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Twister. Photo by JD Hancock on Flickr.

by • 13 Jan, 2012 • TechnologyComments (6)6237

The social network for museums in 2012: StumbleUpon

Regardless of Google’s don’t be evil ethos, they are successfully slaughtering serendipity. For a while now, on most searches I do the only surprising results are ads. Most others in the top-x are recommended or shared or +1d by people in my social circles. The announcement of Search plus Your World hints the web will only be getting smaller as time goes on.

It made me think of a forgotten social network I probably spent more time with than Google+ and Facebook combined: StumbleUpon.

StumbleUpon is the cabinet of curiosities of the web. StumbleUpon is the unGoogle, a curated collection of stuff you didn’t even know you were looking for. I stumbled around in the arts section and saw more great stuff than in a week on Twitter.

With a population of 20 million StumbleUpon doesn’t have the body of most other social networks. However, unlike most other social networks, the users of StumbleUpon are open to chance encounters, welcome serendipity, and value quality regardless of its origin.

StumbleUpon is around since 2001, but I think its potential for museums is severely overlooked when we talk about social media. Ranked 126th worldwide on Alexa, the website is directing huge amounts of visitors to great content on the web. Plus, according to Wikipedia they added millions of users in the past year, which strengthens my believe that there’s a growing interest in content from beyond once’s social circles.

(StumbleUpon also functions as a social bookmarking and sharing website, but its true strength I believe stays the “click to get a random great website”.)

Here’s what you can do today with StumbleUpon to be part of the serendipitous web:

  • Add the button to your online collection pages. It’s as simple as adding a Facebook Like-button and allows people to stumble upon your objects. Usually its included in the share widgets, but I think StumbleUpon deserves a more prominent place. See the button in action on the blog of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, or on top of this post.
  • Create an account and use StumbleUpon’s share function to create an online scrapbook for your museum, and share it with your followers. SocialMedia Examiner has a good guide on how to build a following and share according to StumbleUpon’s etiquette.
  • Occasionally, stumble some of the most interesting objects, blogposts, or stories from your museum and use the comments to trigger conversations with people that might have never heard about your institution before. Remember, these people are not from your social circle, so spamming is even less appreciated, but an occasional share won’t hurt.

I’m curious to hear whether other museums have experimented with StumbleUpon recently (say, since they have their new logo) and what your experiences are. I think it might be a perfect match and in my own experience I’ve both enjoyed StumbleUpon as a consumer and as a content producer. Please leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!

Header photo by JD Hancock on Flickr.

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