The crucial use of social media for Museums

Chihuly 1_FotorA lot of museums underestimate the power of social media even though they have the most popular type of content to share: pictures! In fact, it is only recently that the Museum of Fine Arts of Montreal (MFAM / MBAM in french) decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

Indeed, in September 2014 the Museum revamped its whole website and took this time to build its social media presence as it was only present on Twitter prior to the remodel. According to Voir.ca (2014), the MFAM reached its record in the number of visitors in 2013 with over 1,015,022 visitors. This record number was partly due to the success of the Glass Art exhibition by Chihuly.

Chihuly 2_FotorMore than 40,000 visitors were geo-tagging themselves at the museum before the official MFAM Facebook page was created. This showed its increasing popularity and justified even more its need to be present on various social media networks.

Research conducted by CEFRIO (2012) shows that in Quebec in 2011, 73 % of internet users, or 59 % of adults fulfilled at least one activity once a month on social media networks. These main activities entailed:
– checking content (69,9 %),
– interact (56 %)
– or maintain a good profile (52 % des internet users).
The sharing of information (40,6 % of internet users) as well as the creation of content (36 %) were the most popular activities.

Approximately one third of quebecer internet users who use social media have followed/liked a brand, company, organization or ministry (31%). On Facebook and Twitter for example, it is more than half of these users who have interacted with a brand or organization on social media. It is therefore hard for quebecer companies to ignore the potential of this method of communication (CEFRIO, 2012).

Almost all of the young quebecers aged between 18 to 24 have fulfilled at least one action on social media networks (91.8%). This portion represents 85.7% in the 25 to 34 age group and 68.5% in the 35 to 44 one. It then decreases to 62.8% in the 45 to 54 age group and 40.4% in the 55 to 64 to then reach 17.2% in the 65+.

In Quebec, the adults from Montreal are the most active on social media networks (64.5%). Montreal is a popular destination in Quebec partly because of its cosmopolitan and trendy atmosphere and justifies museums presence on social media.

According to the industry sector of quebecer companies, the profile of internet users that interact with organizations varies. Indeed, for organizations involved in the arts, the profile of consumers that will interact will in majority be students or people that have graduated from university. One of the main reasons why companies are reluctant to use social media is fear of damaging their reputation and image online.

The Canadian Government (2014) acknowledges that there is a risk for a museum or any body/organization to harm their reputation. This type of risk can be in two forms:
– A person internal or external to the company takes possession of the social media platforms with the aim of sabotaging the company’s image.
– The company itself harmed its reputation by for example launching a marketing campaign which was negatively perceived by its target audience thus neglecting the negative repercussions it would have.

Not having any online presence does not prevent a company’s reputation. If consumers are unsatisfied with a company’s product or campaign, they will not hesitate to share their discontentment on social media networks. Therefore avoiding social media networks does not diminish the risks of damaging one’s reputation.

tripadvisor MFAMMaintaining a good presence on social media platforms enables companies to monitor what is being said about them. Facebook and Wikipedia suggest pages on Canadian museums that have not been created by museums; the content is published by users. Similarly, tourism evaluation sites by peers such as TripAdvisor allow anyone to draw up a list of attractions and evaluate them whether the organization approves or not.

So what are the actual benefits for museums to have a social media presence?

A beneficial marketing tool

Social media networks can be a great marketing tool at a reasonable cost. It can be a strong bridge for museums to establish partnerships and build relationships with visitors. It’s also a platform for visitors to help them decide on their leisure plans. It is therefore a great communication channel to reach people in order to inform about present and future exhibitions, artists, sponsorships etc … (Canadian Government, 2014)

Facebook is the most popular platform for museums and cultural spots. According to Museum Analytics, American as well as London museums are the most followed on Facebook. The New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is ranked first with around 1,684,304 likes. The Louvre in Paris takes second place with 1,558,834 likes. (CLID France, 2014)

Museums and cultural spots use Facebook for the following: sharing of images and textual content on their pages, games/contests, special timeline (using it as a chronological biography of some artists).
As a way of thanking fans, some museums have organized special events inviting their Facebook fans. Indeed the Louvre hosted in March 2012 a special night inviting all its Facebook fans. Same thing with the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Decorative Arts in Paris.

Does Facebook go to far sometimes?

There have been some occasions when Facebook has banned content posted by museums. A good example of this was in March 2013 when the Paris Racquet Museum posted a photo of a naked person taken in 1940 by the photographer Laure Albin Guillot. This photography in question was part of an exhibition at the time held at the museum. Facebook deleted the content after being alerted by some users and blocked the museum’s page for 24hrs.

Pinterest for museums
Pinterest is the third most popular social media platform after Facebook and Twitter and has over 70 millions users which are in majority women. (Canadian Government, 2014)

Pinterest is best described as a virtual pinboard, where users can post or “pin” interesting pictures and then provide comments from websites directly or from Pinterest. Similar to other social media platforms, users can follow other individuals or organizations, or they can follow individual boards.

Pinterest provides more than photo-sharing indeed, if users click on the photos, these link back to the websites they were Pinned from, allowing users to access similar content from the website. This therefore enables a greater visibility for websites in general and generate traffic and interest for those websites. “Popular categories on Pinterest are Home, Arts and Crafts, Style/Fashion, Food, and Inspiration/Education”. The Virtual Museum of Canada has a Pinterest page as well as other Canadian museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal. (Canadian Government, 2014)

Pinterest also allows group boards, so that multiple users can be invited to Pin to the same board. Pinterest supports hashtags that can be integrated into the image description.

Louvre pinterestContent from institutions like museums can be especially appealing to Pinterest’s audience as this social media platform is visually-oriented. Museums can Pin their visuals from their own website, thus maintaining a link to the source page that visitors will see when they click through. The referrals these links generate present an opportunity for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For museums and cultural institutions, it can be a way to increase exposure of their collection to a greater audience and generate interest in their museum.

IMG_0111Instagram is another great platform for museums to share photos of art pieces if hashtags are used properly. Instagram can be a great tool to organize a photo campaign using a hashtag that museums can invent to then check out the collection of pictures that users have shared to take part in the contest. Instagram therefore increases brand awareness as the use of hashtags and geotargeting as well as the option share photos from the app on multiple social media platforms increases the reach for cultural institutions.

As you can see there are more reasons for Museums to be present online than reasons to ignore social media. It can benefit these institutions greatly if used properly and enables to introduce art and culture in a different way that can appeal to a younger crowd.

Sources:

http://www.rcip-chin.gc.ca/sgc-cms/nouvelles-news/francais-french/?p=4747

http://www.club-innovation-culture.fr/facebook-le-reseau-prefere-des-musees-et-lieux-culturels/

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2013/03/30/musee-reseaux-sociaux-twitter-facebook-museogeek_n_2983611.html

Plus d’un million de visiteurs au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal en 2013

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2010-05-f.htm

Pinterest pour les musées

http://www.museum-analytics.org/museums/

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