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10 Museum Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

We’re aiming to cleanse the internet of cringe-worthy content. Help us spread the word about museum marketing mistakes to avoid so we can forever eliminate cut-off content and hours spent on admin.

Marketing is about appealing to the masses. From inaccessible web practice, to trashing good content, read all about what you shouldn’t do, to learn about what you should.

1. Speaking to one audience

Social media opens up new avenues for audiences to find your museum and follow your stories. If you are only speaking to the local community, you are leaving out a large potential international audience. Rather than solely using social media to advertise events and engage those at your doorstep, think more broadly and engage audiences on other things they can share in like your mission and online resources. Be sure to use the appropriate hashtags to draw in interested social media parties to your profile.

2. Missing out on a blog

Besides being a fun word to say, a blog has a myriad of other purposes and can greatly increase your web traffic and benefit your museum’s website overall. A great way to speak to multiple audiences is through blog posts that contain both practical information as well as entertaining insights.

The Australian National Maritime Museum does a brilliant job of this by connecting contents to their exhibitions and collection. The increased traffic and relationship-building with followers are worth the effort alone, but the upped opportunity for social posting is worth the dive into blogging.

3. One-use content

Just like single-use plastic, using images, language, resources just once and then moving on is irresponsible, and not sustainable. Reuse those blogs that have been gathering dust in the 2017 archives by giving them a coat of new paint and repackage them in a new way. Remind users of the existing content on your website instead of focussing too much of your time and efforts on creating something that’s brand-spanking new. Yes – it’s good to respond to the sector and new trends, and you can absolutely do so by putting a new spin on existing content and pushing users back to your museum’s website.

4. Being hard to reach

The more social media profiles your museum has, the more ways audiences can contact you. Whether it’s about your opening hours, available jobs, or negative feedback, it’s important to show that your museum is ON it and respond quickly. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow you to set up automated messages that can share everything from last-minute closures, to troubleshooting basic problems. Make sure that these accounts are monitored, and that bigger concerns and comments get passed up the chain and fed back to management.

5. Not sizing graphics

We’ve seen it so many times and it breaks our heart – a great message being cut off within social feeds because the graphic was badly sized. There are lots of apps that are easy to use for sizing content and loads of articles that quickly tell you the image specifications for each content. Make sure to choose images that are grabbing, on-brand and sized appropriately to capture the interest of your followers.

6. Not joining in festivals and events

There are lots of opportunities here in 2020 to engage digitally in a fun way with followers and gain new audience members as well. Museum Hour is a weekly themed discussion occurring at 20:00 GMT on Twitter. Museum Selfie Day and Ask a Curator are engaging initiatives run by Mar Dixon which have gained a lot of traction within the arts and culture sector. In 2018, The Postal Museum in London joined in Museum Selfie Day by recreating some of their archived images and paintings.


Image: children Participating in The Big Draw (Shutterstock)

There are many participatory events, some world-wide like The Big Draw that are open to schools and community centres as well as museums and galleries.

7. Not using a Social Media Management Tool  

Technology is meant to make our lives easier, right? Then why make things harder on yourself by foregoing a content management system and over-working your brain. Organise your campaigns and schedule them across multiple platforms with ease by using platforms like Hootsuite, CoSchedule and Buffer.

8. Forgetting about print materials

With all of the mailers, newsletters, social media posts and online events of contemporary museum marketing, it’s easy to forget the tried and true power of print. We are living in an age where digital marketing is becoming the norm as costs are often lower and results more measurable.


Above: River & Rowing Museum What’s On Guide designed by Altogether Creative.

This lends print marketing a certain authenticity and cache that’s appealing to the public. Think about how to get your messaging out through precisely placed posters and readable leaflets.

9. Failing to promote your shop

Product placement is key. Can you display some shop items throughout your collection and snap some shots for Instagram as well? Museums like MoMA, Tate and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have Instagram accounts dedicated to their shops and feature available products.

Above: The Met Store Instagram

Enticing flat-lays and snippets about the artist make this a great chance to increase your revenue, track your ROI and show off your snazzy shop wares. Don’t want to create a whole separate account? Work subtle product placement into your regular posts.

10. Not being fully accessible

We’ve still got a long way to go, but thanks to the Wellcome Collection’s newest exhibition “Being Human” and their spotlight on accessibility, museum exhibitions are becoming more accessible. However, museum website and marketing efforts still have a long way to go.

Web accessibility is the practice of removing barriers to participation for those with physical and situational disabilities. Has your museum made efforts to make your website user-friendly to all? Adding subtitles on videos and alternative text to images can help with those who have hearing and vision disabilities. Using short sentences that are free of techy jargon and explaining terms early on within your comms can aid those with dementia and other reading disabilities.

Wrapping things up

Has this article made you think of a museum that needs some help? Share this article with them! Have you got a suggestion of other museum marketing mistakes to avoid? We’d love to hear about them, so please let us know about them on Twitter.

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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