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How can your museum develop an integrated digital content strategy that commands attention?

As many of the contributors at MuseumNext summits have demonstrated over the last two years, museum digital teams should never be siloed. In fact, those institutions that have encouraged collaboration between programming, marketing, digital and sales teams have often been the most successful in navigating their way towards an effective balance of online and In Real Life (IRL) activities.

At the heart of any digital strategy is content creation – and it is perhaps here that bringing teams together is of greatest importance. Bringing together the expertise, insight and ideas of professionals working in different fields can help to craft a truly impactful digital content schedule that drives engagement and showcases the very best that a museum has to offer.

In recent years especially, museums have utilised their digital platforms to create a stronger connection with their audiences, usually through exciting and innovative content. When The Black Country Living Museum took to TikTok in 2020 with short, punchy, historically educational videos, they garnered over 1.3 million followers. These kinds of engaging campaigns can boost both interest and custom for cultural establishments, showing just how vital an integrated digital content strategy is for long term success.

Creating a digital content strategy

The first step for any museum developing a digital content strategy is to consider existing resources. This includes asking where there may be low-hanging fruit from existing exhibitions or collections. Knowing what works from on-hand assets can play an important role in informing the direction of future content generation.

Alongside existing resources, existing audiences should also be taken into account. This means analysing who content is being created for and what kind of content is appealing to them. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that historical audience data for in-person museum visits may not correlate with strategic goals for digital engagement in the future.

Research is a collaborative effort, requiring all members of the museum team to be on board. It goes hand in hand with setting goals and analysing directly what museums are trying to achieve from their content. That may involve reaching a younger audience (leading to more video content, and the use of platforms like TikTok) or creating more business to business partnerships (which may necessitate the use of LinkedIn and other business networking platforms).

With data and goals established, the next step of a digital content strategy is generating ideas. Open discussion, looking to competitors and analysing trends, events and opportunities for growth are essential in allowing museums to expand their audience base with relevant, exciting content.

What does a digital content strategy look like?

Although a digital content strategy will look different for every cultural establishment, Laura Stanley of Charity Digital sets out seven key steps to creating an effective strategy. These are:

  1. Establishing goals and summarising three core objectives
  2. Defining key areas to cover through content
  3. Noting technology and skills needed to deliver content
  4. Establishing cost and timeframe of content
  5. Choosing precise metrics to measure, e.g. number of followers, YouTube views, Twitter impressions etc.
  6. Assigning responsibilities to relevant parties
  7. Setting out next steps and progress assessments

This then allows museum heads to set SMART goals for their teams: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. These give an indication of what is to be expected from each member of staff, and by when, giving everyone a roll within the strategy.

The benefits of a digital content strategy

The right social media campaign can gain drive both online engagement and physical footfall from museum audiences. At the start of 2020, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris launched a campaign that involved weekly Instagram posts from its artist-in-residence, Jean-Phillipe Delhomme. Each Monday, the illustrator would share a piece imagining the museum’s artists as if they were alive today. These regular and consistent posts attracted a dedicated following.

museum instagram

The right digital content strategy offers direction and a clear plan for hitting goals related to growth and audience development. A strategy will provide a clear framework for everyone involved, meaning complete transparency between teams – particularly important when some employees are working remotely or on a hybrid basis. Decision-making becomes easier when a broad awareness of information is present.

Digital content strategies are vital tools for consistency, which in turn improves engagement by producing a steady stream of well-researched, impactful content. Further analysis of the results of a strategy can help museums to hone and optimise content plans over time, helping them to continually improve interactions with audiences.

The MuseumNext Digital Summit 2022 kicks off on the 6th June, and will feature inspiring ideas and case studies from those championing the latest and greatest digital innovations in museums and galleries. Click here to book your tickets now, to make sure you don’t miss out.

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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