Historic House Museums fill a unique space in the global museum landscape. An immersive experience, visitors are able to step inside old homes, barns, mansions, and plantations - entering into an atmosphere that seems to have been perfectly preserved from the past. For many, the experience jumpstarts a conversation that continues long after they have left. For others, a home is a home is a home.
This year, Historic House Museums will compete with other museums and galleries as well as entertainment destinations like pools and theme parks for visitors. What can Historic House Museums do to not only increase visitation but also spark conversation and engagement with their visitors via Social Media?
1. Spark Engagement through Hashtags - Work with your organization to create a unique hashtag for use across social media. Encourage visitors to use the hashtag during their visit. Unlike generic hashtags like #museum, your selected hashtag allows you and your team to actively track its performance. You can retweet and respond to visitors posts and keep the conversation going.
If you don’t allow pictures, use placards to ask interesting questions that prompt responses via social media. For example - “What do you think would have been the most challenging aspect of living on a farm in 1878? Use #smithfarmhisory in your response!”
2. Use Paid Social Where Necessary - Have a really great event coming up? Want to increase attendance to your latest exhibit before it’s gone? Use the power of paid social to spread the word. Home in on the event or exhibit you want to promote and think about how you can diversify your messaging across platforms. A few hints:
Facebook: Facebook allows you to market to custom audiences, so you can utilize your email list for smart targeting. Simply go to the ads manager and select “Create Custom Audience” and upload your email list. Facebook does the rest of the work by matching your email list with it’s database, and voila, you can now market to your email list on Facebook. Encourage repeat visits from previous visitors by providing a special coupon code or offer in your advertising.
Twitter: To gain new attendees, use Twitter advertising. You can use unique targeting parameters that ensure your message is only in front of those most likely to convert. Focus on things like geography, interests, age and more.
Create Beautiful Ads: There is not enough to be said for the power of great design in advertising. Stay within the design parameters for each social media platform and you will already be ahead of the game. Don’t have an in house designer? Consider using the wonderful tools that Canva has to offer.
3. Plan Ahead, Use Content Calendars and ANALYZE - Plan, plan, plan! Enter each quarter with a clear idea of the messages and stories you want to convey to your visitors. Create KPI’s and unique ways to track and analyze your success. For example, if you want to focus on “19th Century Farm Cooking” in Q4 - create a content calendar that includes all of your social platforms, website updates, blogs and email marketing - week by week for the quarter. Leave room for new additions and changes, but have a good idea of the content you want to produce and promote.
Once the quarter is over, use the robust analytics tools provided by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and most importantly, Google to gain insight into how visitors reacted to the information you provided. Did engagement increase? Did search terms around “19th Century Farm Cooking” drive traffic to your website? Use this information to better understand your visitors and update your content calendar for Q2.
When used correctly, social media is a very powerful tool for nonprofits. The key is understanding different platforms and remaining consistent. Give your visitors a reason to follow and engage with you on social media. As a historic institution, you are in a unique position to have years of history and content on your side. Now all you have to do is present it to the public in a unique, engaging way.