"Strike a pose…then share the results. In the entrance to the exhibition #DoubleTake. Multiple frames to choose from… ow.ly/i/1Ptg8" — excerpt from the @Civilization Twitter feed.
For most cultural institutions, having a Facebook and a Twitter presence is a priority but social platforms shouldn't be used to push ideas or use academic jargon; posts should be kept simple. They can be about current collections, upcoming exhibitions and interesting facts. But let’s face it, who is going to reply to those posts? Get creative! Twitter and Facebook posts should tell followers how curators develop exhibitions, share behind-the-scenes photos, ask provocative questions, tell jokes, share weird facts, and be entertaining. These kinds of posts will generate a reaction and encourage your community to interact with you online.
Inevitably, larger institutions often benefit from having dedicated personnel and resources that can successfully maintain online profiles. Smaller organizations may only have one person managing their digital technology and this may be an added duty to their normal everyday workload. Of course, the number of people involved in updating social media feeds will dictate how much time can be spent maintaining accounts and how many accounts an organization has. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has 63 people in their digital department which helps them attract more followers than say, Ottawa’s Bytown Museum. The correlation is inescapable.
|Image from Tate Modern's Instagram account|
The most time consuming aspect, and the most valuable, is replying to followers’ mentions and comments. When a visitor tweeted the Canadian Museum of Nature suggesting an interesting film to screen, the Museum replied that they would pass the idea on to the programming staff. Retweets and replies like this are key when followers show their support online.
Twitter and Facebook are just a starting point. Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube and blogs are other platforms that can help share the excitement. Here are some inspiring examples of how some museums are using different platforms to their full potential:
- The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum’s Pinterest account is impressive and its boards are raved about online!
- The Brooklyn Museum’s Flickr account is inspiring and full of amazing photos.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Tumblr page includes funny photoshopped images, photos of musicians at the gallery and powerful images of visitors looking at art.
- The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Blog is updated daily with intriguing interactive posts that ask readers to vote!
- The Guggenheim Museum’s YouTube account features curators describing exhibitions, time-lapse videos of visitors looking at collections and trailers for upcoming events
More and more, organizations are increasing their online presence in creative ways:
- Thousands of American historical documents and archives have been digitized and can be found online;
- The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) used Foursquare to hold competitions in 2011: the first 10 people to check into the museum after 5 pm received free drinks;
- Artist Marina Abramovic sat on a chair at New York’s MoMA and visitors were encouraged to sit opposite her. Her performance art, The Artist is Present, compelled someone to create a Twitter account narrated by the chair! The account is humorous and gets people talking about the museum and performance art.
|The Artist is Present at MoMA|
The more creative online profiles are, the more reaction they generate from the public. These social media platforms should facilitate an experience without guiding it. If people have pushed the button to follow you, it’s obvious they want to engage with your cultural institution and show their support.
Museums are no exception. Cultural organizations should be innovative when engaging the public. Marketing strategies shouldn't be as old as the ancient artefacts and art on display at your museum. You should use digital technology; it’s becoming the most valuable way of communicating with the public.
Megan McLean is a third-year journalism student at
Carleton University in Ottawa who interned with the CMA during spring 2013.