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How museums can adapt their content to new short-video formats

In August 2020, Instagram launched a new content format for its users, to compete with the ever growing popularity of TikTok and integrate more diversity into its content offering. Instagram Reels are short, entertaining videos no longer than 30 seconds, which many have commented, mimic the style of the new video sharing network, TikTok.

This update from Instagram also included a redesigned user interface, which places Reels centrally in the main navigation bar, and is a sign of things to come from social media platforms, where the future is likely video-based.

In fact, over the past few years a number of reports have pointed to the growth and success of video based content as a marketing tool, with a rise in the number of businesses using video increasing 41% since 2016, and many marketers suggesting that video provides a positive return on investment.

So it’s no surprise that our favourite social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram, are adapting to new content formats, especially seeing the recent success of young platforms like Twitch and TikTok who put video first. Even YouTube, the long-time reigning video sharing platform, has recently introduced Shorts, to benefit from the popularity of the brief clips we saw on TikTok.

It’s likely we will have an increasing amount of places to now present pre-recorded visual content online, and this rapid proliferation of such formats can leave those, especially with tight budgets, bewildered as to which to invest their time and energy in, so below I’ve outlined some things to consider when creating content in this new format.

Choosing a video platform

TikTok, Instagram and YouTube all now cater to short form clips. So if you’d like to cut your teeth on this type of content it’s important to consider what each platform offers specifically.

For example, we’ve seen many museums, cultural organisations and educators, flock to TikTok for the promise of a younger audience that they may not currently reach on other platforms. In this way, the video content you create for TikTok should be a departure from the themes and tones you use on your already established Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, because the content will be devised to speak to a newer audience, who have vastly different interests and engagement habits.

Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, is a great example of this shift in tone. On Instagram, you’ll find one of their artworks accompanied by a long descriptive caption providing context and insight into the work or its creator. Whereas on TikTok the gallery can be found publishing more playful compilations that show details of a specific work accompanied by fun background music that is in keeping with the mood of the piece. The captions here are also much shorter and are often more humorous in tone or stick to a meme-like format.

Whilst Instagram adopted the short clip format, in an almost identical way to TikTok, the content you should create for Reels may not be the same. This is because it is likely you already have an established audience on Instagram, who are familiar with a certain tone of content. Your Reels should therefore be in-keeping with these established traits.

Of course, the addition of music, snappy captions and entertaining twists should still be stressed for your Reel to perform well, but you should be mindful that it will be seen by a wider range of demographics, and can also be posted to your main feed for all of your followers to see.

Using Reels can be a really easy way to start out with this newer content format, and currently comes with some added benefits. Due to this being a new feature for Instagram, it appears that the algorithm for Reels is almost awarding users who try it out. With many reporting exponential growth in reach from Reels when they began actively using the feature.

However, with it being so new, the future of Reels is unknown, and Instagram frequently provides updates and changes to this format. Including the fact that content copied from TikTok may be shadow banned from being viewed – having been identified by the logo that would appear when transferring between apps. (A quick trick for this, if you want to crosspost from TikTok to Reels is to save your videos before posting, without the watermark and music, and reuploading to Instagram and adding sound again in the Reels creator).

Take a look at the National Trust’s Instagram Reels to see how sometimes, simplicity can be key.


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A post shared by nationaltrust (@nationaltrust)

Finally, you may have heard of YouTube’s new ‘Shorts’ feature which the potential of, is still yet to be seen. So far, many creators haven’t found much benefit from using these Shorts, but there are still tweaks to be worked out. If you already use YouTube, it may be something to keep an eye on, and will probably work well in the future as short trailers for larger videos you have on the site.

5 Short Video Ideas for Museums and Cultural Orgs

The best way to approach new formats like this, is to experiment and see what works best for your audience, or if starting out, what resonates best with your organisation. To get you started here are a few pieces of content you may already have on your website or other platforms that you can transform into short videos…

1. Tour Videos

If your organisation has a physical space you may have images or video clips of it, that you can compile into a mini tour.

2. Object in your collection

Whether you’re a science museum, an art collection or a local history museum you’ll have plenty of objects and artifacts that have stories, so tell them.

3. Expert Talk

Video one of your colleagues talking about an upcoming event, or your organisation.

4. Reuse a long-form blog post, or tutorial from your website

If you have any written out activities for families, children or schools to get involved with on your website, bring these pieces of content to life by filming a short tutorial version of them.

5. Behind the scenes content

Everyone loves to peek behind the curtain, show a part of your organisation that not many people may know about, through video or image compilations with voiceovers.

About the author – Hollie Hilton

Hollie Hilton is a Freelance Social Media Strategist and Digital Content Producer who works exclusively with Artists and Art-led businesses such as galleries, grassroots organisations, tech start-ups and charities, to help create compelling digital content that reaches new audiences. She also writes and hosts workshops to help Artists navigate online spaces and expand their digital presence.

Her degree in History of Art and experience working in-house for a gallery’s marketing and communications team, encouraged Hollie to use her skills and contextual knowledge to make Art and Culture more accessible to audiences that are often excluded or intimidated by it, and equip Artists with skills that help them achieve greater independence in the marketing and storytelling of their work.

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