Museums need to be “social” on social media

I’ve noticed that a lot of museums aren’t really using social media.

Of course, they’ll all be quick to list the sites they have accounts with and use regularly: a Facebook page to post upcoming events, a Pinterest board with pictures of a new exhibit, and a Twitter account that links to news articles written about them.

But too often, museums — even major, well-respected ones — don’t go much further than that. There are no retweets from interesting followers or replies to Facebook comments. There’s hardly any audience engagement. It’s a lot of talking about themselves with little to no attempts to build a relationship with their audience.

And that’s not exactly social media, is it?

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Royalty Free Stock Image | seer on sxc.hu

One-sided communication like this makes a tweet or Facebook post look like nothing more than an advertisement. People don’t use social media to be bombarded with ads; if they’re a follower, they’re most likely already sold.

A recent study from Syncapse found that the top reason people follow companies on Facebook is to show support for the brand. Assuming the same is true with museum accounts, the followers are people who already like the museum, so simply promoting basic event and exhibit information isn’t going to cut it. Basic updates need to be balanced out with attempts at audience engagement. (@Tate, an institution of art galleries in the UK, is a great example of museum marketing done right.) Museums who lack this balance need to start spending a lot more energy developing creative ways to get followers to come back for a visit.

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5 thoughts on “Museums need to be “social” on social media

  1. I really like the way you looked at brands in general through social media in this post. I don’t know much about museums, nor do I follow any on my social media accounts, but a museum is much like it’s own brand and should use their accounts much in the same way. I like how you pointed out that when people follow brands, they are already sold. This is so true and I never really thought of it like that. You’re so right though and the followers really don’t want to see ads, they want to see social interaction! This is so important for brands to remember and I’m really glad you included that in your post.

    • Thanks for the comment! I think it’s really important to look at a museum as a brand. I know some people don’t like to see it that way — they’d rather have it be more of a source of culture and education and not so branded. But when it comes down to it, they want more people to visit and donate to their museums, so most social media techniques used by companies can also be applied to museums.

  2. Kaitlyn, I also enjoyed how you touched on that idea the museums have a brand even though they aren’t companies. Every establishment should have a strong, positive social media presence. Consumers enjoy interacting with people, places, companies, etc. that they support. It helps them build personal relationships beyond their wallets. Like Sam said, interaction is more important than advertising (in this case, event promotion). If museums don’t keep up with their social media accounts, not only are they missing out on conversations with clients, but they aren’t monitoring what others say about them. It’s important for establishments to see what others have to say- good or bad- to defend their brand.

  3. Kaitlyn, thanks for sharing, I love your point-of-view on this topic. I find it so interesting because I did a project on the pharmaceutical industry and I ran into the same problem. It seems that they don’t know how to properly utilize the different social media platforms available. I know that within the pharmaceutical industry, they are very hesitant to get involved with social media but I can’t see museums being the same way. Although, they do have copywrited artwork so that may be a cause to it. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Kaitlyn,

    As one that does not often visit museums, I really enjoy this topic and idea. I would certainly be much more intrigued to visit a museum if they had engaging posts on social media, showcasing fresh, new, or interesting exhibits. The point you bring up about following companies on Facebook is spot on and would no doubt translate to the museum realm. A simple post got everything you needed to across and was very effective!

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