MCN Insights: Collaborative Social Media Campaigns

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By Hilary-Morgan Watt, Director of Digital Engagement, Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building, and Emily Haight, Social Media Manager, New-York Historical Society + Social Media SIG Chair.

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Whether you’re sending a #MuseumBouquet, dodging a virtual snowball, or chatting with a T. rex, nothing delights online audiences more than seeing museums “play” with audiences and each other online. 

No brand is an island on social media, and you can’t simply broadcast content one-way and expect great results. Unfortunately, for many museums, social media management is a fraction of one full-time employee’s responsibilities. Filling a content calendar can be a challenge amidst a flood of other responsibilities. Collaborating with other brands can be a quick way to re-energize your feeds. Social campaigns help make connections, increase engagement, and humanize your institution. 

Get brainstorming! 

Collaborative campaigns can be months in the making or decided in a day. It depends on a variety of factors, perhaps you’re planning out a content calendar for an exhibition or responding to world events and messaging your network to join in. 

It can be a fun thought experiment to come up with a theme that spans collections. Consider polka dots for example, from zoo animals, fashion, and art—you could turn the internet dotty for a day with all of the museums who could participate. Brainstorm with your colleagues, and sketch out some ideas that both highlight your institution and connect to a larger conversation with other partners. Organized campaigns also allow you to share collections that may not get as much “airtime” on your feeds. Plus, they are a great way for institutions big and small to interact with each other, introducing your audiences to cultural organizations that may not have been on their radar before.

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Partner up!

Consider museums with similar collections but spread across the country or globe. Or maybe plan a campaign with different collections but in the same geographic region. Find a common thread for the conversation. Catch up with these campaigns for inspiration: #MuseumLoveLetter, #BestMuseumBum, and #MuseumSunshine. Get in touch with the US National Archives who throw an #ArchivesHashtagParty every month!

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We’re not unicorns, there are many talented museum social pros across the globe available to work with. Jump in to the MCN Social SIG, or spend time in the Museum Social Media Managers’ Facebook group to put a call out, brainstorm, or share a sign-up form. Check to see if your region has an informal alliance, such as Washington, D.C., SoCal, or NYC. If not, reach out to your friendly neighborhood museum social folks and launch your own group! As always, check the mighty #MuseSocial hashtag on Twitter for tips, news, and finding your peeps. “Viral” is not your measurement of success. Authentic, playful, and engaging should be your goal posts. Press is nice, but typically unlikely—even if you pitch it.

Coming up on a year since the pandemic began in the U.S., everyone is overwhelmed and creatively drained. Break down your content calendar to help it feel attainable, consider the unofficial annual events or holidays, and maybe challenge yourself to come up with a couple ideas. It can be as small as an Instagram Story swap with a related institution, or a pun-off with a few collection items and a few museum pals on Twitter (actually this sounds amazing, who’s in?). Then pat yourself on the back, refill your caffeine of choice, and jump back into your DMs and comments.  

Tell us your reactions to this post in our MCN Insight blog series. You can contribute your thoughts on the MCN #general Slack channel. Email us at [email protected] to be invited to MCN Slack.