Performance Counts: JMM on Social Media

Posted on December 9th, 2016 by

There has been a lot of discussion in the news in the last few months about the way that new social media channels are changing our economy and politics.  It seemed like a great time to talk about how JMM is using these channels to build community around the Museum, it’s artifacts and history.  In this month’s Performance Counts Rachel Kassman, wearing her “marketing manager” hat, shares recent highlights platform by platform.  Rachel does an amazing job of making us visible with very limited resources.


Facebook was the first social media platform the Museum dipped its toe in – we’ve had our page since February 20, 2008 (at least, that’s when we uploaded our first profile picture)! Over the past almost 8 years we’ve gained 2,270 “follows” and 2,384 page “likes.” Those follows are particularly important, as Facebook’s various algorithms use them to decide who is going to see our posts on their timeline.  In many ways Facebook is the most encompassing of our social media platforms; it serves as a photo-sharing site, an events calendar (with built in invitation capabilities), and as a forum to share articles and ideas.

In the past year we’ve also started to dabble in Facebook advertising. If you have a Facebook page of your own, you may have seen some of our “boosted” events as we work to increase awareness of the Museum and the many exciting public programs we host.

The Confusingly Popular Post

The Confusingly Popular Post

Ever heard the phrase “going viral?” It refers to something online exploding beyond any expectation (and often for no discernible reason). We had a little taste of this ourselves over Thanksgiving, with what is our most “popular” post to-date! On Wednesday afternoon we shared this archaeological bit of news: 3,800-Year-Old Ancient ‘Thinking Person’ Statuette Unearthed from Huffington Post. Over the course of the next 24 hours this post received 91 comments, was shared 425 times, and reached 14,303 people via our page. To place this in context, our next most popular post since July 1, 2016 (the farthest back Facebook Insights will allow is 180 days) had a reach of 1,935, received 1 comment, and was shared 17 times. (For those interested, it was this article.) Even stranger, the original article itself only got 12 comments over at Huffington Post. Why this post? Why on Thanksgiving? We will probably never know.

Did you know our very first tweet went out on August 11, 2010? (In case you’re wondering, we tweeted about a job opening at the Museum.) Since then we’ve sent out 13,800 individual tweets to over 1,300 followers! That number represents a combination of “retweets” (that is, where we share tweets from other accounts that we think are interesting or important) and original tweets written by the Museum. These original tweets cover everything from public program announcements to behind-the-scenes photos. The vast majority of our top tweets are based on sharing materials from our collections – our top two tweets over the past three months (September – November) celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Mexican Independence Day.

Rosh Hashanah and Mexico

Rosh Hashanah and Mexico

How do we decide what to share on Twitter? Hashtags. (What’s a hashtag? Here’s an article to explain.)  Hashtags help identify topics followers might be interested in multiple ways. One is by checking trending hashtags, which show you what topics are being tweeted about by others in your geographic location –that’s how we decided to post the above tweet on the left for Mexican Independence Day. Another is “daily hashtags” like #TBT (also known as Throwback Thursday) and #MondayMugShots (which have been a great way to highlight some of our quirky gift shop items).

Pickles, buttons, and hiking

Pickles, buttons, and hiking

A third way is by connecting our collections to eccentric holidays like #NationalPickleDay, #NationalButtonDay, and #NationalTakeAHikeDay. These hashtags don’t just help us on Twitter, but carry over to all our other social media platforms as well, letting us get multiple bangs-for-our-buck.  (So far we haven’t had any “retweets” from the incoming “tweeter-in-chief”, but who knows?)

Tumblr is a social media platform often referred to as a “microblogging” site – it lets users share links, photos, videos, and text posts easily. The Museum has been on Tumblr since January 16, 2015 (we debuted with a series of behind-the-scenes photos of the Museum by way of celebrating “Appreciate a Dragon Day”) and has gained 819 followers through 1,314 posts. Here’s a look at the activity on our Tumblr over the last seven days:

The last 5 days

The last 7 days

As with Twitter our top posts on Tumblr often come from our collections!

Instagram is the newest platform we’re exploring, added to the Museum’s social media portfolio just three months ago (September 13, 2016 to be exact). We’ve already gained 84 followers and posted nearly 275 individual images in that time – and those images have garnered 875 “likes” between them! Collections related posts have already proven incredibly popular, as you can see from the top 3 posts by both likes and comments pictured below.

