Robbie Sexton, Social Media Manager, Art Institute of Chicago

Robbie Sexton is the social media manager and content designer at the Art Institute of Chicago. He began working there almost 6 years ago as a content editor on the blog and has worked his way up to be the sole person in charge of the Art Institute’s social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog, etc.) as well as many other duties–including being the museum mascot!

Though Robbie works over several different social media platforms, his favorite to connect with visitors on is Facebook– he says, “It’s like your driver’s license of social media.” Even though it isn’t the newest or fanciest platform, people from every generation have access to the museum through Facebook, which is what makes it the best to try to connect with people on. Robbie runs his social media agenda via a layered system of Google Calendars and posts things in real time–with a little help from scheduling sites on occasion. This allows him to easily rearrange when posts go up with current events in the news, requests that come in from different departments, and silly national holidays. This clearly keeps him busy(!) but he also makes sure to respond to people that specifically tag the museum with in a few hours– an amazing feat considering the number of followers the museum has across all of it’s platforms. Something that I noticed while looking through his responses was that, when responding, he greets each person by name. This is a feature of his laid back style of posting that fits into the idea that the social media outlet for the museum needs to be accessible for everyone–whether they are artists or someone who thinks that art museums aren’t for them because they know nothing about art.

One of Robbie’s biggest concerns–next to making sure that his digital audience feels comfortable– is to balance the content that he posts. Since he is the main point for all social media presence, his inbox is stuffed with departmental requests for upcoming exhibits, programs and events that all need to be promoted. While these take priority, he also includes “fun” posts, such as #TBT posts, entertaining posts, such as artist-in-residence Twitter takeovers, and thoughtful conversation starters, such as the most recent Instagram post that we were discussing, which was a controversial feminist work that Robbie was hoping would start conversations  based around Trump’s leaked video discussing women’s images, without guidance from the museum to start down that path. The combination of these different post types across all platforms makes the ARTIC’s social media presence feel very well rounded.

Robby’s other work, based on his social media interactions, include a physical tour in the galleries called From URL to IRL, which created a discussion about the connections between digital conversations and physical art, as well as being a part of the conversations for all the museum’s digital presences, like the new app that was just launched, and JourneyMaker for kids and family visitors.


  1. Kristen Peterson says:

    Lauren: Addressing followers who post by name is a cool idea. I need to remember to do this! Robbie manages six social media platforms? Impressive. I’d love to know how he navigated through the Trump post wo leadership guidance. That’s brave!

  2. Rachel Rabinowitz says:

    I loved listening to Robbie’s take on managing social media. He understands that managing a page for a famous institution is very different than working for a small museum or even a different type of organization. I think a lot of times people think that social media skills can be transferred and used for any type of organization, but that is not the case. He understands that they have that they have a lot of followers because of their brand name, but he wants to make sure that the followers value the institution and its mission. It seems to me that he is doing a great job!

  3. Nicole Beddia says:


    You had a wonderful conversation with Robbie! He has a great sense of humor that I’m sure is reflected in his posts. I appreciate his honesty when he said he takes the all hands on deck approach. I can’t imagine running so many platforms and developing content for an app. I also thought his method of being part of the conversation on social media rather delivering one sided messages would yield a higher level of user engagement. It’s also extremely impressive how quickly he gets back to users!

  4. Sabrina Sanders says:

    Robbie’s interview was interesting. I appreciated his candid take on their social media use and how staying up on pop culture, and what is going on in the world, as a key part of its success – like “Damn Daniel”. The references used by museum visitors could be lost on someone not abreast of current internet/pop culture trends. Also, their strategy of not measuring success by how many likes a post gets but by the value of engagement. Robbie describes a “soft side of marketing’, to be part of a conversation and not so much the traditional marketing techniques.

  5. Megan Burgess says:

    I also appreciated Robbie’s sense of humor and candor! Posting political things or memes like “Damn Daniel” on a major museum’s social media outlets can be dicey. I think one of the keys there is doing it confidently, like it sounds like Robbie did. I also liked that he showed you his calendars, even if we didn’t get to see them. Having two calendars, one for planning and one for holidays and events, is such a great idea and seems so obvious now that it’s been pointed out to me!

  6. John Lodge says:

    I liked how he described Facebook as being the “driver’s license of social media” because “literally everyone and their grandma in on there.” I find it interesting that he tends to favor that platform specifically because its demographics skew older when it seems many museums that are beginning to embrace social media are doing so in order to reach a younger audience.

  7. Jasmin Mitchell says:

    What I love about Robbie’s interview is that he uses community engagement in every sense of the word. In my community engagement class my instructor emphasize to the class that we mush address the fellow students by their names. Though this seems so basic, it went along way making a personal connection with each of my classmates. When Robbie addresses
    the online community he fosters respect and makes everyone feel special and important! Really great.

  8. Donny Caltrider says:

    What a great analogy of Facebook as the “social media driver’s license”! I love that Robbie cites it’s not only the platform that the most people in general use but it’s also their most followed platform and the most diverse of all the Art Institute’s platforms. It seems simplistic but knowing that you have such a power platform at your disposable and then using it effectively is often easier said than done. I also loved his execution of the 15thC Twitter persona to promote an exhibition- this something I am looking into for my content plan so I may have to reach out and pick his brain!

  9. Caroline Rohe says:

    I like how Robbie Sexton credits his background in English and constant writing for his “voice.” Its good to have the ability to keep a constant voice with social media post, I know that on a personal level I’m trying to work on that with my posts for Fort Pulaski. The more you write and the more content you create the easier it tends to become. Also I was surprised to hear that Robbie prefers to use Facebook the most, when he was talking at first I thought he was going to recommend a different social media site.

  10. Melanie Claros Rodriguez says:

    I really liked listening to Robbie Sexton’s interview. His social media strategy is admirable and I like that he knows that one size does not fit all when it comes to strategies in different types of museums. What’s the most impressive to me about Robbie is that he has been able to keep true to the brand that the museum has built over the years

  11. Katie Montecuollo says:

    Lauren, I really enjoyed listening to your interview. One thing that especially stuck out to me is that when running social media feeds, it is important to be connected with what is going on in the pop culture realm. The post that he described about the statue highlighted this importance very well. As we have seen throughout this class, things have the possibility to quickly go viral and if institutions are not keeping tabs on what is happening in society, we might miss a unique opportunity to make collections relevant and engaging to visitors.

  12. Jeana Wunderlich says:

    This was a really awesome interview! I was most curious about what Robbie said about analytics. He had a really great point. If people are not social media savvy and don’t know how to tag an institution or a person in a post, how can their voice be really heard? Or how can formulas be better at evaluating comments? I found it especially funny how current analytics considers the comment “this was a badass exhibition” as a negative comment!

  13. Jason Rusk says:

    It came as no surprise to me that Mr. Sexton prefers Facebook to the other social media outlets. I think that choice is pretty universal across the board at the time being due to the large number of users on Facebook compared to other sites. Perhaps other outlets will gain ground in numbers on Facebook but it still remains the juggernaut of social media and really does look to continue to do so for a long time to come. Social media managers would be wise to focus much attention to Facebook but need to be careful to not forget about the other outlets where different types of visitors can be reached.

  14. Craig Hadley says:

    I like his views on Facebook, especially the quote that Facebook is like the “Drivers licence of social media.” He is correct that it really does have a much larger and diverse audience to tap in to as well as a greater flexibility towards content and the length or size of content. Fun interview.

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