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How to get your museum out of a social media rut

It’s easy to get caught in social media posting patterns; particularly when a majority of other museums doing the same thing. However, the days of solely posting images of your collection with long flowery captions are over.

Here are 8 snappy ideas to mix up your social media strategy to engage new audiences and bring awareness to your museum.

Think bigger

Many museums are focused on the immediate metrics following a post, i.e. how many likes and new followers. However, it’s important to step back and look at your overall social media strategy. Is it cohesive? It is in line with your museum’s mission? Look at your museum’s social media short-term and long-term goals alongside the strategy to determine new guidelines that help you identify alternative measures of success.

Keep. It. Concise.

Keep captions to a minimum as modern attention spans appreciate shorter text. The words you use to accompany an image can be a chance to tease your followers. Release the title of an exhibition word by word on social media. Build up a wall of visuals to add impact to a big announcement like The Barbican in London did with their iconic brutalist architecture.

Above: Barbican, Instagram

Social media takeovers/swaps

If you’re feeling like your audience might be tired of hearing your museum’s organisational voice and perspective over and over, then you’re probably right. Mix things up by inviting guests to take over one of your social media accounts for the day to see your collection or a special event through their eyes.

#MuseumInstaSwap is an initiative that was originally born in London but has now been adopted by New York City. In 2018, a whopping 42 New York City museums, galleries and arts and culture organisations participated in the now annual social media initiative aimed at highlighting the breadth of arts and culture institutions within the city. The premise is that organisations are coupled together based on their collections, interests and aims. For example, the art-deco Neue Galerie was partnered with NYC’s Poster House in 2018 and the duo’s posts beautifully complemented one another as there was a genuine shared interest and passion.

Above: Neue Galerie, Instagram

Identify an organisation or individual with a similar ethos and social media presence and give them a shout! You may find that other museums are looking to switch up their social media as well.

Embrace your silly side

Entire dissertations have been written about cat memes on the internet. The time of the meme and the GIF is now.

LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been a cheeky presence on social media for years with their comedic Snapchat stories and Instagram posts. They use their collection to connect with audiences and share their artworks with the world. Humour is a great way to connect with those who may find your museum inaccessible either physically or mentally. Invite people to experience your collection in a new way and engage digitally.

Above: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, Instagram


The Brooklyn Museum has a social media series featuring their staff called BKM WAY which stands for “Brooklyn Museum, We Are You”. The series highlights the various departments and talented staff members behind every museum visit. Glimpsing what happens behind the scenes can help visitors to understand the bigger picture for your organisation and allow them to feel more connected. Featuring your staff, trustees and volunteers is something museums can do year-round, not just on the annual appreciation days.

Above: BKM WAY, Brooklyn Museum, Instagram


Hop on bandwagons

Whether it be to commemorate Valentine’s Day like the Royal Academy did in their cupid-inspired tweet or to take part in a new trend that’s been bobbing round in your newsfeed, it’s important to use social media to mark special days and months.

Use Women’s History Month (March) to highlight female artists in your collection. Photography Day (19 August) could be used to either highlight photographs in your collection, or you could explore your collection through the eye of a lens. There are lots of possibilities to get creative and engage with national and international audiences.

Royal Academy Twitter

Above: The Royal Academy, Twitter.

Pose a challenge

Engage your followers in a social media challenge. This can be anything from an invitation for comments on a post to a full-blown curated exhibition like Seattle’s Frye Museum posed to the world in 2015 for the curation of their exhibition, “#SocialMedium”.

Social Media Museums

Above: Frye Museum, #SocialMedium

If you’re aiming to operate on a smaller scale, then take inspiration from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam that has a dedicated Instagram story to highlighting how visitors from across the world pronounce the museum’s namesake, “Van Gogh”. The story puts visitors front and centre, mixing up the content from institutional voices and objects.


Change up your visuals

Take some inspiration from both inside and outside your museum to switch up visuals.

An easy way to do this is to look a bit closer at some elements of your museum’s collection, architecture and/or grounds. Post some magnified images and challenge your followers to identify the contents or even better, go on a scavenger hunt within your museum!

Chicago’s Field Museum posted a magnified photo of turkey feathers around the American holiday of Thanksgiving and used the opportunity to educate visitors about the iconic birds. To change things up, look for interesting patterns, colours, textures and details within your collection, then create a strategy to showcase them and engage your followers in your museum’s collection and mission.

Field Museum Instagram

Above: Chicago’s Field Museum, Instagram

Wrapping things up

Don’t get stuck in daily routines and promotion circles with social media. Take the time to step back and identify what’s working and what’s not. Then, break out of that rut by using some of the ideas above. You may find new followers and inspire other museums to break out of their social media shell as well.

Just getting started with social media? This article on social media basics for museums should help.

About the author – Devon Rose 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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