Check out Julia Friedman at the beach in the 1920s, which appears in both lists!

Check out Julia Friedman at the beach in the 1920s, which appears in both lists!

Remember those hashtags we talked about earlier? Instagram relies heavily on them – and we’ve got the graph to prove it! Over the past three months, after researching multiple articles on how best to use Instagram as an institution, we’ve been increasing the number of relevant hashtags used on each post. As you can see, this has had a direct correlation to the popularity of our account.

Look at that generous incline!

Look at that generous incline!

And because we’re nerds, here’s one more graph showing the most-likes-per-hashtag used on our account.

Pie charts!

Pie charts!

Managing It All

There’s a lot going on in social media for the Jewish Museum of Maryland – we do our best to provide fresh content throughout the day on all our platforms, not to mention updating the Museum blog  (and of course, sharing those updates on social media!). One tool that helps us maintain a robust presence online with limited time is Hootesuite, which allows us to schedule tweets, facebook posts, and Instagram posts in advance. This has been a lifesaver as we work to increase our output.

Hootesuite  is a great tool

Hootesuite is a great tool

We hope you’ve enjoyed this look “behind the social media curtain,” and if you have any questions about the Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram (or anywhere else for that matter), please send them to us!


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Performance Counts: Strathmore’ Museum Shop Around

Posted on November 11th, 2016 by

This month’s Performance Counts is by Tracie Guy-Decker, Associate Director of Projects, Planning and Finance and Manager of Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop.

The JMM Shop

The JMM Shop

Those of us who have strong affiliations with and affinity for an individual museum—whether as staff, volunteer or visitors—like to believe that our museum is one-of-a-kind. In our minds and hearts, it is a snowflake, truly unique and special. And we’re not wrong. Every museum is unique and special in its own way. It is also—whether intentionally or not—part of an international franchise with a recognized brand.

Museum shops enjoy a similar umbrella brand in many consumers’ minds. As a part of their museum experience, shoppers visit museum stores to take home a part of what they saw and learned. As a stand-alone brand, the Museum Store is known for uncommon and interesting finds. It is a destination for the discerning shopper and especially as we start to approach December, for the gift-giver in search of the perfect item.

One of our sister-franchisees, Strathmore, has been capitalizing on the strength of the Museum Store umbrella brand for more than a quarter century with their annual Museum Shop Around.

The Strathmore Mansion

The Strathmore Mansion

This four-day event brings together loads of special-snowflake shopping experiences under one roof. And though this is their 27th year doing it, they’ve never done it quite like they will in 2016: this year, Esther’s Place: The JMM Shop will have a space!

You can support JMM—and all of the wonderful participating museums—by coming by Strathmore between Thursday, November 10 and Sunday, November 13. There’s a small entry fee to get in (much like a craft show), but that gets you access to 18 different museum stores, all in one trip!

The Strathmore Museum Shop Around was introduced to JMM staff by our colleague Joanna Church, who participated with a previous employer (another sister franchisee). Joanna, Devan and I have had a great time selecting just the right products to take with us. We’ve done our best to select key highlights that will excite, entertain and tempt our customers—whether they are shopping for loved ones or themselves!

This event is a great opportunity for us to find new customers and sales for Esther’s Place. Just as importantly, it helps us to gain exposure and visibility for JMM to a group of people who may or may not know we exist.

Setting up "Esther's Place" at Strathmore Mansion

Setting up “Esther’s Place” at Strathmore Mansion

Our products for sale at Strathmore will include fine Judaica from designers like Michael Aram and Jonathan Adler. We will also feature home goods, children’s gifts, jewelry, books and tchotchkies. In fact, if you come by JMM this weekend, you may notice that Esther’s Place seems to have a little less of a selection than usual—we want to make sure we make you proud in Rockville!

Other Museums who will be represented include the National Archives Foundation, International Spy Museum, Just Imagine!, The Shop at Imagination Station, National Geographic and the White House Historical Association (another first-time attendee). See the full list of participating museum stores here.

Whether you’re interested in doing some Chanukah (or Christmas) shopping or just want to see what’s available, I highly recommend making the drive. Most participating shops offer a discount while they’re at Strathmore (we will be offering 10% off), and there are raffle prizes and other fun add-ons. Look for us on the second floor when you get to the mansion!

