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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