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Finding your Museum’s TikTok Niche

TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms and in 2021 had more online traffic than Google.  As its growth and engagement numbers continue to skyrocket, it’s time for museums to take TikTok seriously as part of a digital strategy.

Meagan Hook is the digital content and social media manager for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – the biggest children’s museum in the world. It was Meagan who was responsible for keeping people digitally engaged in the museum during Covid closures and is now getting visitors back through the doors once again.

In her recent presentation for MuseumNext, Meagan discussed how she led the museum’s TikTok account in achieving more than 2 million video likes in just under one year and what tips she can offer other institutions.  

Finding your niche

As of April 2022, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis had 220,000 followers and 5.6 million video likes on their TikTok account. But this didn’t happen overnight. It involved trial and error, constant idea searching and creativity.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, TikTok has a For You Page (also known as FYP) which allows users to easily find new content and accounts to follow that they might not be aware of. It’s a great way of helping new audiences to discover accounts to take notice of but to get there, there are some basics to get right.

@childrensmuseum Adults sometimes have more fun than the kiddos #socringe #guilty #indiana #indianapolis #nostalgia #childhood #childrensmuseumofindianapolis #childrensmuseum #kimkardashian #childhoodmemories #healinginnerchild ♬ original sound – athena

Firstly, museum social teams should always add captions to videos that are relevant to their establishment as well as the location. Similarly, a cover title should always be added to a museum’s profile, which can be done right before publishing. Another essential step is to watch a preview of all content to ensure quality before putting anything live.

If you’re struggling with creativity or subjects when it comes to TikTok, look at other profiles for inspiration and see how they are framing their subjects or what trends they are following. Follow other brands and take in their content style but it’s worth keeping in mind that you will not have success on a brand account if you aren’t actively researching and scrolling constantly to be able to jump on trends and ideas.

An active Google doc with things like ‘idea’, ‘do this video’, ‘sound’, can be helpful for a team to help frame creativity with actions.

Brands really love to help other brands, so collaboration is also key. For example, the Children’s Museum partnered with a local Harry Potter cosplay artist who was able to interact with the Harry Potter exhibits at the museum and share posts across their own account.

Lean into trends

Find trends worth leaning into that your museum can add a personal touch to – popular songs or local stories, for example. It’s worthwhile having videos and content in your back-pocket to be able to jump on trends so try and just take videos of areas or objects in your museum that are always at your disposal to potentially use.

Nostalgia is also a fun way of engaging people in content, so create content that people can reminisce over or that might trigger a memory or emotional response. Ideally you want users to post questions, comment, tag or respond. Encouraging user engagement is the lifeblood of TikTok.

@childrensmuseum Shaggy is NOT a fan of GHOSTS. #ghosts #nostalgia #childhood #healinginnerchild #scooby #scoobydoo #whatsnewscoobydoo #shaggyandscooby #scoobyandshaggy #childrensmuseum #indianapolis #indiana #indianapolisindiana #matthewlillard #gencon #gencon2022 ♬ original sound – Children’s Museum

There are several options for content delivery on TikTok. For example, once you have 100 followers you can go live which supports more live tours or scheduled live sessions to support users at home. There are also options to do a timelapse video of perhaps a new exhibition coming together but the key is to be consistent and commit to creating content for the museum account.

It’s worth keeping in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Nothing on TikTok is perfect and instead the goal should be to come across as candid and authentic.

About the author – Tim Deakin

Tim Deakin is a journalist and editorial consultant working with a broad range of online publications.

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