Pushing through what stops most from trying something new: overthinking and feeling awkward
I like to experiment with open access art, and a few years ago, created an Instagram account with the intention of following only museums. I live in a small area outside of Seattle, and it’s unlikely that I’ll actually visit all the museums I follow, but the account gives me a window into inspirational art, exhibitions and creative projects from more than one thousand museums.
In the last two weeks hashtags #visitfromhome and #museumfromhome started coming up across museums with greater frequency. For museum professionals that are posting, it’s a way to document how they’re approaching the museum now that they’re working at home. I was moved and impressed to see museums like the Peabody Essex and the Exploratorium in San Francisco posting about donating masks to hospitals. I was surprised, but happy to see museums like the Art Museum of Rochester offering take out meals!
Then another hashtag emerged — and it is by far my favorite: #hashtagthecowboy. The Instagram account for the National Cowboy Museum has grown by tens of thousands of followers each day ever since. And it’s all thanks to their Head of Security, Tim.
On March 17th he sent out his first post on Instagram:
If you’ve ever had to do social media for a company, it can be fun and it can also be a paralyzing spiral of overthinking. What tone? What content? Will this work?
Not for Tim. He jumped right in. We’re watching Tim learn hashtags and explore the museum. We’ve seen him use the “selfie station” in the Warhol and the West exhibit (that I’m eager to see when it comes to the Tacoma Art Museum later this summer). We’ve seen pictures of him with Kevin Costner at the Western Heritage Awards, where Tim reminds us there’s no dancing at the awards, or wolves. You can’t help but love him.
Under “normal” circumstances I don’t think museums would turn to their security team for marketing tips. But these are not normal times, and it’s inspiring to see his success in bringing more people into their community.
This week I worked to channel Tim and The Cowboy with my friend and yoga instructor, Sarah. We share an eye for under-utilized spaces, and have each earned the title of Airbnb Super Host. We live in King County, the first area in the country to start shutting down with news of the virus. Microsoft and Amazon told employees to work from home weeks before the “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” and the ripple was felt throughout the region. Sarah was stuck in a very difficult position as she was losing her primary sources of income. As an Airbnb host, her bookings dried up. And then with social distancing recommendations — ultimately her yoga classes were not allowed.
Her current yoga business evolved out of an experiment. Sarah didn’t have her own studio for teaching, and a traditional rental space was out of reach. She had this idea of creating a mobile yoga studio — bringing her classes to communities. In our neighborhood, we have a clubhouse that stands empty most of the time. With the space, a free Square website and a $15 per month booking system — we tested the idea last summer. And it worked. We attracted a small group of work from home entrepreneurs, stay at home mom’s and retired people, all gathering for yoga sessions in the clubhouse at lunchtime. We all loved tapping into our under-utilized space, and the community around Sarah started to grow, including opening classes in other neighborhoods and apartment complexes.
Despite the increasing challenges of social distancing — quitting on her growing community wasn’t an option, and we decided to try another test. We needed a very inexpensive way to try, and fast — no time for overthinking. We realized Sarah could tap into her own mission — bringing yoga to communities. Sarah could come to her clients online, in the same conditions that we’re all experiencing. No need for fancy backdrops or spa settings, or worrying about whether the video or sound quality is high enough. It meant “yoga anywhere that you can find a space” at home — in the bedroom, the kitchen, the hallway.
Sarah tested streaming and recording sessions with her phone, overcoming battery issues. We debated distribution channels — YouTube could work for marketing, but we couldn’t charge for content. Facebook offered free live streaming for groups, but not everyone wants to join social media. Then it clicked: a combination of Zoom for live stream classes, and Vimeo for on-demand.
We listed her new live stream classes in the scheduling app and turned on the option for tips. We created her on-demand channels on Vimeo, with options for monthly subscriptions, rentals and pay per download. For $50 a month we’re up and running: Square for payments and a free website, $15 a month for Acuity Scheduling, $15 for a Zoom pro account, and $20 a month for Vimeo Pro and On-Demand. If anything sells on Vimeo, she keeps 90%.
We did a test run, inviting friends and clients to use a free code to tune in on Zoom.
And what did Sarah’s community do?
They logged in, and brought along family members.
They paid for the class.
And they tipped.
Her community came together and joined in — because we want to see her business pull through, and we all benefit from adding a much needed routine to our lives. But most importantly, Sarah pushed through what stops most people from trying something new: overthinking and feeling awkward. And unexpectedly, just like Tim at The Cowboy, she found that she loves the new experience and the creative process. A breakthrough for her, and for her business.
This is a time to give, and a time to grow. It’s time to get creative and test new tools in the cloud to see just who you might reach in new ways. People want to support the communities, entrepreneurs, and museums they love. They will turn up when asked, just give them a good way to do it. We’ve got nothing to lose.
If you’d like to check out Sarah’s classes, you can find her at Sarah’s Greenheart Yoga and on her Yoga Anywhere On-Demand Channel on Vimeo. With Vimeo you can watch on mobile devices and smart TV’s, or stream through Chromecast. If you work for a museum, I’d recommend thinking about ways that you can monetize content you’ve already created at a reasonable price. On Vimeo you can easily set prices for subscriptions, downloads and rentals — and set Creative Commons licenses. Don’t forget to put in a few for free too so people can try before they buy. I was thrilled to find many museums on Vimeo, and look forward to exploring their offerings.
I hope you’ll follow Tim at the National Cowboy Museum, and I will now seriously plan a visit. You can find my experiments with open access on Instagram @unlockculture. I hope you’ll browse through the museums I’m following and find some new favorites.