The week of June 25, I visited Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., with my wife, Joy, and almost 1-year-old daughter, Megan. When we were planning our trip – needless to say – we put Newseum as a must on … "/>

How The Newseum Uses Facebook to Spark Headline Creativity

The week of June 25, I visited Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., with my wife, Joy, and almost 1-year-old daughter, Megan. When we were planning our trip – needless to say – we put The Newseum as a must on our itinerary. We had visited the nation’s capital a couple years ago, pre-child, but didn’t have enough time then to savor all the fabulous exhibits at The Newseum.

I often visit The Newseum’s website,, and check out its posts on Facebook. When checking out the nonprofit organization’s Facebook Timeline, I noticed it holds a weekly Facebook contest called Free Tickets Tuesday. Every Tuesday at noon EST The Newseum posts a set of facts on its Facebook page, and anybody can submit suggested headlines. The winner receives two free tickets to The Newseum.

We participated on June 19 (my birthday – I thought I’d be lucky). The information provided was: “Write a headline about Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, which was unveiled yesterday and considered a rival to the iPad.” Our suggested headline was: “Microsoft Looking to Get Under Apple’s Skin With New Surface Tablet.” Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but recently I caught up with Sharon Shahid, online managing editor of The Newseum to discuss this Facebook contest and how it fits into their overall social media strategy:

When did you start holding this weekly contest, and how did you come up with the idea? 

Two summer interns initiated the idea, and it launched in July 2010.

What is The Newseum’s overall social media strategy, and how does this contest fit in with it?

The Newseum uses its website, as well as social media, to advance its mission of educating the public about the role of a free press in a free society, and to promote its exhibits, programs and events. The contest is a fun, educational way of including our Facebook friends and fans in the process.

What kind of ROI has The Newseum gotten on the Free Tickets Tuesday campaign since it launched? Have you seen an uptick in Facebook likes or tickets to The Newseum?

We don’t keep any formal metrics on the ROI from Free Tickets Tuesday. The contest is simply an engaging, fun way to say thank you to our Facebook fans and has proven to be very popular with them. We’ve noticed regular visitors to the contest and have gotten a few inquiries about how to get free tickets through word of mouth. The number of “Likes” on Free Tickets Tuesday or any other day varies, depending on the topics we post. Before we started the headline contest, we had about 15,000 or more “Likes.” Now, we’re a little over 45,000 and growing. How much of that growth is attributed to FTT, I couldn’t tell you.

Which week has the Free Tickets Tuesday contest drawn the most headline submissions, what were the facts provided, and what was the winning headline?

As of today (July 19, 2012), the April 24, 2012, topic about Starbucks pening at Disney theme parks has received the most headline submissions – 76. The winning headline was “SIP-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!” The all-time record of submissions to date was the July 12, 2011, contest, where we received 101 submissions. The topic was the telephone hacking scandal at News Corp. The winning headline: “Hackers Caught: The End of the World.”

Who picks the winners of the weekly contest?

It’s a collaborative effort among Web interns and the multimedia staff.

Is there a set of criteria The Newseum follows when picking winning headlines?

Newseum judges look for accuracy and originality. When good headlines are similar, the advantage goes to the earliest submission.

Can anybody on Facebook submit headlines? Do you have to be a journalist?

Yes, anyone can submit a headline. No, you don’t have to be a journalist. Based on some of the past comments on our Facebook page, some of the headline winners have worked at news organizations.

Can contest participants enter multiple headline submissions?

Yes. We’ve also had multiple winners.

Do you think The Newseum is evolving alongside the industry you cover? If so, how?

I do think the Newseum continues to evolve in terms of the quality of exhibits and programs it offers and the new galleries — specifically the HP New Media Gallery that opened in April 2012 — it has produced, as they relate to how news is gathered and disseminated today. I think the Newseum has adapted quite successfully to the rise in social media and has incorporated the new methods of communication in its educational focus. The Newseum’s fortunes don’t rise and fall with those of the news industry, but changes in the industry do affect the way we tell our stories and how often those stories must be updated to reflect the current condition of the industry.

You can also find The Newseum on YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and TripAdvisor.