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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Modernizing the JMM: Behind the Scenes

Posted on October 14th, 2016 by

At the Jewish Museum of Maryland we are dedicated to preserving the past.  We have a great appreciation for classic artifacts.  But we are drawing the line on “antiques” when it comes to our electronic infrastructure.

Because we have grown steadily but slowly from our early days as the Jewish Historical Society, our business operations were patched together as needs arose (and budgets allowed). When we needed software to track memberships, we found one (actually, it was a module of the software we were already using to track our collections). When we wanted better software to track donations, we bought the best we could afford. When we wanted to be able to offer online ticketing, we found yet another third party software. We needed a way to process transactions at the front desk. We owned a cash register already. We made do.  As recently as a year ago, if a visitor wanted to buy their admission with a credit card, we had to send them into the Gift Shop to complete their transaction.

The net result of this patchwork process was that the Museum found itself in a situation where we had a host of solutions which all worked, but didn’t work together. When we wanted to learn more about a member or donor—so that we could make sure we were inviting them to engage in the most appropriate ways—we had to look them up in multiple places to get a full picture. In order to report on attendance data or fundraising progress or basic metrics like average revenue per visitor, JMM staff were spending a great deal of energy tabulating, calculating and second-guessing manual reports.

The new "daily sales screen"

The new “daily sales screen”

About a year ago, I began the search for a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system that would allow us to maintain a single “database of record.” My goal was to find a system would allow us to see an individual’s membership history, giving history, and event attendance all in the same place. I wanted to find a software that would allow us to create reports both at regular intervals and on the fly so that the management and the Board can make informed decisions about strategy and business operations.

I interviewed a number of systems. Some did a great job at tracking donations, but had weak front desk and ticketing solutions. Others were amazing ticketing solutions, but didn’t serve the membership needs. Still others did both fundraising and membership, but couldn’t help with some of our other revenue sources, such as facility rental and group sales. In the end, we found a product called Altru, produced by Blackbaud, the same company that built the CRM used by our colleagues at the Associated.

At the end of last month, Altru went live.

Altru does (almost) everything that we need, including:

– a robust system of membership tracking that will allow us to create a nuanced renewal process that provides members with opportunities to renew online;

– a comprehensive (if slightly slower) front desk operation that accommodates all of our various admissions fees, member discounts, special programs and tours;

– an e-commerce solution for tickets, memberships and gifts that integrates with our website, and for which Blackbaud maintains the security, ensuring that our customers are as safe as possible;

– a module for group sales that will allow us to track reservations, special requests, amounts owed, and even contracts;

– a point-of-sale solution for Esther’s Place that will allow members and other special categories to receive their discounts automatically (or to renew their memberships right there in the gift shop!); and

– the capability to export data in a very report-friendly way. This will allow us to overlay external data (e.g. weather or Ravens home games) with data on our admissions, membership or fundraising.

The daily events calendar

The daily events calendar

What’s more, because Altru is cloud-based, we are able to take it on the road to events where we might want to sell merchandise (e.g. the annual JCC Block Party or the upcoming Strathmore Shop Around where we’ll be selling merchandise from Esther’s Place). (Sadly, one thing it doesn’t do is online merchandise sales. We are investigating other options to allow you to browse and select Esther’s Place merchandise from home.)

We began the implementation back in May as members of a cohort of four museums and/or cultural institutions who were adopting the software at the same time. We started processing transactions through Altru in the second week of September. During those nearly five months, there were regular webinar calls and lots of homework for JMM staff. We needed to articulate our business rules and then configure the software to match those rules. The implementation required between five and fifteen staff hours per week, and we’re not done. We are still ironing out kinks, and discovering new scenarios we didn’t anticipate.

All of this time investment will pay off over the coming months and years as the JMM develops more and more (accurate) data about our extended family (members, donors, visitors).

As we continue to ferret out the bugs in the new system, we hope you’ll be patient with us—it will get so much better! If you have any questions about how Altru works, why we went with the solution we chose, or what it will allow us to do, please feel free to reach out to me about it.

Front desk volunteer Betsey Kahn poses with the new touch screen system!

Front desk volunteer Betsey Kahn poses with the new touch screen system!

In the meantime, I hope I’ll see you at the new touchscreen at our front desk!

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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