Social media is literally altering the landscape for non-profit and membership-based organizations. Mobile applications sponsored by such organizations allow customers to exchange opinions of and responses to collections. Used in this way, social media promotes collaboration and discussion, but it also helps organizations track their constituents and their involvement. By extension, this helps track fundraising efforts, demographics, membership levels, membership directories, volunteering and communications with individuals.
At the Smithsonian, for example, mobile users can participate in “Leaf Snap” from the comfort of their homes or from within the museum. Mobile technology enhances the visitor experience to the museum visitor and those who are unable to visit the museum.
Leaf Snap is an exciting app because users can take photographs of leaves with their smartphones, identify trees from a vast database and then upload these to a central location, automatically tagged with GPS coordinates. Researchers develop a better picture of the distribution of species across the region while app users sharpen their skills and knowledge by identifying trees in an engaging way. Leaf Snap opens the doors of the Smithsonian to anyone on the eastern seaboard with a smartphone – and it lets enthusiasts take part in the research that drives the museum’s overall vision.
The Smithsonian’s Leaf App and host of other digital technologies (including augmented and virtual reality) mimic trends in the library sector. Cerritos Millennium Library in California, inspired by Joseph Pine’s similar work, The Experience Economy (Harvard Business School Press, 1999), incorporates interactive learning as a part of the patron experience. Multimedia resource centers encourage library users to combine print materials with Web resources, in-house content and computer graphics. Unlike traditional libraries, Cerritos uses radio frequencies to drive a computerized circulation system that keeps track of materials in circulation.
On a more somber note, chief designer for the September 11th Memorial Museum, David Brody Bond Aedas, has the same interactive, collaborative idea as Cerritos and the Smithsonian. The “Last Column,” the final piece of steel structure removed from Ground Zero, is covered with solemn reminders of 9/11 and testimonies of survivors. A mobile app could potentially catalog and identity each of the thousands of memories on the steel structure.