Amy Fox, Social Media Content Manager, Smithsonian American Art Museum

In this interview, Amy Fox, Social Media Content Manager for the American Art Museum (SAAM) and Renwick Gallery, discusses the ins and outs of her daily social media routines. She breaks down her strategies for planning intriguing content and the best practices for user engagement. Her methods make looking at art a fun experience!

SAAM and the Renwick Gallery are part of the Smithsonian Institution located in Washington, DC. SAAM holds one of the largest collections of American art in the world ranging from colonial to the present time. The Renwick Gallery features a unique collection of contemporary and decorative arts. The Museum’s online presence dates back to 1993 when they first launched their website. Today SAAM has a strong online presence with many active social media accounts. Amy is currently the guiding force for all SAAM social media accounts.

Amy’s background in cultural anthropology and interest in audience engagement led her to social media in the museum world. Her ability to use creative techniques to engage users has proven to be very successful. While she doesn’t aim to appeal to a specific age group or demographic, she does create posts with a certain type of person in mind. The SAAM user tends to be curious, have a sense of humor, or be an expert who wants to know more.

The content for the posts come from a variety of sources including the museum event schedule, upcoming installations, social media holidays, and even artist’s birthdays. Amy strives to create the online experience as something extra rather than an addition of any physical ties or featured exhibitions. By doing this, the user doesn’t feel like they are ever missing out. Some of the most popular posts have been those directly linking pop culture to the collection. For example, SAAM published several posts on Beyoncé’s birthday using lyrics from her popular album, Lemonade, to narrate artwork from the museum collection. The hashtag #HappyBirthdayBeyoncè along with Beyoncè themed emojis were used to link all of the posts together.

A goal while creating posts is to think of what the users will react to such as things will they find beautiful, funny, interesting, or anything that may add to their social currency. This ultimately helps encourage engagement and their desire to share with a friend. Amy also points out that engagement can come as a result of positive reinforcement of behaviors that the users are already doing.

Engagement online as well as the physical space has been a big push with SAAM in the recent months. There is now signage to invite visitors to use hashtags and share their experience. Amy pointed out that most visitors are already taking photos and now they’re invited to share them and translate their experience with others. Photos that are shared can be seen on the live screen in the Renwick Gallery or on the website.

As we all may know, social media doesn’t sleep, therefore Amy tries her best to monitor SAAM’s social media not only during operating hours, but also before and after hours. Time is of the essence when it comes to social media, especially for those who are asking questions to plan their upcoming trip to the museum!

You can follow SAAM @americanart or you can follow Amy Fox directly @MusemTweets



  1. Kristen Peterson says:

    Nicole: Amy mentions an interest in audience engagement. Do you know if such interest arose before or after her post as Social Media Content Manager? This is a great quote, “Amy also points out that engagement can come as a result of positive reinforcement of behaviors that the users are already doing.” I wonder if Amy’s Anthropological background helps as much as her audience engagement studies?

  2. Rachel Rabinowitz says:

    Amy talked about how their museum works together to create posts, but it seems that she is in solely responsible when it comes to monitoring the social media platforms. I kept thinking of my own interview and how Jennifer Lyon talked about how the messages from visitors took over her life before Colonial Williamsburg hired someone to help with customer service on social media. I am of the opinion that social media should not take over your life, especially if it has to do with work. However, we do live in a world that demands answers immediately so it can be hard to resist answering these messages immediately and risk hurting your public image.

  3. Donny Caltrider says:

    I can really identify with Amy’s academic background that led her to museum studies as she sought out a practical application for her passion in art, anthropology, and engagement experience. I liked that she addressed the work/life balance of managing social media, having a rule that there is no set rule of how and when to respond. She is never necessarily dark, but understands that it’s totally acceptable to have a life unplugged and disconnected! I think this will continue to be a discussion as social media staff participation becomes more of a 24/7 job than ever before.

  4. Caroline Rohe says:

    I was highly amused at Amy Fox’s comment on answering questions for social media users on her off time, but not while she isn’t “clear headed.” I’ve almost fallen into the same situation before, I was out with friends for an evening and my Facebook app kept blowing up with one followers questions about the park, but I had to choose to wait to respond to their questions until a later date. It would never look good to send a confusing message to a visitor or follower at a strange time of the evening.

  5. Lauren Szady says:

    I find Amy’s comments about attempting not to “go dark” but respond when possible is really interesting. Along these lines, a problem that I keep running into at my job is that I have been continually reprimanded by HR for responding on social media on my time off because, in theory, I’m not getting paid to do that and it is therefore against the law. I wonder how this problem could be solved in the future, as this will become more and more of a problem, as well as how larger institutions, like the Smithsonian handle this issue.

  6. Melanie Claros Rodriguez says:

    I learned a lot listening to your interview, specifically I’m starting to get more of an insight at how many different organizations use Hootsuite to help them time their posts. I also didn’t know it was possible to schedule posts with Facebook, so that’s something I definitely want to learn more about! After this interview, did you check Hootsuite out at all? I went on it and honestly, it was a little overwhelming at first but I can definitely see the benefits of linking all social medias to this platform.

  7. Megan Burgess says:

    Posting the same things on multiple platforms is something I’ve thought about all semester and her answer reflects my thought process a little. I go back and forth between not wanting people to see the same thing multiple times, thereby boring them, but I wouldn’t want people to miss out on information or a good post just because they follow us on Instagram but not Facebook. I think the best thing to do is post all of the important stuff on all the platforms and save the “fun” stuff for the platform it would work best on. If people get bored seeing the same stuff on multiple platforms, they will simply unfollow all except the platform they want to see you on (and hopefully leave it at that!) I know I’ve done that with institutions and celebrities after seeing the same thing 2-3 times.

  8. Jasmin Mitchell says:

    I thought Amy’s interview was very engaging. I like how Amy doesn’t break her audience into age categories but sees her audience as people with particular interest. I feel that that kind of thinking goes a long way with in community engagement, so I was really impressed with this type of thinking.

  9. Katie Montecuollo says:

    Nicole, I thought it was interesting how Amy highlighted how the social media content is focused on people who may not be visiting the institution, so that people are not missing out (11:01-11:30). This gives people to see the collection (perhaps even pieces that are not currently on display) in a different way. It also remains more relevant as the visitor does not have to physically be in the space to understand the content being posted.

  10. Sabrina Sanders says:

    Amy gives great advice to create content that people would want to share. A post will go further with sharing and you get better reach. I love her approach to not thinking about a specific age group when creating a post, but a type of person that therefore transcends age- focusing instead on someone who is curious and accepting of new ideas.

  11. Jeana Wunderlich says:

    In my interview, the professional I talked to spoke extensively about “behind the scenes” content, so it was good to hear similar things from Amy. It really does seem to require a lot of collaboration from other departments in a museum. I do like that Amy mentions is extremely important to “find the right story”. If it’s not interesting or lacks context, people are not going to be interesting no matter what.

  12. Jason Rusk says:

    Behind the scenes content is extremely important for a successful campaign. I have heard it mentioned in a few different interviews, including mine, as to how important it is to collaborate with as many different departments as possible within the institution in hopes to create the best possible post-able content for social media platforms. Departments need to leave their egos at the door and do a better job coming together to combine many types of knowledge to capitalize on the vast amount of experiences.

  13. Craig Hadley says:

    I thought the idea that followers to their social media where the same across the different platforms. Interesting question. But the idea that one caters ones content and message towards a specific platform makes sense to some degree and that there are some things that work across platforms and some that does not. But she acknowledges that she needs to collect more data from her audiences. Would love to know how that turns out.

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