What do people think of when they hear “museum”? Grand, strict, formal, intimidating.
But what do you think of? Vibrant, dynamic, full of stories, history, and character.
While the first view holds people off at a distance, the other draws people in.
How can museums bridge these two stories, and show visitors the one they see?
We found 10 museums that have figured it out. They’re crafting their brand identities through visual influence on Instagram, showing people with photos what their museum is really about. And it’s anything from intimidating.
The ways they’re using photos to represent themselves and attract visitors are tactics any museum or destination can adopt too.
By showing a behind-the-scenes look at their latest exhibit, the ROM gives breaks down the idea of of museums being closed-off. Instead, the ROM looks intriguing and fun. They also share a lot of other videos, which are great at capturing wandering eyes on Instagram.
The AGO’s Instagram completely combats the idea of museums being unapproachable. They repost a lot of visitor photos, featuring their guests interacting with their art pieces, with casual and friendly captions.
The MET positions itself as an expert in its art, with its detailed (but not too long) descriptions of each piece they photograph. It’s just enough to inspire intrigue, and gives Instagram followers a reason to keep coming back to their feed for more.
Celebrate the Day of The Girl with Henri Lehmann’s portrait of his first cousin Faustine Léo. This portrait clearly emulates the example of his master, Ingres, notably in its smooth, polished surface and the crisply delineated contours of the figure. Yet its intensely saturated palette and intimate mood set Lehmann's work apart from that of Ingres. #TheMet #HenriLehmann #Ingres #DayofTheGirl
When the Guggenheim promotes an exhibition, they, like the AGO, make sure to post a photo that includes people, to connect the experience to the art. Not only that, the rest of their photos are the perfect mix of the architecture, exhibits, and visitors.
Don't miss the final weeks of #GuggUBSMAP exhibiton “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa,” on view through October 5. The exhibition features multimedia works that are interwoven with questions around the region’s colonial histories. As part of our Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, these works by 17 artists have recently been acquired for our permanent collection. Learn more at guggenheim.org/storm. #Guggenheim Photo: Scott Rudd
The photos the National Gallery of Canada posts vary from art pieces to events and visitor photos — but what they all have in common is a cheeky caption. This museum’s unique personality shines on Instagram, and keeps their followers coming back to see what else is new.
6 | Studio Museum
The Studio Museum does a fantastic job of showcasing the smiling faces of its visitors, guests, and artists. As a self-proclaimed “nexus for artists of African descent,” they’ve truly shown themselves as a museum that’s just as much about its people as its art.
Last Friday, the Studio Museum and the fabulous guests of Spring Luncheon 2016 honored artists #LorraineOGrady, #EmmaAmos and #FaithRinngold for their trailblazing and visionary work! Thank you to all who joined us to celebrate these wonderful women artists and support the arts education programs at the Studio Museum! #StudioMuseumLuncheon [📷: @scottruddevents]
Chinati Foundation’s photos all point to the same brand style that defines their museum. Their posts feature bold shapes, clean lines, along with captions that direct an interested visitor to the right exhibit.
On Saturday at 2:00PM Brooklyn and Marfa-based artist Jeff Elrod will be giving a talk on Donald Judd's 15 untitled works in concrete at the site of the installation. The talk, like all our programming this weekend, is free and open to the public. Go to our website to see the full line up! #chinatiweekend2016
8 | British Museum
The British Museum does an amazing job of sharing the photos taken by their visitors, and using them to elaborate on specific exhibits and features in their collection. The hashtag #myBritishMuseum really captures the community element of this story.
We’re sharing our favourite photos taken by visitors – use #myBritishMuseum if you’d like to feature! Here’s a brilliant shot by @j.ziolkowski that really captures the cool tones of the Great Court. We love the collision of lines in this photo – the hard edges of the original 1823 building set against the curvature of the later Reading Room and tessellation of the glass roof. Get snapping if you’d like to feature in our next #regram. #BritishMuseum #architecture #perspective #GreatCourt
9 | Belvedere Museum
It’s clear on Instagram that the Belvedere Museum, while definitely striking, is anything but intimidating. Its feed is vibrant with photos of casual people leisurely taking in their exhibits. This photo is a particular gem, with kids being kids, sprawled on the floor in awe.
10 | Saatchi Gallery
Saatchi Gallery has 1.3 million followers on Instagram. Again, what they’re doing really well is defining and maintaining a specific brand style on their feed (which is something users really love seeing). Their posts are loud, modern, and unmistakably artsy.
Key Takeaways From These Museums:
While a lot of these 10 museums are large and well-known, these best practices can be used by museums of any size and budget.
- Put a human face to the museum experience. An easy way to steer clear of the “cold” museum feel? Show a smiling face. Show photos of people filling up your halls and rooms, and connect the human experience that’s tied to a visit to your museum.
- Maintain a distinct style. The best feeds on Instagram all have a distinct theme — be it a color or a vibe. Choose one that aligns with your museum’s personality. A consistent look to your account page is what’s going to attract followers, who then (hopefully) turn into visitors.
- Share visitor photos. If there’s already a quality user-generated photo of an exhibit you want to promote, use it! Sharing the photos your visitors are taking makes social media into a two-way conversation, and amplifies the voices that recommend you.
- Reveal the people that keep bring the exhibits to life. Curators have traditionally been somewhat removed from the public, but showing off the people behind the curtain removes that layer of mystery, and adds another human element to your brand.
- Show your audience something they can’t see anywhere else. What’s unique about your account? Give people a reason to follow you, that they can’t get from just visiting. Like the ROM, you can show behind-the-scenes efforts in creating each exhibition, for example.
By sharing photos and building your visual influence on Instagram, you can tell your brand story, and break down the misconceptions that are stopping people from giving your museum a visit.
Now it’s your turn!
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Header image credit: @anaritaramos_