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5 years on twitter – a look back

25 March 2014 by Sam

screen showing the message 'Am I on your tweetwall? How exciting is this?'

The tweetwall at the opening of the Museum of Liverpool

As it’s #MuseumWeek on twitter it felt like an appropriate time to reflect on our oldest and most popular twitter account.

The Museum of Liverpool’s twitter account was set up on 23 February 2009, just over 5 years ago. It was our first venue to start tweeting, in fact not many other museums were even on twitter at the time. As you can see from this photo taken the previous week, the museum looked very different back then as it was still under construction. The structure was complete, the windows had been glazed and the stone cladding was being added to the external walls. There was still a lot of work to do in the interiors, fitting them out and creating the displays, before the museum opened to the public in July 2011.

In the web team we faced the challenge of engaging with and developing the audience for the museum during those years in the lead up to the opening. We had been doing this through regular blog posts, starting with the excavation of the old Manchester Dock at the start of 2007  as well as posting behind-the-scenes photos showing progress with the construction on Flickr.  As a twitter user myself at the time I could see the potential to engage with people through twitter, so I was made up when I got the go-ahead to create the twitter account for the Museum of Liverpool.

screen shot of Liz's tweet 'Thanks for tweeting from Museum of Liverpool'

@LizHannaford compiled some of the tweets about the Museum of Liverpool’s opening on Storify

In the early days I posted lots of behind the scenes photos, which proved incredibly popular. I always felt it was important to give the twitter account a personality to reflect the museum and had been fortunate to be part of early branding workshops in which this was refined as confident, cheeky, funny and very Scouse. It was wonderful to see the very positive response to the museum on twitter and I had a lot of fun banter with proud Scousers and interested parties all over the world and answered questions from people about plans for the future.

One big question on everyone’s lips was when would the new museum be opening, so it was great when the date was announced. It was also wonderful that the museum’s twitter audience were given an opportunity to win preview tickets to the opening events, with a large number set aside specifically for a twitter competition. It was always great fun to be part of the team tweeting from the museum on the day, with a tweetwall displaying messages from well-wishers and visitors.

Something that I have always been aware of as the museum’s following on twitter has grown has been the need to engage with them and give something back. This is especially important for the international audience, who may not have the opportunity to visit in person so wouldn’t be interested in just hearing about events and activities in the venue all the time. So while the twitter account is obviously a valuable tool to promote events to the local audience, I have always ensured that we tweet about behind the scenes stories from staff and volunteers, unusual facts about popular items in the collection, online features and other aspects of the museum that anyone can enjoy. We have had a great response to these tweets, sometimes prompting chats with ex-pat Scousers about their memories of iconic objects in the displays, such as the Colomendy totem pole and the Overhead Railway carriage. I have always enjoyed the randomness of where these conversations can go, and the instant response that you get, sometimes from unexpected places, to items that spark a fond memory.

The Museum of Liverpool and twitter itself have changed a lot over the last five years. It will be interesting to see where the next five take us.

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