Social media can be an effective tool for attracting visitors to your institution, and for creating and building an audience. This page will provide a brief guide for creating a social media strategy, choosing the platform best for your institution, the tone that is best suited to interact with an audience, and more. You can find more information on how to grow your audience on our digital marketing page.
Social Media Strategy
A social media strategy is a plan of the goals you wish to achieve through your use of social media. Your museum goals are specific to your own institution and the audiences and communities you serve. Broad ideas for a goal could include education, building a brand, expanding your audience, or increasing revenue through opportunities like renting out your space for events.
This guide, from the social media management company Sprout Social, breaks down the concept into a simple, step by step process of how to create and apply your social media strategy. They include a short synopsis of a few platforms, how to perform an audit and strategize to determine your goals and audience, and some tips on how to create good internal communication so that your social media team will have the most up to date information for planning and posting to create the most relevant content.
Going hand in hand with engaging and growing your audience, the tone you adopt on social media is important. Your tone can define the way in which you share information, and how your audience interprets it. Is your aim to be more lighthearted and interactive? Is your goal to be purely educational? The tone you use is important for the goals you want to achieve. This article from MuseumNext explains the uses of different tones and how to emulate them.
Which Social Network to Choose?
There are multiple mainstream social networking platforms available, all of which have millions of users and use vastly different media. The most important starting point for your social media strategy is to pick one platform and focus on it. Not all content is best suited for all sites. It is important to meet your audience where they are, so think about what your audience uses, and how you can create content for your museum on each site. We’ve provided a brief explanation of several popular social media sites below to assist your own research.
- Twitter – Twitter is a “microblog” environment, where people share posts limited to 250 words, with the option to post images and media. It is unique in offering open public access to content, allowing users to respond and interact with your content through public and direct message replies as well as retweets, in which others present your content with their own commentary. Twitter has 330 million global users, and several small museums have gone viral with humorous tones featuring memes out of their collection materials, including the Museum of English Rural Life.
- Facebook is also a platform based on individuals and organizations sharing text posts and media, and resharing and responding to other’s posts. Facebook allows for both personal and business profiles, offering publicly accessible information and the option for exclusive content accessible only to people who “like” or “join” your institution online. The site also allows greater manipulation of your feed, including “pinning” posts to the top of your page so that visitors see prioritized content first. Facebook’s longer content fields allow for greater depth than Twitter, and its users skew older. Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts has realized that the majority of their audience uses Facebook, and has created games with their collection beyond simply inviting conversation about content.
- Tiktok- Tiktok is a short video sharing platform, where videos are limited to three minutes at most. The app is unique in both its audience, primarily younger generations, and the ability to put almost any sound on your video, from a voiceover to a popular song to other users’ audio. It also allows for viewer interaction in the form of video responses and text comments. Tim Peirce, Assistant Curator of Mollusks at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has become widely know as the Snail Guy by energetically sharing fun facts and corny jokes about snails. Through technical demonstrations and similar word play, the Sacremento History Museum’s videos of working their printing press have gained over 2 million followers. In fact, small museums in particular have gained notice on this platform!
- Instagram is a photo and video sharing site, where you can post up to ten photos in one post. It allows you to see others’ content and respond to it, but is unique in prioritizing pictures over text. It automatically shortens long captions so that a viewer has to click the caption to see the entire text. This is an ideal site if one of your goals is to highlight collections, as Seattle’s Chilhuly Garden and Glass has done with close-ups and unique-angled photographs. Several Museums have also collaborated with different influencers, other museums, or even the general public to “take over” their “Insta” accounts and reach audiences in a new voice.
- YouTube is a video sharing platform, different than tiktok in that both the videos can be longer, and the viewer can search the entire site for videos rather than just scrolling through their limited feed. Museums have used YouTube to create videos that go into depth about their collection through virtual tours or sit-down discussions. The British Museum takes full advantage of this, with their Curator’s Corner series, in which employees of the museum take their time to show their audience different objects within their specialties.
Meme Culture and Museums
A meme is a term for a humorous application of an image or phrase to convey a message, that is spread via social media sites. Memes can go in and out of fashion very quickly, and can be hard to fully understand without prior knowledge of the source or text. Memes have all sorts of different formats and context, and they can be altered to apply to various situations, as many businesses and institutions have done on their social media platforms. Memes are a fun (and usually funny) way to generate engagement with your audience by linking your unfamiliar content to something more familiar. Because many memes are political, you want to make sure you’re aware of their sometimes coded origins and contexts when reusing ones, but Wire Magazine has a guide to tools for creating your own.
Some examples of memes that museums have used include the #GettyChallenge, where the Getty Museum encouraged people to recreate works of art at home during quarentine. There is also the Black Country Living Museum’s Tiktok, a small museum in England that uses popular Tiktok audios, and have their historical reenactors respond to them in character.