Treasured Blog: Museum Edition
The Value of an Online Presence for Museums
Museums have always thrived as physical spaces. Visitors enjoy the experience of exploring, on their own terms, an exhibition that tells them a story. As they move through an exhibition space, the way it looks, its shape, textures, architecture, objects, and other features all contribute to the exhibition experience.
But in recent years, many museums around the world have begun to recognize the importance of having a digital presence. While most museums have websites, the value of other forms of digital presence is becoming clearer than ever before. Now, museums are using digital platforms like social media, podcasting, virtual exhibitions and more, to reach and expand their audience.
Read on to discover why a digital presence is a key aspect of any museum.
A digital presence connects your museum to a larger, global audience.
As cultural institutions, museums rely on public engagement and awareness to sustain themselves. One of the keys to earning this engagement in the modern world is a digital presence. A strong digital presence enables an institution to reach a wider, global audience that stretches beyond their local community.
An example of the power of an online presence is how the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, West Midlands, England has used the social media app TikTok to access a wider audience. In the summer of 2020, Black Country Living Museum began sharing video content of the live museum on TikTok.
The museum’s TikTok videos feature characters participating in memes and trends that are common on the app. In November 2020, a video that features the roles of British women during World War Two earned nearly 3 million views. Now, Black Country Living Museum has an audience of more than 300,000 on the social media app.
Black Country Living Museum isn’t the only museum to have found success on TikTok. Others, like the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, NY and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are creating a TikTok presence, too. That’s because the app provides a unique opportunity to connect and engage with younger audiences. The app has an estimated 800 million active users, and most of them are Gen Z and Millennials. By connecting with audiences through digital channels like TikTok, museums can increase the public’s awareness of their organization and offerings.
TikTok is only one of the channels that museums can leverage to expand their audience and public awareness. Through digital offerings like virtual tours and exhibitions, videos, and podcasts, museums can create digital touchpoints for the public to interact with from the comfort of their home.
Digital tools provide new opportunities for understanding your audience.
Most museums hold records of visitor traffic that may contain basic insights into the demographics of their visitors. In the physical museum setting things like surveys, questionnaires, comment cards and feedback buttons can help gather this data. These insights help museums to understand who their typical visitor is. In knowing their audience, organizations can create tailored marketing materials that draw in those that are most likely to engage with them.
Having a digital presence creates new opportunities for gathering data that will inform a museum’s understanding of their audience. One example is Google Analytics. Museums can use this analytics tool to pull valuable information about the users that visit their website and virtual exhibits. For example, by using the Google Analytics “audience” tab, museums can look at metrics that share the age, gender, and location of website visitors. The “interests” tab in Google Analytics shares a more specific profile, which includes the interests of the people who visit a museum’s website and online exhibits.
Analytics tools are available across all digital platforms, including social media and podcasts. Museums can leverage these tools to quickly gain valuable insights about their audience. The best part is, these metrics are automatically generated by people visiting the site, app, or podcast, making them easy to gather. Once a museum has detailed metrics about their audience, they can then build content and exhibitions that align with their audience.
Museums can leverage an online presence to test content with their audience.
Digital tools further provide an opportunity to test content and exhibits with the public. This could mean using social media to explore untouched subjects, or open up dialogue about what the public would like to see at the museum. The response of a museum's online audience can help museums judge what type of content and exhibitions are worth pursuing.
Before committing to curating a full physical exhibition, museums can create a version of that exhibit to share online. It could be a piece of written content, or a virtual exhibit. By sharing the digital version of the exhibition with their online audience first, a museum can gain insights into how interested their audience would be in a full, in-person exhibit covering that same subject. This is done by examining how much engagement the content earns.
For example, museums can look at how much web traffic a virtual exhibit earns. Then, museums can look at if that exhibit was shared on social platforms, and what kind of dialogue that exhibit generated. If an online exhibit performs well, it’s a sign that a fully curated physical exhibition will go over well with that museum’s audience.
It’s time to start investing in your museum’s digital presence.
Museums today are using digital platforms to tell their stories using new mediums, like video, audio, and virtual exhibits. These tools can entertain and educate, and connect museums with both their traditional audience, and new audiences.
A digital presence of any kind has the ability to expand a museum’s audience because it makes that museum more discoverable and accessible. It provides touchpoints that people can interact with from the comfort of their own home. Rather than having to visit the physical museum space, and regardless of their location, a person can engage with a museum online.
With today’s young generations being highly tapped into the online world, museums have an opportunity to connect with up and coming museum goers who may evolve into regular visitors, and potentially donors. Now is the time to invest in your museum’s digital presence so that you can expand its audience.