Museum Marketing Ideas to Expand Your Audience Online

Your museum’s goal is getting visitors through the door, but this journey begins long before someone arrives at the entrance. Customers’ intrigue and interest are tapped online.

Get the expert marketing advice and tools you need to increase visits and word of mouth.

Digital marketing helps you meet potential visitors where they are — online. Museums can use their online presence to generate awareness, create an engaging off-site experience, and direct this buzz straight through the front doors.

Get active with your audience by:

  • Being discoverable
  • Developing valuable content
  • Engaging on social media
  • Connecting through email
  • Targeting interest
  • Rewarding loyalty

Being discoverable

While many people may learn about your museum’s exhibition from a friend, an advertisement, or passing by your entrance dozens of times, most people’s experiences begin with an online search. If you don’t have a strong virtual presence, you lose a potential customer base that is actively looking for your experiences.

That’s why it’s important to not just be online, but also to implement search engine optimization into all of your online marketing efforts.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process of enhancing your website to help search engines identify it as a relevant resource. 

Successful SEO strategies start with:

An online presence is more than just your website, however. When it comes to appearing in local searches, use all the SEO-boosting tools at your disposal, including:

Claim your business on all local listing services and make sure to populate each with an informative profile and captivating photos. 

Google search using search term: "New York City Ballet"
Triple your chances of a high page rank with search-friendly local listings, pay-per-click ads, and a website.

Developing valuable content

Fundamental SEO strategies help your site connect to web searches — but creating content amplifies this effect. 

Search engines prioritize websites that are regularly updated. Posting fresh content through a museum blog leverages this impact, giving search engines more and more material to connect you with search queries. Ultimately, this boosts your site’s ranking higher in search results. 

Keyword research can help you come up with relevant topic ideas that will appeal to your audience and search engines alike, and could include:

  • Surprising facts related to a current exhibit
  • Video or infographics to explain complex topics
  • Exhibit reviews
  • Roundups of what’s coming in the next week

Your blog is only one part of a good content marketing strategy. Getting your brand to appear on external sites builds backlinks. Backlinks are links that appear on other sites that point to your pages — signaling your site’s relevance to search engines.

To build backlinks, consider:

  • Guest posting on local sites like city magazines or event guides
  • Writing an article for your local newspaper tying a collection to a current event
  • Inviting press to cover a new exhibit installation or exclusive showing

Engaging on social media 

Visiting a museum is an experiential purchase. Visitors actively want to share their experiences among their personal networks. For a museum, this creates powerful social proof — the idea that if others are doing something, we’re more likely to join in. 

It’s all about creating a sharable experience that generates a “wow” effect

  • Promote hashtag campaigns to encourage visitors to post their own photos, like #MuseumSelfie.
  • Start a buzz-worthy contest, like how The Getty Museum asked people to remake famous artwork with household items. 
  • Use audience participation to promote a collection, as Tate Britain did with its 1840s GIF party.
  • Bring artwork or exhibits to life like The Museum of Ice Cream does with backdrops that visitors can’t help but photograph.
  • Encourage visitors to check in on social media with rewards like access to a special exhibit or a gift shop coupon.
Museum Marketing Idea: encourage photography and using hashtags on social media
The New York Museum of Modern Art encouraged photography at its Rain Room exhibit, calling out visitors to hashtag their images to appear on a live webstream. | Source: Instagram

The social connection doesn’t stop there. Actively engage in social media conversations to encourage visitor loyalty, keep your museum top of mind, and inspire an emotional tie for prospective visitors. 

To build this authentic connection, make sure you understand the best practices for social platforms like your Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook business page. What you say and how you say it will be slightly different to appeal to these channels’ demographics.

Then engage further with these audiences, promoting your museum’s mission and personality, with branded post ideas like:

  • Using your collection to offer fun facts from an informative angle or even with a bit of humor
  • Behind-the-scenes posts to stir up buzz for a new installation
  • Video clips from guest lecturers or Q&As with curators
  • Urging your supporters to participate with their own re-creations of famous works
museum marketing idea: use social media -- VanGoYourself - recreate the artists famous works and post on social media
VanGoYourself’s campaign urges social media users to recreate the artist’s famous works.

Each of your social media channels should have a consistent tone and voice that represents your museum. But you can appeal to a wider audience by setting up and linking a related account with a unique personality, like Sue the T. Rex’s popular Twitter handle run by The Field Museum of Chicago. 

Museum marketing idea: use a piece of a permanent display on social media - SUE the T. rex
With “her” quippy posts and funny replies, Sue the T. Rex has amassed nearly as many followers as the Field Museum itself. | Source: Twitter

Remember, the purpose of social media is to engage with others, so be sure to respond to all comments and museum mentions to keep conversations churning.

Connecting through email

Deliver culture, history, art, and unique experiences directly to your audience’s inbox. 

When people subscribe to an email list, they’re signaling that they want to hear what you have to say. And studies show this invitation to connect outperforms all other marketing strategies, with an average return of $38 for every $1 you spend.

Museum marketing idea: email marketing -- newsletters
Use email marketing to let your supporters know what’s happening at your museum — and why they should stop by.

Email builds interest and engagement because you can:

You can even automate the whole process to never miss a beat, with tools like Constant Contact’s email marketing platform.

Targeting interest

Organic digital marketing tools curate interest, connection, and engagement — but traditional advertising can seal the deal.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads capture the intent of people ready to head to the museum, providing that extra push to get them through the door. 

Use PPC ads effectively by:

  • Selecting keywords to trigger your ad to appear in front of the right people, like with Google Ads.
  • Linking your ad to a post-click landing page featuring the information you want to highlight, like current exhibitions and a clear call to action.
  • Using retargeting ads that appear to those who have already visited your site or PPC landing page.

You can even use PPC ads to grab the attention of those wandering by your museum.

Geo-targeting is a digital advertising strategy that creates an invisible border in your museum’s neighborhood. When people pass this barrier, it triggers your ads to appear in search results and social media.

Rewarding loyalty

Your museum’s members have already demonstrated their commitment to you, so add value to this relationship wherever you can. Positive experiences get people talking — making happy members one of your best marketing tools. 

Foster this connection with your members through:

  • A referral program that offers small commissions or membership discounts for new visitors a member sends your way.
  • Special events, collection sneak peeks, workshops, and lecture series exclusive to members.
  • Partnerships with other museums or local offerings like zoos, theaters, or art galleries to extend what your members can enjoy. 

Digitize your museum’s value

Museums are all about intrigue, surprise, and emotional experiences — all perfect ingredients for a winning digital marketing strategy. To help streamline your efforts, we’ve put together a comprehensive arts marketing guide, The Downoad, with tips to get your strategy on track and curating your museum’s virtual value. 

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