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How Museums Can Work With Social Media Influencers

You may associate influencer marketing with bikini-clad Instagram models posing with detox tea and encouraging you to use their promo code. How on earth could this model (pun intended) be applied to arts and culture organisations, you may ask? In this article, we’ll give you an overview of why your museum should consider this approach to marketing.

The Benefits of Influencer Marketing to Museums

Influencer marketing isn’t just reserved for the likes of detox teas. This is best exemplified by the Louvre’s record-breaking year of visitorship in 2018 following the release of Béyonce and Jay-Z’s Apeshit music video. The video used the Louvre as a backdrop, showcasing works of art throughout the museum. Following its release, the Louvre welcomed 1.2 million visitors in 2018, a 25% increase over 2017. Béyonce and Jay-Z effectively endorsed the Louvre as a contemporary, relevant, all-round cool place to be, and the increase in visitorship proves that the world took note.

 


While endorsements from Béyonce and Jay-Z don’t pop up left, right and centre, the same principle can be applied on a smaller scale to any cultural institution. What influencers offer is a unique ability to connect with their audience in the way that institutions can’t always produce on their own. Followers trust influencers, not necessarily because of their fame or celebrity, but rather the personal connection they feel through accessing the influencer’s content on a regular basis. This goes back to that authenticity that we talked about when establishing your brand and voice. This intimate engagement that can be effectively harnessed by cultural institutions through partnerships with influencers. 

You want to target audiences who can be converted into visitors, and influencer marketing could be a great way to do just this. Instead of throwing your message out for anyone to hear, influencer marketing enables you to deliver your message directly to a small, but invested market. Influencer marketing can generate organic, collaborative content that sparks higher rates of user engagement than a blanket marketing campaign. Moreover, your message comes from a trusted source (the influencer) directly to their following (your target market). With the right research, you can choose an influencer whose following with a genuine interest in what you’re offering. 

Who to Choose 

Choosing the right influencers to work with is the most important part of this marketing model. You’ll need someone who reflects your brand and whose following will be invested and interested in engaging with your institution. First, you’ll need to know your brand and your target audience. What audience are you trying to reach and on which platforms? What are your strongest platforms, and is your message relevant to new platforms? We’ve discussed all of this last week so by now you should have that target audience formed and it’s important to keep them in mind when choosing an appropriate influencer to work with. 

Finding the influencer with the biggest following isn’t necessarily the best approach; you’re looking for the person who has developed the best trust with your target audience. There are a few kinds of influencer to consider: 

  • Macro influencer: Think famous internet moguls like Kylie Jenner. These influencers typically have 100,000 to millions of followers. They can target a really broad audience, such as ‘young people’ or ‘women.’ This kind of influencer can come with a much higher price tag. With a macro influencer, your institution will be visible to millions of people.
  • Micro influencer: Micro influencers are considered ‘normal’ people with roughly between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. Micro influencers have a high engagement level with their fan bases, a specific audience who is deeply connected to them and trusts them. Because of this close relationship, followers are more willing to believe that a micro influencer actually endorses what they’re promoting. They are typically seeking opportunities to connect with institutions that align with their audience.
  • Nano influencer: Do you have that friend who just happens to be really good at social media, and people always seem to like their stuff? That friend probably hasn’t worked with a brand before, but they’re exactly the kind of content creator who’s prime to become a nano influencer. Nano influencers have up to just 5000 followers. They’re more like a good friend giving you a solid recommendation than a celebrity. Nano influencers tend to be the most authentic and intimate kind of influencer marketing. 

Consider an influencer and their celebrity carefully before approaching them. You’re entrusting the reputation of your institution to a third party. You need to be certain the relationship you’re building with them is what you’re looking for, and that the influencer really represents your institution and your values. 

When choosing influencers to approach, you might want to consider some of the following questions: 

  • What is the influencer’s area of expertise? 
  • How does your institution align with the influencer’s audience and image? 
  • Does this influencer and their audience use the same channels and platforms as your audience? 
  • What does a typical follower of this influencer look like? Is this follower likely to be interested in your institution? 
  • What is this influencer’s reputation? Are they generally well-liked? 

Before we dive into how to find and approach influencers, let’s quickly consider platforms and content types. As mentioned above, you should consider platforms as carefully as you would consider which influencer you want to work with. The platform and content type their audience accesses should align with the audience you’re looking to target. 

