers and encounters with new technologies. To those who don’t seek this new knowledge it has to come from the museum management, that enables internal training and mandate to spend time discovering and learning. We also need to think about what skills we require new staff to have. Are digital skills mentioned when recruiting new staff, all over the organisation?

Rigid inflexible organisational structures

Digital transformation requires transparency and flexible collaboration across departments. It’s easier said than done, but social media is one arena where people from all over the museum can meet and work together on a common platform. Social media is also here and now, it requires action 24/7, and it requires quick decision making further down in the hierarchies as well as open and instant communication with management. If you want to stress test your organisation, launch a social media project!


All this is well known among digital staff, but is something we need to adress when enforcing or enabling digital transformation. Everyone is not onboard. It is somewhat easier when one or two colleagues refuse to use smartphones or to learn about social media. But when the staff not onboard is found within management, or among middle management, we do have a problem. Digital staff need to communicate this within the organisation, talk to colleagues and to the management, to be able to take the next step in transformation.

Of course there are more things to add to the list above. What do you think is most important?

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Digital transformation – bring it on!

Construction. Photo. Andreas Levers, CC-BY-NC. Flickr.

Construction. Photo. Andreas Levers, CC-BY-NC. Flickr.

The other day I attended a webinar with Brian Solis about Digital Transformation. This gave me an opportunity to get back to my blog and to share a few thoughts.

Digital transformation isn’t new, it’s been going on for years. I’ve talked about it at conferences. The one thing that striked me in 2013, was that after three years working with digital development in a museum, things weren’t evolving as fast as I had expected, and that I was comfortable with it. Now in 2014 I can only confirm, it takes time. And we are only at the beginning of an exciting digital transformation for museums.

Though by giving it a name and adressing the issues and challenges that come with transforming, we are also making sure the transformation is solid and going in the right direction. This includes raising awareness of the complexity and extent of the transformation, regardless if we move through the transformation process consciously and in control – or not.

”Social, mobile, real-time and other disruptive technologies are aligning to necessitate bigger changes than initially anticipated.”

”Digital transformation as a formal process is still in its infancy.”

Two ever so important quotes by Brian Solis

Digital – aren’t we past that?

Every now and then there are discussions arising around the jobtitle ”digital”, do we need it? Shouldn’t digital be included in all the things we do, natural in every aspect of our work? Yes, ideally, but not by far yet. We are in the midst of an ongoing and long term process. To cope we need digital hubs of excellence, digital experts, that will help the organisation keep upright and ahead of competitors.

So back to the topic. Finally awareness about digital transformation is seriously raising among museums, and here are five central issues to adress:

Five key issues in digital transformation

1. Know what needs to change
There are several reports helping us finding what are the important issues for managing and embracing digital transformation. One of those is the Digital Transformation report by Altimeter group. However without hands on experience, in house experts analysing the organisation, it is very difficult to know where to start and what to focus on in the process. This is where the digital hub of excellence, or the digital expert in a smaller organisation, is central.

2. Work top down
”It is most effective with pointed vision and supportive leadership.” Digital transformation started bottom up years ago. Today most museum managers are aware of the importance of digital. From there we need to take a step towards the management actually leading change, with visions that fit the digital era, and a leadership that recognises the need for organisational changes (as well as new business models). Get ready for empowered workforces!

3. Recognise the importance of social media
Social has made the case for broader transformation. Recognise the importance of social media, which has challenged organisations into the digital transformation. Embrace the channels and engage the staff in the conversations. And adress the challenge of connecting business objectives to social media initiatives in order to allocate more resources.

4. Map the customer journey – and the digital eco system
To take control over the museum experience, we need to know what touchpoints there are, both digital and analogue. The touch points where the customer encounters the museum. By not knowing the customer journey social media, as any other effort, will remain in silos. At the same time we need to know and be in control over our digital eco systems, know how the touch points interact, and benefit from each other in order to make the customer experience as smooth as possible.

5. Don’t forget the technology
Again, even though digital transformation in many ways is  more about humans and relations than it is about technology, we have to know how technology is being used by our audiences. Of course mobile is one of the technologies dramatically altering the encounter with museums. But don’t forget to approach and evaluate other disruptive technologies as wearables, big data, Internet of Things, makers, payments (through mobile, through social) etc.

