How can social media benefit a small museum?
The moment I stepped foot onto the tranquil 12-acre campus of the Strawbery Banke Museum (SBM), located in Portsmouth, NH, thoughts of ROI, social media algorithms and hashtags floated away into a far away, advanced century. This living museum is not a reproduction. It’s an actual neighborhood of homes from a time span covering the late 1600s to the mid 1900s. Reenactors stroll through the grassy quad, with no evidence of current times seen in any direction, aside from the tall tour buses off in the distance. It’s a unique museum, or brand, and as my interview uncovered, it attracts a distinctive patron. My recent conversation with Stephanie Seacord, Director of Marketing, revealed her genuine commitment to helping the museum thrive by using her 35 years of consumer and tourism marketing experience. During our conversation, we focused on her use of social media and what she feels works, doesn’t work, and what needs attention.
Stephanie graciously outlined her perspective and the challenges she faces while utilizing social media. She was very honest, explaining that she recognizes she could expand her understanding of the dynamics of social media, such as best times to post and the use of buzz words. In fact, she doesn’t use a smart phone! Note to self: remove the question about ‘dark times.’
Stephanie posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter platforms, and has no plans to add Snapchat. I asked Stephanie if she admires the way other museums use social media for promotion, and she replied that she follows the Instagram account of Colonial Williamsburg, and enjoys the way they photograph their campus. She’s right, CW has some snazzy photography…take a look! With just 90,000 visitors annually, SBM has a limited budget. Stephanie is basically a one-woman-show, and wears many hats. She even personally created the framework for the museum’s current website!
The museum runs successful online banner advertisements using selected demographic filter criteria, such as age and zip code ranges. Stephanie has a complete understanding of WHO her audience is. Next, social media could help to find out WHAT they want by building a social media campaign that engages and encourages participatory experiences. They could use call-to-action methods, such as “Click here to win free admission,” which would also help to grow the museum’s email database. Or ask a tempting question that prompts conversation, such as, “Why do you think Portsmouth was voted the #1 best small city? Post a picture to show why and tag a friend!” (or retweet). Or perhaps ask followers to help name a new baby goat via an online poll. Such participation would help to grow followers by increasing interest in the museum, which would hopefully convert to increased admissions: attract-engage-invite. In addition, social media conversations could identify new program or event ideas that represent the interests of their current patrons or identify methods to attract an entirely new demographic.
SBM doesn’t swop Instagram accounts, or participate in wide-spread Twitter events. Although Stephanie likes the idea and plans to explore the possibility of a temporary Instagram account trade with an area submarine museum. She strongly believes her marketing success is credited to collaborations with other city non-profits. She promotes special programs through paid media, such as the popular wine event, Vintage & Vine, and holiday, Candlelight Stroll, and uses earned media for general admission. The museum’s social media posts, mostly of beautiful photos of the campus, also promote special events to highlight ticket sales and general interest. Stephanie’s most successful post to date, yielding the most likes, was of baby goats, from a Spring Barnyard Baby Animals exhibit. Who can resist liking a photo of an adorable baby animal? This illustrates that the museum’s social media platforms have patron attention, which is an important fact. Add participatory posts, and Stephanie might need to purchase a smart phone (or two!) to keep up with demand.
Do you have any ideas that could help a small museum expand their social media efforts? Leave a comment or use the contact form below to share your thoughts…
Stephanie Seacord, Director of Marketing, joined Strawbery Banke in 2011 with more than 35 years of consumer, business and trade experience, specializing in travel, tourism and hospitality. From 2004 to 2009, Stephanie provided PR Counsel to the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism, earning over $25 million in publicity and reaching 622 million readers for state tourism. She won the 2009 New Hampshire Travel Council Advertising/PR Agency of the Year Award.