With years of collective experience in social media engagement, many museums are stopping to ask themselves: what have we really learned about the audiences we are connecting with? Have we formed more meaningful relationships with our community and in the process, are we better serving the missions of our institutions? Could the future of our digital outreach be primarily based on social engagement and if so, are our organizations adapting rapidly enough to be prepared for this social future? Are our current social media practices engaging online communities to their greatest potential, or are we missing out on crowdsourcing, collaboratively learning, or other as-yet undiscovered social experiences? How can we better evaluate the success of our efforts and take our social media engagement to the next level?

This extended professional forum will use a range of social media platforms to engage museum professionals attending Museums and the Web and beyond in this discussion. This social media event component will begin before the meeting in San Diego 11-14 April using a wiki and other social media platforms, and the conversation about what we really know about social media, museum content, and cultural institution audiences will surely continue long afterwards as well. The aim is to engage fellow practitioners in defining the myths and assumptions we most want to “bust,” and to gather data in order to formulate testable hypotheses for this provocative discussion, culminating in a special professional forum at the MW2012 conference.

Session Proposers:
•Brian Alpert, Smithsonian OCIO @balpert
•‍Darren Milligan, Smithsonian Center for Education & Museum Studies @darrenmilligan
•Erin Blasco, Smithsonian National Postal Museum @erinblasco
•Elissa Frankle, Education Consultant @museums365
•David Klevan, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum @dklevan
•Amelia Wong, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum @amelialikespie
•Georginia Goodlander, Smithsonian American Art Museum @bathlander
•MJ Meredith, Smithsonian National Postal Museum
•Mychalene Giampaoli, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum @museumgeek
•Vicki Portway, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum @sluggernova
•Sarah Banks, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History @SBanks20

‍Key Participants/Consultants:
•Sarah Sulick, Smithsonian Institution @saratsulick
•Effie Kapsalis, Smithsonian Archives @digitaleffie
•Catheryn Shteynberg, Smithsonian Archives
•Jeff Gates, Smithsonian American Art Museum @outtacontext
•Mark Bretzfelder, Smithsonian OCIO @SmithsonianTech