Last but not least, with a digital hub of excellence as a catalyst, alongside with social and mobile,  we can keep pushing the organisations to really adress the core issues: Visions and strategies for the upcoming decade in the social digital era.

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Photography matters!

Paula Bray, Powerhouse MuseumI organized last week a seminar on Digital challenges and photographic collections, at Nordiska museet, Stockholm, Sweden. Keynote speaker was Paula Bray, Manager Visual & Digitisation Services at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, who spoke to an audience of about 120 colleagues from the Nordic countries.

The seminar was covering issues and possibilities when collecting, preserving and disseminating photography that is digitally born or digitised, along with the challenges for cultural heritage institutions in the digital era.

Paula Bray gave two presentations, the ”Photography Collections in the Digital Environment, and ”Getting Social With Photographic Collections.”

Most cultural heritage institutions have photographic collections. Paula Bray showed how these can be instrumental when facing the necessary changes institutions are presently confronted to. Photographic collections can be used in building relationships with audiences, in moving the museum forward in social media, in getting social and allowing the audiences to contribute to and improve collection metadata. The online audiences most often express great interest in the photographic collections. Connections are made and conversations are started through them.

Paula Bray also reminded us that photographic collections management and dissemination requires strategies, that often can be challenging in the digital environment.

Interaction through and with photography collections does impact activities in cultural heritage institutions, on a general level. Lessons learned from using photography collections, are paving the way for new decisions and choices and most of all, photographs are precious tools for engagement and participation.

People from the Powerhouse Museum are already a great inspiration to museums all over the world, as they are constantly moving ahead in understanding and implementing digital, social and emerging technologies. Photography has come to play a an important role in the museum’s quest to be relevant to its audiences.

My experience is that photographic collections over the years have struggled to make their voices heard in museums, libraries and archives. But through Paula Bray’s testimony and my own observations, i now sense we are at the start of a new era for photography. We need to take this unique opportunity to position photographic collections as central in shaping the meaningful interactions with audiences, activities that help cultural heritage institutions being relevant and to fulfil their purpose.

Paula Bray’s presentations on Slideshare

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Go tribal!

Archives, libraries and museums have their particular audiences that probably have stayed the same, in a demographic sense, for a longer period of time. However, looking closer at this group of cultural heritage consumers, they are changing their habits just like everyone else.

The people we’re trying to reach today have their own audiences, they are not at the end of the communication line. In fact their networks and audiences have in turn their own audiences, etc. And as people are acknowledging the responsibility of maintaining their networks, the messages passed on will be refined in each step. There is in fact a sense of curation going on.

Brian Solis reminds us, in an interview at 26DotTwo, that since traditional media is no longer central in people’s lives (they are instead focused on their Twitter-stream, their Facebook wall etc.) there’s a need to adapt the communication to this changing world. And the only way to really understand this change is to actually live it, be a part of social media. ”If you don’t live it and breathe it yourself you can’t necessarily get it.” He even says: Like an anthropologist, go tribal!

And as a passionate anthropologist I do get it. By going tribal we’ll learn how this (not so) new world of communication works, and we’ll learn how to communicate and how to reach new audiences. Last but not least, sharing the insights we gain along the way is vital to the development of the cultural heritage sector.

See the film clip: The new influencers. Does old school media ”get it”?

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Social media in the public sector

The other day I attended a conference on social media in the public sector, moderated by Erik Sellström (@eriksellstrom). A very rewarding conference showing that the Swedish public sector is starting to take social media seriously. (search #smios, for comments in Swedish)

Excellent talks were given by authorities and municipalities, and above all there was a willingness to share experiences, good and bad. Also, several questions were raised by the audience showing concerns that might grow into obstacles in the process of implementing social media, for those who are standing on the doorstep.

Some of these questions I meet when talking to colleagues in the cultural heritage sector. And one of the benefits of the conference was a great step forward in solving these issues:

How do we reach through to the audiences (don’t we need viral campaigns etc.)?
The Municipality of Borås have implemented social media in several areas of the organization. One surprising result was that by live casting budget discussions, the interest among the public for this raised several 100 %! It’s not always about creating entertainment but making things that are relevant to people available in a simple way.