Here’s a list of influencer marketing channels and content types to consider when you’re approaching influencers: 

 

Marketing Channel Content Types
Facebook Posts, sponsored live videos
Instagram Posts, stories
LinkedIn Posts, videos
Snapchat Photos, videos, filters
Twitter Posts, videos, hashtags, discussions
Blogs Blog posts
YouTube Videos

 

How to Find Influencers for your Museum

You’ve now honed in on your target audience after careful consideration and planning… You know what platforms and content they engage with…. So, now you’re at the stage where you’re ready to find influencers that speak to this target audience and have created a solid trust with them. Here are a few ways you might think about finding the right influencer for you: 

  • Use an online service that connects influencers and institutions. This is an easy place to start because these services will have done the majority of the work for you, letting you pick and choose from people who are likely to be most relevant to your institution.
  • Try a digital PR service like BuzzStream. This service will allow you to research influencers and build your own database of potential influencer-partners based on their following, relevance, and power.
  • Write a carefully considered brief of what you’re looking for and the kind of campaign you’re hoping to run. You can then post it on a platform like Tribe or Takumi. These platforms connect influencers or content creators and institutions who are looking for someone to promote their brand. Platforms like these are particularly popular with micro influencers, many of whom are keenly seeking partnerships. The benefit of these services is that influencers are vetted and can be searched based on their relevance to your brand.
  • Use social media. Find influencers where they live and breathe–on social media.
  • Try following hashtags like #PRrequest, #PRrequests, #Journorequest or #Journorequests on Twitter. These hashtags allow you to see the kinds of opportunities other institutions and brands are posting. You can even try posting your own opportunities using these hashtags, which more likely target micro or nano influencers.
  • Join Facebook groups such as UK Influence Opportunities, where opportunities for influencers are posted similar to the Twitter hashtags above.
  • Harness your own social media following to bring influencers to you. Depending on the nature and size of your institution’s following, posting on your own feeds that you’re seeking people to partner with may help in finding the right influencer.  
  • Do some good old fashioned market research. Understanding the platforms and types of content your target audience are accessing is ultimately going to be the best way to find the right influencer to partner with.
  • Do a search of relevant, niche publications that are accessed by your target audience. Start with people who are regular contributors, or whose names continually pop up in the news or social media. Who do they follow? Who follows them?
  • If all else fails, try a quick Google search of what you’re looking for , e.g. ‘top influencers in arts and culture’ or ‘influencers twitter arts and culture young people.’ You never know who may turn up! 

How a Museum Should Approach Influencers

Finding the right influencer is like online dating–you may have to sift through a lot of options, but you’ve finally found the one for you. You’re ready to ask them out–ahem, approach them about a partnership. But much like online dating, the trick is to do this in the right way. 

Sending an email is the simplest way to make contact with an influencer about a potential partnership. However, depending on the level of influencer you’re looking to work with, they could be inundated with requests to partner every day. Many of these requests may be spam, irrelevant to them, or just plain uninteresting. You want your request to stand out from the pack. This is relationship marketing after all, which is by nature a two-way street–you know why you want to work with them, but now you need to make them see why they want to work with you. Here are some simple guidelines on best practice for first contact: 

  • Keep your email short and sweet. They might receive a hundred requests per day, so they don’t necessarily have time to read a lengthy proposal.
  • Be clear and upfront. Explain clearly what your institution does and what you’re looking to achieve. Ideally do this in the first paragraph of your email so the influencer gets an immediate sense of whether or not this is something they want to engage with. 
  • Personalise your email. You might be contacting a range of influencers to see who will be the best fit, but that doesn’t mean you should take a one-size-fits-all approach. Make sure the influencer knows why you chose them specifically. 
  • Suggest content ideas. It’s a good idea to offer suggestions of what you’re thinking might work, but ultimately the influencer knows their audience best. Don’t be too prescriptive and leave room to work together on campaign ideas. 
  • Write like a person. There’s a time and a place for institutional voice, but this isn’t one of them. Write like a human connecting with another human. 
  • Add value for them. Make sure you highlight what value this partnership brings them, even if the partnership you’re proposing isn’t monetary. 
  • Make saying yes easy. Don’t ask them to fill out a form or get back to you with ten content ideas; instead, just ask them if they’re interested and available. A simple yes will do. 

If you’re not able to get an influencer’s email, you can also approach them through direct message on their social media platforms. However, treat the direct message as a launching point. Give the influencer your elevator pitch and ask if you can contact them via email or phone to discuss the partnership further. 

