When Audience Re-Elaborate Collections: Rijksmuseum’s Digital Strategies

Immagine5It might be difficult to believe given its marvellous look, but the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is 214 years old. It had to go through substantial architectural and structural interventions to undergo its two centuries of history.

Since its first opening, the Dutch museum of art and history has always pursued modernity, and always tried to keep up with trends: architectural, cultural, museological. An example of this approach is the fabulous video that has been produced (along with sponsors) to celebrate the re-opening in April 2013.

But the Rijksmuseum’s approach to contemporaneity goes deeper to the very core of the organization. In fact, it can be considered a landmark, in the European museum environment, for having fully embraced the new tools provided by the digital age. Using the main social networking platforms, it engages audiences on an international scale, making them feel part of the life of the museum.

It was also distinguished for being one of the first museums to have digitized more than 150 000 works from its collection in high definition and have made them available to everyone and editable, without restrictions. Give it a try! Zoom in the Van Gogh’s self-portrait and tell me if you are not impressed by the strokes of brush.

RijksStudio is now a well-known case study that is taken as an example from all the museums around the world. After registering (you can also use your Facebook account), you have the option to create your own masterpiece with parts of other masterpieces, save the creation on your computer or even create your own gadget and buy it! To do this, you don’t have to be in Amsterdam, but in any part of the world.

And what can we say about a vision that includes 8 words only, but at the same time, encloses a whole universe? “The Rijksmuseum connects people with art and history”.

We had the pleasure to chat with Linda Volkers, Marketing Manager of the museums, in charge of public relations and communication.

As usual, we hope that her answers and suggestions may be useful and inspiring for everyone.


Which background

1. How many people work in your communication and social media department? And which kind of backgrounds do they have?

L: We can count on a multidisciplinary team for social media (not dedicated full time employees). We have a weekly editorial meeting, chaired by Communications & Marketing. The editorial team includes  delegates of Marketing, PR, online team and Education.
Daily Web activities are handled by our online team, during weekends we have flexible teams: the social media editorial team and some collection experts.

2. Different digital and social platforms have different scopes and should be chosen carefully depending on the information that needs to be communicated. How is the RijksMuseum choosing and using its channels, and how is it making them appealing to its audience (also, what kind of audience do they reach)?

Immagine4L: Facebook and Twitter are our primary channels for sharing information about our collection. We are on Pinterest as well and soon we will be on Instagram. Sharing our collection and telling stories about it have proven to be very effective on Facebook and Twitter. We reach a wide audience, varying from professionals, art lovers as well as tourists and ‘culture snackers’.

We use these channels for promotional purposes as well, e.g. announce new programmes and activities. We carefully plan and mix our messages, to be appealing to a heterogeneous audience.

Twitter has become an important service channel as well for providing practical information and answering questions from our visitors.

3. Do you have any practical examples of what is a good engagement strategy? Can you name an example?

L: The most powerful engagement strategy of the Rijksmuseum is to bring the collection to our audience; displaying and sharing our collection to the world. The most recent engagement activity is the Rijksstudio, where we invite users to actually use hi-definition pictures from pieces of our collection for different purposes, to create what they want without limitations and free of charge.


4. How online communication impact the life of the museum and viceversa in terms of professional involvement and planning of the initiatives?

L: It has a great impact on the flexibility of the team and their ability to respond quickly. Every week, we carefully plan our promotional posts (aligned with our press releases and email newsletter). In terms of web management we have trained a group of people that knows who to contact in the organization for questions and follow up.

5. Imagine to have in front of you a director or somebody responsible for the management of a small Italian museum. Which kind of tips and suggestions would you like to give to him/her to define a digital engagement strategy that includes the use of social media? (Do’s and don’ts)

L: Good question!

Keep the focus on your collection! There’s a need for a strong visual impact but the pieces in your collections aren’t the only reason why your audience come to you. They want unique and engaging stories.

Don’t overload your audience with commercial posts, call to actions and so on – people don’t like that. Even if you think you have a brilliant programs or exhibitions.

Respond quickly to questions and provide answers with a personal voice.