Social media? I don’t have the time!
There was a time when e-mail was new. De-dramatize the use of social media. Focus on the easy parts, for example answering questions that would otherwise come by e-mail or through phone-calls. Introduce social media step by step, and show the benefits (and what happens if we aren’t really present online). One interesting example of inadequate online presence is the Twitter account of @polisen_uppsala. Very easily mistaken for a Twitter account from the police department of the town of Uppsala. However it is not an official account. It provides accurate information, from the website of the police department, but it is run by someone else, probably a private person with special interest in police work.

Above: A Twitter account that is easily mistaken for an official account, but is run by a private individual.

What if we get serious negative critique?
Deal with the problems when they come (a constant reminder from communications consultant Brit Stakston, @britstakston, who participated in a discussion panel). Using social media requires a readiness for unexpected problems. Learn by others. Many companies and organizations have already been there and dealt with the issues (as many speakers generously showed by sharing mistakes and how to deal with problems).

Should we use one Twitter account or Facebook page for the whole organization?
No. Both speakers and the audience agreed on that segmenting the communication is vital. Not only is it easier to speak with a proper voice, but also to listen and engage in a relevant dialogue.

But, communication is for the Marketing department!?
Again, both speakers and the audience agreed: Social media provide tools for everyone to communicate, just as everone has a phone or an e-mail account. This is an opportunity for the organization to reach out in a more efficient way, and to learn more about the target audiences. The tricky part is to distinguish pure marketing from everyday communication – they might use the same channels. (Or do we face a development towards a deeper integration of the Marketing department with the rest of the organization?). In any case segmenting communicative efforts is essential.

But what about legal issues? Can we do this?
In Sweden the e-Government Delegation is adressing the use of social media within the public sector. There will be a report, very helpful to the cultural heritage sector (and everyone else) in avoiding breaking laws and to further develop the use of social media. As for cultural heritage institutions, Lars Lundqvist, @arkland_swe, at the Swedish National Heritage Board, showed several examples of dealing with legal issues, for example hosting a community, www.platsr.se.

What if we make a mistake? Then it’s there for everyone to see?
As with negative critique, prepare for mistakes and problems. One of the most important things when implementing social media is to be there online, participating. It’s all about learning by doing. Also, by being present online there are several ways of building a positive web presence that will make up for mistakes in the long run. Show a willingness to solve problems and listen. There is no manual for social media, each company and organization must create their own strategy.

Can a leader and executive be personal in social media?
The head of the municipality of Katrineholm, Mattias Jansson (@kommunchef) showed that yes it is possible. He is present in several social media channels (blog, FB, Twitter etc.). And with common sense and drawing a line between his professional role and private life, though still sharing personal experiences, it’s possible to build a closer relationship with the target audiences. The conference moderator Erik Sellström asked the very interesting question: How many people in the audience have a blogging CEO? 10 % answered yes. The following question was: How many would like a blogging boss? Almost everyone answered yes. (Does this really mean that all CEO:s should blog? Or is it a sign of a need for greater transparency within the public sector?)

Everyone is talking about web presence these days. Don’t we need a website anymore?
To emphasize the importance of a broad presence online Joakim Jardenberg (@jocke) even stated ”it’s not a website”, the web presence of tomorrow. This does however not mean we shouldn’t make company websites anymore. Anders Kihl (@kihlanders) from Borås Municipality explained how the municipality website has 900 000 unique visitors per year. They are now using the website as a hub for their web presence, driving traffic to and from other channels.

Above: The website of Borås Municipality

Where do we start?
Almost all of the speakers mentioned in one way or the other that letting early adopters of social media take part in the implementation process can be rewarding. By showing the way, that it’s not dangerous, difficult or time consuming, it’s way easier to implement social media in the entire organization.

By analysing the benefits of social media (and having a strategy), you can easier implement new tools for communication, but also deal with issues and problems. During the conference there were a couple of statements made that it’s difficult to measure success within social media. But there are tools that can and must be used to show benefits. In the end, to motivate further allocation of resources towards the use of social media, measurable success matters.

It is only a year ago that many authorities, organizations and municipalities were just talking about social media: What is it? Why should we use it? This year many started to take action: This is how can we use social media! And next year perhaps we’ll see the evaluations. What excatly did we gain from embracing social media? And last but not least, I would like to see social media strategies that have been implemented, shared by the public sector.