Museums Social Media Strategy

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Social media, when used for reasons other than “having fun looking at friends’ photos on Facebook”, require a careful strategic planning, to all extent similar to that necessary when preparing a marketing action plan, as hard as this may seem from “outside”.

The importance of strategy is not to be underestimated – even for something that seems so trivial and spontaneous like sharing an image on Facebook. It is no coincidence that the first 5 most-attended museums in the world have positively decided to invest in social media strategy to better interact with their public. The more so, #svegliamuseo! Let’s wake an Italian museum up!

1 – Audience Targeting

The determination of a target is the first step towards an effective social media communication.

Its starting point could be to carry forward a study of the  museum “real life” audience through the use, for example, of targeted questionnaires as well as through observation.

And nothing stands in the way of overturning  these means – a survey on the audience could just as well be done directly online, by detecting who uses hashtags like “museum”, “art”, “archaeology” and so forth on social platforms. The web users are already talking about museums or following who talks about them. The net is full of means to track these individuals and sketch a useful profile of them. To give an example, websites like Mention and Ubervu, if applied to a museum, would allow to know provenance, gender and main interests of any user accessing its website or citing the institution.

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2 – Goals

Once the target has been selected, the next step is to set clear goals and intents to apply to that same targeted audience.

Marketing Lesson 1.01: efficient goals are SMART goals. A word that does, literally, suggest to set “clever” objectives, but which is, primarily, a notorious acronym that museums should learn by heart. An objective should thus be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic (with regard to the museum mission and to the audience)
  • Time-bound – that is, achievable within a fixed time-frame

Smart, precisely. What we just said might seem obvious to anyone dealing for work with marketing and project-management, but it is far from being that banal for specialists in the field of culture. There, the general trend leads towards  the vague, the utopian and the undetermined.

Here are some guide lines on the possible, and numerous, goals  of a social media strategy for museums:

  • Brand Awareness: creation, promotion and strengthening of a proper museum brand can affect positively all other activity organized by the same cultural entity, while contributing to form steady and positive connections in the mind of its patrons.
  • Customer Loyalty, New Ideas Generation, Co-produzione dei contenuti: audience loyalty can be achieved  by acquiring from the audience itself information on its interests and preferences, and then use it in planning and forming targeted activities capable of attracting the largest possible number of individuals.
  • Viral and Buzz Marketing: social media can contribute efficaciously in launching  and promoting new activities (acquisitions, conservation works etc.) and events (temporary exhibitions, conferences). A joint communication on social networks allows the creation of a “viral” involvement by stimulating online discussions on ad-hoc content, sharing previews and/or real-time updates.
  • Social Engagement: on social networks the audience is more easily engaged, and it develops a stronger sense of  belonging to a community.
  • E-sales: connecting social media and e-commerce would benefit online sales of tickets, publications and gadgets.

3 – Tools

At this point, with a clear target and a fixed goal in mind, selecting the most adequate tool is but a formality.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram: each social network has its own clear characterization and responds to very precise needs and dynamics. The goal is to promote the museum permanent collection? A board on Pinterest would be the ideal instrument to interact with users on strictly visual material. You are looking for a way to stimulate creativity on a specific content? Instagram might come in handy by launching a theme and related hashtag, and encouraging users to compete and share their own creations (check this out, MuseumABC ). And so on.

4 – Editorial Plan

Once the tool, or tools, have been selected, the social media manager’s new best friend is the Editorial Plan. This should be the most detailed and coherent possible with what has been decided earlier in the process. It is now the moment to define a clear schedule for contents to be published on the preferred social platform – to decide images and accompanying texts, quantity of posts per day, timing, on which and how many days per week.

In case of feature pages (e.g. The life of Peggy Guggenheim, Visitors’ photos etc.), contents should be arranged coherently and posted following a regular schedule, on a dedicated day, to give the users time to adjust to the habit.

Moreover, just as important factors for a successful strategy are:  “tone of voice”; image quality; type of approach towards the audience. What you won’t find in any handbook is the difference made by the “human factor” – namely, the ability of the real person behind the screen to find the right tone, right words and – why not – punctuation to capture his/her e-readers’ attention once and forever.


Translated by @RoryinLA