The Art of Social Media Marketing: 5 Successful Museum Campaigns To Help You Create a Sensation Online

Social media moves faster than you can blink – so it can be hard to keep up with what you should, or should not, be posting.

Heightened by the pandemic, social media as a channel of engagement has become more important than ever for creating and maintaining an invested audience. However, it can feel like a Sisyphean effort to figure out what content to post. You want your brand to have a strong voice, without blending into the crowd; you want to grab the attention of your audience without scaring them off… so how do you strike the perfect balance?

You need an innovative marketing campaign.

Read on to see how five museums have used social media to successfully create a sensation online.

1. The Viral Post

Nowadays it can seem like going viral is the key to success. However, one issue that lockdown has shown us is that social media can offer a range of user experiences, not all equally rewarding. Figuring out what goes viral on different platforms can be tricky. It depends on timing, relevance, the metrics you use to measure success. Engagement, for instance, is far preferable to the number of likes or new follows you get. If people aren’t engaging with your collection, then you may be attracting the wrong audience altogether.

When the Royal Academy tweeted a Henri Rousseau painting from their collection featuring the infamous Tiger King, they mastered the art of timing. 

When pop culture and post-impressionism collide.

This is a great example of a content strategy that hones in on what people are discussing right now and adding to the conversation with their own unique voice.

Looking for cultural events and news stories that can give a different spin on your collection can be one way to go viral. However, don’t be disheartened if this approach doesn’t take off. Viral posts are a combination of great content, a pinch of luck, and impeccable timing – so it doesn’t always happen every time.

Evoking a sense of fun and cultural awareness is a powerful technique for showing that your brand is socially aware and attuned to wider conversations. Topical posts, including hashtags or relevant news stories, have a far more popular presence on social media than general posts (such as what you ate for breakfast!) and typically generate more shares, so don’t hesitate to join the conversation. 

2. The Inject-Some-Humour Post

Whilst going viral can feel somewhat like it depends on luck, injecting humour into your posts can be a more purposeful approach to cultivating a sense of originality and attracting like-minded people – all without having to follow viral trends with a microscope. This works exceptionally well on Twitter and Instagram and can be a profound way to highlight your own archives and collections.

Who’s doing this well? The Museum of English Rural Life has gained a huge following off the back of their light-hearted, unique posts.

This archival photo paired with the caption sparked a wave of interest for the museum.

Short and witty, this museum captures people’s attention by showing the personality behind the brand. Embracing the notion that English rural life might be considered “boring”, MERL flips this idea on its head and boost engagement with a catchy meme.

Now, MERL is known for their humour, even listing “chaotic good” in their bio. Straight off the bat, this tells their audience that they like to have fun with their social media presence. Drawing an absolute unit of attention through jokey content, and laughing all the while – what’s not to like?

3. The User-Generated Post

Due to the pandemic, free time, for some, became a chance to pick up a hobby. Podcasts were made, books were purchased, most of us turned to a craft at some point. Whether developed into a lifelong passion, or just a small coping mechanism, art galleries tapped into people’s desire to connect with and make art by asking their community to recreate famous pieces of art at home. And it took off.

The VanGoYourself campaign, created by Culture 24, saw over 100 paintings from 34 venues in 15 countries be reimagined by members of the public.

Madonna and Child reimagined by a woman and her cat.

#MetTwinning is a similar concept and wonderful example of how an interactive social media campaign can be visually appealing, fun and collaborative at the same time. 

Life imitating art, in the truest sense.

4. The Telling-Real-Stories Post

On social media, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with misinformation and highlights, rather than the real story. Black Country Living Museum is one such institution that has been fighting against this narrative and winning. 

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Dark humour and Victorian history at its finest.

An open-air museum in the West Midlands of England, it has wormed its way into social media notoriety with honest, funny posts on Tik Tok. Interweaving their historical expertise with pop culture trends has given this museum over half a million views on Tik Tok. 

Telling real stories based on your archives or artwork can be a perfect way of imaginatively recontextualising your collection to engage with your audience.

5. The True-To-Yourself Post

Chances are, your art gallery has a niche. Something that is particular to only you.

One of the best ways to make your social media content really shine is to let that authentic voice ring true. Your followers want to hear your unique insight – otherwise they would be browsing elsewhere!

Related to telling real stories, being authentic is growing increasingly important on social media. People don’t just want to know what you’re doing, but how and why you’re doing it. Whether it’s ethical, insightful, or simply fun to share, the thinking behind the message is just as important as the message itself.

When the Musee De Orsay posted on Instagram how Impressionist painters would interact on social media, they spotlighted their own niche and added a modern spin.

The museum’s first Instagram artist in residence, Jean-Philippe Delhomme, brings Impressionism to the 21st century.

This is a perfect way of bringing the age-old adage of “write what you know” into the modern-day; being authentic can strengthen the bond you have with your audience as you build trust and empathy.

How to begin creating your own social media masterpieces

These sensational social media campaigns are effective strategies to gaining positive engagement with your brand, which can then translate to clicks, tickets, or sign-ups.

Experimenting with some of these approaches to solidify your museum’s identity on social media as unique, relevant, and authentic is a fantastic way to make your content stand out. If you have a clear purpose and don’t take yourself too seriously, you can begin joining wider conversations on social media whilst still promoting and expanding your gallery’s network.

To help you come up with fresh content ideas that will resonate with your community, we’ve put together a short guide below. Simply follow the arrows, beginning at the top, to build a list of topics that will spark meaningful conversations online.

  • arts content guide
  • arts content guide
  • arts content guide

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