What I Learned From @Sree Sreenivasan Chief Digital Officer of @MetMuseum | Beth's Blog

What I Learned From @Sree Sreenivasan Chief Digital Officer of @MetMuseum

Leadership, Professional Networking

I just spent two days in Miami at the Knight Foundation Media Learning Seminar where I co-facilitate a pre-conference workshop on leading on social channels with Amy Gahran and Stephanie Rudat.   But I also got an opportunity to finally hear the keynote speaker, Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer of the @MetMuseum in person.   I’ve been fan for a long time, but never had the chance to meet or hear him in person.

Sree is authentic, humble, and always making connections.   When I asked for a photo of him with the Fast Company magazine that includes the profile of him, he modestly posed behind the magazine cover.

Later, when were chatting with a small group of people in the lobby, we noticed a group of teens walking by looking a little sad. Sree struck up a conversation and learned that they had missed their chance to try out for labanda, a local American idol like show. Sree took a photo and tweeted to the show’s host.

Sree delivered the lunch time keynote about “How Institutions Go Digital” (Slides and Curated Tweets) which was a funny, engaging, and insightful talk about digital transformation of a staid institution.  Here’s a few of my takeaways:

  • Comfortable Learning in Public: He wanted to make a point about the world going digital.  He didn’t just pop up a slide with some mobile stats, he presented with his mobile phone.    There was a computer on the podium and he said it was just for show that he was going to present from his mobile phone – and asked us to excuse any fumbles.   That shows leadership!
  • Shared Breaking Social Media News: As part of the warm-up, he shared a screen capture of Barack Obama‘s new tweet as “POTUS,” just as the news was breaking.
  • ABCs: He started off with some basics – a riff on Guy Kawasaki’s Always Be Commenting.  His first ABC was “Always be Charging” – imagine the stories we will tell our grandchildren about sitting in airports near the plugs to recharge our phones.  ABC, always be capturing.   He said use your phone as a notebook and take photos.     And finally, always be connecting.   That is share (selectively) what you capture so you can connect.


He shared the “Dirty Little Secret of Social” – no on pays attention until you make a mistake. He talked about the importance of connecting and engaging to capture attention.  If you want more on that topic,  listen to his TedX Broadway Talk.

  • Socially Engaged Leadership and Staff – Staff at the Met are encouraged to use social as their personal brands in service of the organization.  You can see a list of staff here.  Most impressive is the CEO Thomas Campbell who is on Instagram.  Why not Twitter?  No drama.  On Instagram, the CEO of met shares the world through his iphone.
  • Virtuous Cycle of Engagement: The goal for the Met’s digital strategy is to show great content and to engage with people online, so much so that they will want to get on a plane and visit.  Then once they visit have such a great experience that they want to stay connected with the museum through social channels.
  • Everything Is In Service of the Art: The met has over 70 staff members on its digital team.   Sree describes it as a start up inside of a big institution.     He also gets asked how they justify the investment.    He notes,  “Technology is not new at the museum.  Artists have been using the right tool at the right time to make art.  Everything we do is in service of the art. The technology is an overlay to get more attention for the art.”
  • Many Small Experiments To Learn: The Met is constantly doing many small experiments with digital – from putting its audio guide online for free to releasing a “season” of videos of artists describing their favorite art at the Met called Met Artist Project.  The latter was modeled after how people like to watch videos on Netflix, releasing all episodes so people could “binge” watch the Met videos.  “We have more pilots than Jet Blue.”   He talked about the importance of A/B testing, constant learning.   He also noted that every exhibition at the Met has a hashtag because people were asking “What’s the hashtag?”  “We create a hashtag and have to be semi-obnoxious to make sure people are using it.”
  • The Most Valuable But Underused Platform: He showed us a list of the various platforms where the Met has a presence, but also said that they aren’t everywhere.  They go where the audience is.   As an example, he showed an example of a Harvard page on giphy, a platform to share animated gifs – why would Harvard be there?  The students are an audience they want to reach.He asked the audience who was using LinkedIn and almost everyone raised their hand, but many hands dropped when asked if we were using LinkedIN to its fullest.  He mentioned that LinkedIn was the most valuable but underused platform.   That it wasn’t blocked in China because the Chinese Government appreciates how well it works as a professional networking tool.

He finished his presentation with a list of words asking us to repeat like a Baptist Hindu priest:


This how you need to be connecting with people on social channels.

All in all an inspiring talk about the digital transformation of institutions and the power of connecting in a networked world.  Are you a fan of Sree Sreenivasan?  What’s your favorite #sreetip?




4 Responses

  1. rebecca krause-hardie says:

    Nice. THanks as always for sharing the learning!

  2. Beth, thank you for this great recap. I’m so glad I also had the opportunity to hear Sree, too.


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