The “Digital Journey” of Museum Audiences: 6 Tips to Turn the Digital Visitor Into a Real One

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Who has never waited in line to enter a museum or visit a monument standing in the freezing cold of an European capital or under the burning sun of a mediterranean summer? We visited the milanese headquarter of Musement.com, an online ticketing platform that gathers attractions, tours, events and above all museums, in Italy and abroad, to make it easier to book tickets, also skipping the feared line.

A chat with some of the members of the team, has revealed some important tips on how a strategic online presence can help cultural institutions meet the needs of travel and culture geeks.

Holidays have just ended and many of us left for different destinations or stayed home in the city, seeking some relax and going out for Christmas shopping. From the flight to the hotel, from the train to the Bed and Breakfast, from the shop to the restaurant, the itinerary for our free time is always one click away. However, when we look at the extent of the cultural offer, in Italy and worldwide, we may find out that it is not as easily accessible online. Orientation is difficult and even basic information is sometimes scattered.

Digital represents a clear opportunity to intercept and guide, from the online research up to the moment of the actual visit, those users that are already looking for and talking about museums – said Paolo Giulini, one of the founders of the platform – Museums have shifted from “having a website” to “having an online presence” and need to rethink how they position themselves online.

Robert Couse-Baker CC BY SA 2.0
Robert Couse-Baker CC BY SA 2.0

The online research, rather than the step into the physical venue, marks the start of a visit to a museum. Continues Paolo – In this sense, the institution has to make available content on digital spaces as much as it does in the physical ones. Media are reaching an increasingly high level of personalization and in this sense, museums have to respond to expectations and needs of travelers and cultural consumers.

But what are the possible ways to avoid the fragmentation of information and maximize the opportunities to be found?

Elena Ciprietti and Lucia Testa from the Digital Marketing and PR team, retraced the path of the user and gave us 6 suggestions to turn the digital visitor into a real one.

1)    Involve them: social media as reputation not only communication

Internet and social media allow users to talk to the institution, not only the other way around. The presence on social platforms influences the museum’s authority because highlights its popularity and reputation, which are drivers for visitation. How many times we have decided to visit a museum because a friend suggested it to us? Even before the web, the word of mouth highly impacts decisions and social media amplify this paradigm.

Develop collaborations with influencers is thus crucial. What are they?  Users that have an authority, real or perceived, to influence decisions of adoption of a product or service. Influencers also have many followers and they are active content creators, often bringing a new perspective on collections and experiences.

2) Inspire them: focus on relevant and contemporary content

The museum itself needs to become an active content creator. In this sense, it is important to use a light and friendly tone, although this may scare the most “traditional” museum folks. A website can’t be a digital brochure, as much as a Facebook page can’t be an exhibition catalogue. Each platform has its own language: it is crucial to know and use them to maximize engagement, aligning our content with contemporary themes. This is not a nice choice, but rather an expectation of contemporary audiences: deciding not to do that it is pretty much like talking to ourselves in an empty room.

Let’s think for example about how the Met blinks to the Kim Kardashian gossips, or how the Science Museum tells about the science behind blockbuster Interstellar, passing by the Muse in Trento that has been following the Futura mission, with the italian Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station.

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There are so many different platforms that can help tell stories in engaging way. A picture on Instagram, with its strong visual component, can function as a “hook” much more than one hundred press releases.

3) Draw them: the website is the hub

The website of an institution is its heart. The involvement phase on the different channels needs to drive traffic here.

While on social media a creative approach is the rule, on the website clarity and accessibility of information should dominate. Here the user takes the offer into consideration: from opening times to available activities, from prices to services, up until the possibility to buy the ticket, select participation to events, become a member or buy at the bookshop.

Users access the Web from many contexts to do researches, shop and communicate. In this sense, we need to maximize the opportunities to establish a relationship from the first visit. Avoid complicated processes and ensure a fluid navigation from a variety of devices and contexts, are factors that contribute to the creation of these opportunities. Differently, the user won’t necessarily be willing to come back and give us another chance.

Smithsonian American Art Museum by Tim Evanson cc by-sa 2.0

 4) Surprise them: give them what they want when they want it

An SEO strategy – Search Engine Optimization – can help reach this goal. But what does SEO mean?

First of all, in thinking about how people arrive on our website, let’s distinguish among direct, organic, paid and referral traffic.

  • Direct: refers to those users that type the url of our website and thus already know us
  • Organic: the one that comes from browser searches, for example when a user write our name in Google
  • Referral: refers to those users that arrive from social networks or external sources
  • Paid: regards the spaces that are bought, for example through Google AdWords

Organic traffic is particularly crucial because directs the vast majority of the online traffic. A SEO strategy is the process through which content is optimized to increase the rank of our page in the SERP, the list of results. How many of you go after page 2 when looking for something? To be ranked higher, means increase the chances to be found.

Keyword analysis is the starting point for this. What are those that users type when ending up on our page? What keywords can we leverage on to be findable? Highlights from the collection, which are often the reason why people visit a certain museum, can help in identifying unique terms as opposed to more general ones. For example, for “museums in Milan” there will certainly be much more competition and find more specific terminology will help the institution to be ranked higher. Global Market Finder , Keyword plannerMOZ and Buzzsumo are useful tool to explore the right keywords for a given market. Once identified, these should be strategically used in the content, placing them especially in headers and titles.

But the discussion on content is not yet finished. Creating quality content, which is also interactive and tailored to the platform, is not a nice thing to have, but rather an obligation to maximize engagement. An example is the Musement film map, which allow users to explore location of the most iconic movies.

5) Get their attention: remember those who are not convinced yet that they can come back

SEM – Search Engine Marketing – is a digital marketing discipline, of which SEO is part, focused on targeting users through ads links in browser results, adding on organic searches, to direct traffic on the website.

Google Adwords is the most popular platform for paid searches, followed by Bing Ads e Yahoo Ads. We talk about Pay Per Click when the fee to get the ads on is proportioned to the number of times a user actually clicks on the it. In this sense, ads are addressed responding to specific searches and are served primarily to those users that look for that kind of service or product.

The remarketing can be a possible strategy to implement paid ads. Through remarketing, we follow the users who have been already on our websites without having finalized a purchase. We don’t know much about these users, but the only information we have is actually very powerful: they are interested in our products. Ads can be also tailored to serve users with products that are similar or connected to those that they have already seen. Let’s think about a tourist that has only one afternoon available to visit a museum and reflect on how a remarketing strategies could determine the final decision.

Guillermo Viciano CC BY-SA 2.0

Guillermo Viciano CC BY-SA 2.0

6) Make it easy for them to complete the most difficult step: cross the museum’s door

The goal of the strategies described above is to bring users to complete the purchase of a ticket, the affiliation or ratify the decision to visit in some way.

Here a series of contextual considerations come into play. Up to this moment, our strategies have been focused in the digital realm only, but now is time to consider needs that are pretty much reality-based.

For example, standing in line for a long time can discourage even the most passionate art lover to visit the “must see” museum. Having to print a ticket, or having to buy it by phone with obsolete procedures, are barriers that visitors increasingly expect not to find. If we don’t work to break them down, ultimately our visitors might decide to go shopping or go for an ice cream instead of coming to our museum.

Confused? Here is a recap!

  • Influencers are your friends: use them to find new people who don’t know how fabulous you are

  • The key for success? Use beauty and don’t be afraid of being friendly and light

  • First impression counts: the website is the first thing your visitors see about you

  • Focus on content on the website to increase organic traffic

  • Follow the user that is not conviced yet with remarketing

  • Break down the digital barriers to surpass the real ones