What your brand can learn from the world’s top 15 art museums and their #socialmedia engagement

Every year, The Art Newspaper publishes the ranking of the world’s top art museums and art exhibitions by number of visitors. After reading this year’s ranking for the 2015 numbers I wanted to check how the top 15 art museums are faring in terms of social media engagement with their audiences. There are some lessons there to be learned for other brands managing their presence on social platforms.

If you do not recall the ranking, the 2015 top 15 by number of visitors was as follows (from #1 to #15 respectively): Louvre, The British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum (The Met), Musei Vaticani, The National Gallery, National Palace Museum Taipei, Tate Modern, National Gallery of Art  Washington, State Hermitage Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Victoria & Albert Museum, Museo Reina Sofia, Somerset House, National Museum of Korea, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).


Figure 1 – one-page summary of the top 15 art museums social media engagement


My key take-aways are:

  1. Scale matters. It is not the only factor that counts in social, but it helps in reaching critical mass. The top 5 online remain roughly the top 5 across platform and by visitors. The top 5 have the largest resources, brand share of voice and I would expect they have more dedicated people per channel of engagement. One way to get around this hurdle for smaller brands would be to create a common social engagement resource pool for multiple institutions, or create a single account to manage where there is a bigger umbrella brand (e.g. Tate only manages one account for all its sites). 
  2. Everyone should be looking at MOMA as a learning reference. In spite of the above, some museums punch above or under their weight in the top 5 (here defined as ranking 5 places above or below their visitor ranking). And the MOMA certainly punches above its weight through its online engagement.
  3. Once you do one platform well, you are likely to be more efficient in the next. Instagram performance correlated relatively well with twitter performance and facebook. Once one goes digital on engagement there seem to be benefits when moving on to the next platform. If you have taken the trouble to think through the difference in user experience, purpose, tone and content of a given online social tool it is likely you will move faster when the next one comes along.

What I found MOMA does well on digital engagement:

  1. Make the most of every credible opportunity – they engage through each event and space, not just exhibitions and collection. They create interesting content and concise copy for each moment to drive higher engagement.
  2. Rich and personal media is “king” – MOMA have gone beyond showcasing the collection objects and mastered live streaming of events and video content well. They give a personal glimpse of the backstage with the curators and staff  (e.g. MOMA dance staff, transparency about who the people behind social accounts are).
  3. Mix it all up – they have rich media posts linking to in-depth content about the art as much as daily trivia (from Monet’s birthday to Halloween celebration) in between. There is always something of interest for a broad audience and proportional to the amount of time you have to browse on your mobile.

There are things about MOMA one cannot copy: the scale and quality of its collection, the ideal location with a mix of high tourist traffic and local arts engagement and, more critical for online content to travel, the fact that English is the default language. I hope this provides some ideas on the areas that could be transferrable to other brands. I look forward to see what The Hermitage, New Palace Museum and Vatican Museums will be up to next, as well as the development of relevant new platforms. With such well visited collections there is still opportunity for higher engagement and no obvious reason why the correlation between onsite and online audiences would remain low at the top.

Figure 2 – the top 15 art museums ranked by #social media platform

Have a question about the analysis or would like to see more of the data behind it? Send me a message or leave a comment below.


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