Search Museum Next

Museum puts T. rex on Tinder to make new audiences fall in love with them

Teddy is your average T. rex, loud, hungry (#palaeodiet), fossilized, and he loves a good movie theme song. But what is he doing on Tinder? Well let me explain because there is a very good reason.

Friday Night Live

We have a popular event that we run at the museum 18 times per year in two seasons called Friday Night Live (#FNLROM). We’ve been running the event since 2012 and in the early days we were usually very busy on social media pre, during, and post events. We were sharing content, handling customer service, engaging with visitors, and it was glorious. We were the first museum in the world to run a live social media photo wall and we really gave ownership over the event to our attendees by encouraging and featuring their content. We not only acknowledged their content but we put it on the wall! This was the very early days of user generated content (UGC) and we were proud to be on this cutting edge, it made a difference in the event and our digital engagement presence. Our mentions and engagement rates skyrocketed on Friday nights during an #FNLROM season, the hashtag regularly trended, sometimes across Canada and the event was mostly sold out every week. Everyone was happy.


Our community engagement began to ebb as #FNLROM matured and people’s social media habits evolved. In the early days we were sending between 50–75 tweets in a four hour span, some original content but most were replies. In the last two years that’s dropped to around 10 in the same time period. We’ve also recognized a huge drop in UGC at the events, people just aren’t sharing their experience as much anymore, or at least not publicly. It is true that we’re doing more on Facebook around the events, we’re also doing more on Instagram and Snapchat with regular geo-filters and stories but we were still left wondering, where did everybody go?

Tinder’s tagline: Every connection can change your life

According to Tinder’s website, “The people we meet change our lives. A friend, a date, a romance, or even a chance encounter can change someone’s life forever. Tinder empowers users around the world to create new connections that otherwise might never have been possible. We build products that bring people together.”

Honestly, unless you’re a regular visitor to Chicago (? @SuetheTrex!) when do you ever get a chance to chat up a T. rex? It is almost like the good people at Tinder were begging us to do it.

There are 50 million active users on Tinder, and 10 million daily active users. 45% of them are 25–34, 38% are 16–24 and as far as I know, there are currently no other museums in the world looking at this platform as an engagement tactic.

Our objectives for this initiative are to provide a surprising, fun, and unexpected way for people to connect with the ROM and our collection.

We built out Teddy’s profile including a catchy bio/interests and made sure it was obvious that this was is a Dinosaur at the Museum (that’s his job). We also posted multiple photos of Teddy so you could see he is a fun guy. Profiles must be linked to a Facebook profile, so we had to create a Facebook account for Teddy as well. One of the great/slightly terrifying features of Tinder is the location-aware capabilities, we keep Teddy’s discoverability down to 2kms in the hopes of engaging people onsite at #FNLROM. That said, we also connect with a lot of people not at the museum on a Friday night and have the opportunity to tell them about #FNLROM (ROI!).

Teddy’s got Game

Personal confession: I have been off the market since 2003, Facebook was an infant and OkCupid, or, please. Any form of online dating is extremely foreign to me and slightly terrifying. Shout out to my colleague Jacqueline Waters for giving Teddy some game. It is one thing to have a great profile but you’ve got to have killer game to get a dialogue going.

Some of the conversation we get into are light hearted like the above, some genuinely want to meet up (there’s a lot of bone jokes, I’ll spare you) and many have no idea what #FNLROM is and want to know more and a few are just having a good time talking to a T. rex.

This guy obviously hasn’t seen the below image before

I was happily surprised how easy it was to connect with people, I wasn’t sure people would connect with a dinosaur, and I equally surprised when people ask about #FNLROM.

We chat up everybody!

When we were coming up with this initiative we were originally going to create a male and female profile but we decided to just do one and talk to everyone.

It is surprisingly easy to get people to chat about #FNLROM, in the above example we didn’t even give her the link, she must have searched it herself and asked us which theme/week we liked best. #winning

Now for some data

Anytime you do something on social media, somebody always puts up their hand and say, “yes, but what’s the ROI?” This is for you, somebody.

We’ve been running this pilot since May 12, 2017. Tonight, June 2nd, 2017 will be Teddy’s fourth time on the platform. We only engage with people during #FNLROM which runs from 7-11pm on Fridays.

So far we’ve connected with 51 people and have had conversations with 37 of them. 4 people responded to us with a bone joke, and some people just laugh at poor Teddy…

But we’re committed to see this fun little experiment through until the end of this season of Friday Night Live. So far out of the 37 conversations we’ve had with people we were able to swing the conversation around to #FNLROM 11 times and we’re happy with that. We have no way of knowing if they’ll actually show up, unless they reach out while onsite but at least we’ve had that chat and for now we’re happy to see where things go.

Conversation is the goal

Teddy is all about conversation. This whole experiment is our chance to break away from the marketing 2.0 that social media has become and get back to the roots of social media, dialogue.

If you are planning on doing something similar at your museum, let me know, and if you think we’re crazy, let us know too!

About the author – Ryan Dodge

As the Royal Ontario Museum’s Digital Engagement Coordinator, Ryan Dodge is focussed on digital content creation, campaign and community management, as well as building digital capacity within the institution. He is active in the global museum community and has volunteered with the Canadian Museums Association’s Young Canada Works Project, the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report: Museum Edition and the board of ICOM Canada. He is currently a board member of the Virtual Museum of Canada and the Museum Computer Network’s part-time Digital Content and Community Manager.

Subscribe to the latest museum thinking

Fresh ideas from museums around the globe in your inbox each week