Category Archives: non-profit

IMG_4311Art museums had long been considered unwelcoming treasure houses filled with invaluable pieces of art tucked away for the enjoyment of a select few. Over the past couple of decades, however, museums broadened their focus to include welcoming and educating the public. With the advent of the internet and social media, it became even easier for museums to share their treasures with the world. Now, social media allows museums to interact with the public, near and far, in ways that were once unimaginable. Here are some best practices to make sure that your institution is connecting with as broad an audience as possible on social media:

  • Share your museum’s mission with your audience frequently
  • Highlight your collection – followers and fans respond to visual posts, and you likely have an arsenal of images at your fingertips
  • Advertise all events and programs at your museum on social channels to create perceived value and invite your local audience to join in on-site
  • Create online-only content for your long-distance audience
  • Vary content by platforms to encourage fans and followers to engage with you on multiple social channels
  • Don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor and be lighthearted at times
  • Engage on-site visitors and fans from afar alike though interactive social media campaigns and contests

With all of this technology at our fingertips, there is so much opportunity for museums to develop a large and engaged audience on social media. Follow these best practices, and you’ll be well on your way to a developed social media strategy.

Image via SproutSocial

Image via SproutSocial

At museums, cultural institutions, and other non-profits, the social media team is responsible for supporting and marketing the programs, events, and mission of the organization. Due to the collaborative nature of museums, it is essential that all stakeholders meet regularly with the social media and marketing team. Although almost every single department could potentially contribute content and ideas to the social media team, it is the most important to meet with the curatorial, education, public programs, membership, and development departments. Each of these departments has a large stake in the museums’ success as well as different, specific audiences.

The curatorial department is the bread and butter of the museum. Without art and exhibitions, the museum would not exist. Sharing information about the museums’ collection, current and forthcoming exhibitions, and curatorial programs is the best way to get people interested in the museum.

The education and public programs department is responsible for creating programs to engage the public with the museum and its collection. These programs are usually less academically focused than the curatorial programs and try to knock down barriers to entry to engage new audiences.

The membership and development departments are responsible for fundraising efforts at the museum. Individual and corporate fundraising is essential for non-profits as public and private grants become increasingly scarcer. The membership and development departments seek to inform the donors, potential donors, and non-donors about the importance of fundraising support.

Although it may seem like there is the potential for there to be too many cooks in the kitchen, it is essential to make sure that all of these different voices are represented and the respective audiences are being served.

Ultimately, the marketing and social media team should have the final say and sign off on social media messages and campaigns, as they are responsible for staying true to the institutions overall brand.

Photo by: Sean MacEntee

Photo by: Sean MacEntee

Using social media to represent your institution requires a lot more time, energy, and strategy than one might think. Today, a poor social media presence can be more detrimental than the lack of a social media presence. It is important that your museum or cultural institution take social media seriously and plan to be professional about sharing your mission and brand.

One of the things I often heard during my time working for museums was that social media was something that could or should be a tiny part of one or more people’s jobs. Even worse, it was often suggested that social media be managed exclusively by volunteer interns. I think these suggestions were fueled by the fact that many people believed that social media was a low or no-cost marketing tool when, in fact, it has proven to be a tool that requires constant upkeep and attention to do it well.

The biggest thing for non-profits and cultural organizations to keep in mind when preparing for success on social media is not to underestimate the amount of time and energy that is required for a strategic and engaging online presence. Slapping together a half-thought-out strategy just to get some posts out may seem like it is better than nothing, but, in reality, hastiness could actually be detrimental to your brand.

I know that museums and non-profits are often strapped for cash and are forced to stretch their resources as thin as possible, but it is very important to task a full-time employee, who knows the ins and outs of the organization and mission, with managing the social media strategy and accounts. Although allocating time and money for a social media/marketing manager may seem like a poor use of funds, if the organization’s goals include expanding and engaging with a broad audience, you cannot afford not to have a bold and dynamic online presence.

Remember:
1) Allocate resources to social media management and strategy
2) Be professional
3) Bad content can be worse than no content

If you take the time, energy, and effort to put together a cohesive social media plan, your organization will only benefit from mission and brand exposure to new and captive social media audiences.

Museums are beloved by many, and as such, there is an incredibly large community of social media users with an affinity towards museums and cultural institutions. Over the past five years of my own social media usage, I’ve recognized the following three museum industry influencers: Colleen Dilen, Tyler Green, and Museum Nerd.

Although Colleen Dilen has the fewest followers of the three, I listed her first because her focus is particularly interesting to me. Colleen (@cdilly on Twitter) uses data to help non-profits ensure success by improving visitation, engagement, and more through data-driven adjustments and approaches. She is one of the few people in this niche field that shares her data openly and often, and her blog, Know Your Own Bone is a tremendous and thought-provoking resource.

Tyler Green (@TylerGreenDC on Twitter) is an art critic, blogger, and podcast host/producer of Modern Art Notes. With over 26,000 followers on Twitter, Tyler is a well-respected art critic and is constantly engaging both his followers and museums in critical discuss about exhibitions, publications, and other arts and museum related content on his dynamic Twitter feed.

