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Digital Engagement for Museum Suppliers

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how museums should approach digital engagement. I even wrote a book about it.

But what about those of us who work with the museum sector as suppliers? Over the past twenty years, I’ve built two businesses around the cultural sector.

For 16 years I ran a design agency which worked with some of the most famous museums in the world (I sold this in 2016), and for over a decade I’ve been running MuseumNext, a media and training business for the museum sector.

For both of these businesses, digital engagement has been vital. I don’t think either would have enjoyed the success that they have without Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Above: Jim Richardson speaking at Kom Je Ook Conference in the Netherlands

To a certain extent, this comes down to my business philosophy.

I’ve chosen to focus on being an expert in a narrow niche, museums. I’ve got a lot of knowledge and experience in this sector. By sharing some of this through digital, I can add value to the conversations.

For me, this is the basics of how museum suppliers should be using digital. Social networks aren’t spaces for advertising; they’re where professional conversations are taking place. 

Your starting point should be to think about what expertise and experience can you bring to the table. 

The expert firms who operate in the museum sector have a wealth of knowledge that could be of benefit to colleagues in museums.

This has so much more value than trying to get a sale with a tweet.

Creating Great Content

Take out a notebook now and write down twenty blog posts that you could write based on your expertise.

If you’re an expert this shouldn’t be any problem, here are a few examples based on my design agency:

  • How to create a museum brand that stands out
  • Five things your museum website must do
  • Advertising to attract millennials to your museum

Think about the problems that your clients are facing. What questions keep coming up in sales conversations? What problems do you continually solve to help your clients?

Creating useful content that can help those in the museum sector to make better decisions is key to successful digital engagement. 

Create an article around each subject and share a new article on social media every week. This will give you rich and unique content that reinforces your businesses claim to expertise and help build your brand and your network in these spaces.

If your company website doesn’t have a blog, you should add one. This will allow visitors to easily click through to find out more about your products or services.

The one exception is if you’re publishing your articles on a high traffic industry publication like MuseumNext.

For example WeGoEU help museums to reach Chinese visitors. They have been regularly publishing sponsored content like this on MuseumNext to share their expertise with our audiences over the course of 2020. 

As well as sharing your own knowledge, I believe that expert firms within the museum sector have a role to play in giving a platform to their clients.

If you’ve created a successful project, interview your client about this and create content that shares what they learnt along the way. 

This content could be turned into an article, a podcast or a film, but whatever the format this gives you interesting content to share across social media and shows a client advocating on your behalf.


Above: Free webinar by ATS Heritage

During the Covid-19 lockdown many suppliers to the museum sector have looked to create free webinars around their area of expertise. Often this is for brand building purposes with little mention of the company or what it does.

Producing content when you have no time

Sometimes what stops museum suppliers from producing content is a lack of time. MuseumNext has published more than 500 articles in the past year, and I’ve found that the key to consistently publishing is simple.

Don’t try and do everything yourself. 

While I’ve controlled what subjects we write about on the website, in the past 12 months, I have only written about 25 articles. 

Most content is produced by our talented team of freelance writers who create articles based on briefings, telephone conversations and interviews. 

For me, expert-led content has been an incredibly valuable marketing tool. It adds value to the whole community, creates interesting content for social media and positions your brand as expert in the space (leading to more opportunities such as speaking at conferences).

So what are you going to share?

About the author – Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the founder of MuseumNext. He has worked with the museum sector on digital and innovation projects for more than twenty years and now spends his time championing best practice through MuseumNext.

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