If you don’t hear back from an influencer right away, don’t be discouraged and feel free to follow up with them. They’re wading through hundreds of emails–pushing yours back to the top of the pile doesn’t hurt. When following up, be sure to strike a balance between gentle reminders and constant spam. 

How to Set Clear Expectations and Guidelines

You’re in–an influencer has agreed to partner with you! Now you need to set expectations and guidelines for your campaign, including what kind of campaign you’re hoping to run together. Here are some examples of different campaigns: 

  • Reposting their content on your channel. This is the simplest kind of partnership which can be achieved with a simple direct message or email asking for their permission. A lot of micro or nano influencers might agree to a repost just for the exposure. 
  • Co-created content. Your institution and the influencer will work together to produce content that can be posted on both your channels.
  • Event or product marketing. You’re trying to drive traffic to your institution, be it a particular exhibition, show or specific event. You can ask the influencer to post about the event to their followers and/or invite them to attend themselves.
  • Takeovers. The influencer takes over your social media channel(s) for an agreed amount of time. This encourages their following to engage with your channel, drawing in new followers and engaging their audience.

Dependent on your campaign, the next step will be to create a campaign plan. Work with the influencer to determine a timeline, goals and key performance indicators for the campaign. Key performance indicators are wide-ranging, but can include impressions, views, engagements, click-throughs, increase in followers, and/or sales. Make sure you’re agreed on messaging and delivery of the campaign. Give good examples of similar posts that align with your brand, while leaving room for influencers to tailor content to their audience. Review the content the influencer is producing before it’s posted. Include specific requirements, guidelines, payment schedules and consult with your legal team or advisor before solidifying your campaign plan and contract. 

For some influencers, payment may come in the form of free tickets or an exchange of cross-posted content. However, larger micro influencers macro influencers may require monetary compensation. When budgeting, do your research and be aware of the return for your investment. Return for investment can be difficult to manage, especially with nano and micro influencers, so be mindful of what you’re willing to spend. If your institution does social media advertising or sponsored newsletters, it may be worthwhile connecting with your marketing or digital departments to compare cost and engagement rates on these kinds of campaigns versus what you’re expecting from your influencer. 

Always expect that you’ll have to put some budget up when working with influencer marketing. You’re creating a personal relationship with them, but at the end of the day it’s still an exchange of goods and services. You may even end up spending more on an influencer than a nonspecific audience campaign, dependent on the kind of influencer marketing campaign you’re building. Remember that you’re paying for a curated, engaged following and the in-built trust with that audience. Be aware of your brand value and the influencer’s brand value, as this will impact how you compensate the influencer. Also consider maximising your budget by using multiple influencers in lighter-touch ways but bringing the campaign together using a hashtag. 

Here are a few helpful tips to consider as you develop your campaign plan: 

  • Be transparent. What are your expectations for the campaign? What key performance indicators are you using to measure its success? 
  • You’re working with a person, not an agency. Influencers sometimes get a rap for being difficult to manage. You need to set up clear guidelines but remember that this isn’t a purely transactional interaction–you’re building a relationship with the influencer and their following. 
  • Strive for continuity. Relationship marketing isn’t transactional so be sure to stay in touch with influencers and maintain your relationship. You may want to work with them again. 

Final Takeaways on Museums and Influencers

In this competitive climate for art and culture institutions, any added edge to get your brand and message out there is much needed. Influencer marketing may sound like a foreign land reserved for the likes of diet teas, but even the simplest reposting of content is the beginning of building a relationship with an influencer. Here’s a quick overview of the key takeaways from this article: 

  • Know your brand and your target audience. It’s the easiest way to target the right influencers to partner with. It’s also the best way to find key influencers–by using platforms and accessing content in the same way your target audience does.
  • Choose the right influencer, not the one with the largest following. The largest following does equate to the best engagement. Find someone who speaks to your audience and who has a deep engagement and trust with them. Quality over quantity! 
  • Approach and work with influencers in an engaging, personable way. Influencer marketing is relationship marketing. You’re working with a personal brand that aligns with your own–create a similar level of trust in the influencer as the influencer’s followers have them. 
  • Be clear and upfront with influencers. As person-to-person as this interaction may be, it’s still important to have clear guidelines outlining the goals and key performance indicators of your campaign. 

Now go co-create that viral content in partnership with Queen Bey herself! 

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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