Museum Nerd (@MuseumNerd on Twitter) is an anonymous Brooklyn resident who really, really likes museums. A self-proclaimed museum nerd, Museum Nerd posts to their website when they have more to say than a 140 letter tweet can handle. Museum Nerd has an impressive following of over 240,000 followers, and they post content that is in any way related to museums. Not to mention, they are also quite humorous! (I hope to find out who this mysterious funny person is some day.)

Museums and Cultural Institutions don’t engage with influencers in the way a typical for-profit company or business might. Instead, museums should look to people like the three aforementioned influencers as valuable resources and potential partners. If an organization interacts with an influencer and the influencer begins to see and appreciate the institution’s content, there is a chance the influencer will eventually share some of your content. This will push your content out to an entirely new audience. Influencers share good content, though, so it is crucial that the content your museum or cultural institution creates and posts on social media is something that people will be excited to share with others

Image via Jeffrey on Flickr

Image via Jeffrey on Flickr

Social media and Web 2.0 tools have changed the landscape of marketing dramatically in recent years. Popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have an impressive amount of daily users from around the world. Consumers are able to give immediate feedback about their experiences, interact with people who share similar interests, and reach out to companies and organizations with the click of a button. The conversation is now almost entirely driven by the customer instead of the content creator, which can be a scary thing for a conservative institution.

Museums and cultural institutions and the lovers of these organizations, engage in social media as well. Instead of referring to “customers,” however, museums and cultural institutions engage with visitors, members, donors, and people who are passionate about the institution’s mission. Museums use social channels to promote events, share their collections, keep current constituents engaged, and reach new audiences.

One of the most important foundations of social media marketing is telling your story and telling it well. This is particularly relevant for museums and cultural organizations. An article published in the Washington post from June of 2014 boasted that there were more museums in the United States than there were Starbucks and McDonald’s locations…combined.

At over 35,000 museums and counting, there is an incredible variety of cultural organizations for people to choose from. This is why telling your story is essential and incredibly valuable. It is important for museums to share their message, story, and mission to inform people about what makes your organization special and why they should choose to visit and support your institution.

Museums and cultural institutions should focus on spreading their mission and telling their story on social media to make them standout of the crowd. Every organization has something that makes it special, and if you are able to communicate this effectively over social media your institution will benefit.

Accessibility is a buzzword in the museum world as of late. Innovative museum leaders are asking themselves if their institution is serving a broad audience ranging in age, race, and socio-economic status. There are physical barriers like old buildings that are not wheel-chair accessible and economic barriers like the high cost of admission for an entire family. These concerns are real, and they must remain at the forefront of the discussion.

Today, I happened upon this article by NPR titled How To Make Museums More Inviting For Kids With Autism. This was a barrier that I had not thought of before. The closest I’d come was when I teared up reading an article about the Red Sox providing peanut-free sections so people with serious peanut allergies could attend.

I did a little digging, and I was really pleased to find that the Boston Children’s Museum offers Morningstar Access hours for children with special needs. The hours are limited and require registration, but I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the admission cost is half of regular admission. What a wonderful program!

I am curious to do a bit more research to see if any other Boston-area museums participate in this type of program. I could see it being a big draw for donors who are interested in providing access to the community, as there are many people who could be well served by these opportunities.

Have you heard or experienced any similar programs? What do you think about this effort? Leave a comment below.

Yesterday I was able to attend a development conference at work. There were absolutely fascinating keynote speakers who shared their expertise in crisis management and negotiation. Their talks were both practical and philosophical and, of course, inspiring.

There was a live tweet board on the stage next to the presenters, and attendees were encouraged to tweet out reactions and memorable quotes during the presentations. I was excited to see this participatory element introduced to the conference, and though many did not participate, those who did effectively synthesized crucial points  in 140 characters or less.

As insinuated by the live tweet board, a key element of the conference was digital media strategy. Although digital and social media is just a hobby for me, it was encouraging to see the ways in which social and digital media can be leveraged to reach new audiences and round out a larger marketing campaign. Even though I am not an expert, I’d like to think that I understand many of the abilities and limitations of these forms of communication, and I get really excited when I see them being used to their full potentials.

Speaking of full potential, I had the pleasure of attending the American Museum Membership Conference in Atlanta back in April. There was a really great presentation by Fiveseed about their social media campaign for History Colorado Center. This interactive aspect of their re-opening campaign expanded their audience and engaged brand new constituents. Social and digital media’s ability to reach a broader audience is fascinating to me as a non-profit fundraiser.

I hope to read more, explore more, see more, and learn more about digital and social media strategies for non-profits. I am starting master’s program in management this fall, and I am eager for the opportunity to get back in the classroom and learn about something completely new. I’m sure this won’t be the last time this topic is discussed in my blog.

Please feel free to share any resources you’ve found helpful regarding digital media strategy!