Photos of museum events like this one should be part of CAM's social media efforts.

Photos of museum events like this one should be part of CAM’s social media efforts.

Art lovers living in and near Cincinnati are lucky to have a number of impressive art museums to visit. Two of the most popular are the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Arts Center, both of which use social media extensively in their marketing campaigns. However, neither museum is reaping the full benefit of having a social media presence, and both could improve their use of the various social media platforms.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is typically thought of as a more traditional art museum featuring a wide range of artwork made over the last several centuries and around the globe. It’s a family-friendly institution with a lot of activities aimed at attracting families with children. CAM’s website links out to the museum’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube entries, and Instagram.

The Contemporary Arts Center, as the name suggests, features predominantly new works by living artists, which actually gives them a little bit of an edge in terms of content they can include in their social media efforts. This art institution is often able to get or create video and photography of the artists themselves, discussing their work and sometimes even interacting with museum visitors. The CAC’s website links out to a slightly different mix of social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, and YouTube.

Even a quick overview of the two nonprofits’ social media efforts reveals that members of their marketing teams are actively contributing, making daily impressions on Facebook and Twitter. CAC’s Tumblr blog is also updated frequently, although neither organization posts on YouTube and Vimeo very often. Despite all this activity, it is all centered on meeting just one organizational objective: public relations. The vast majority of posts are reminders of upcoming events, with a few photos/videos from the actual events sprinkled in.

As Olivier Blanchard notes, a nonprofit can use social media for a number of different objectives, such as providing member support, increasing member loyalty, and achieving other desired outcomes (Blanchard). Both CAM and the CAC could improve in these aspects of their social media campaigns. For example, both could do more to promote the idea of membership, perhaps through giving members more of a voice on social media (as in post-event commentary written by members, not staff) and drawing attention to the perks of membership.

Behind-the-scenes looks at the CAC are interesting but don't do much to engage viewers in social communication.

Behind-the-scenes looks at the CAC are interesting but don’t do much to engage viewers in dialogue.

Another area for improvement for both brands is better engagement with visitors. Very few of the posts ever generate any kind of response, so both organizations might try to focus on who they’re trying to reach and do more to listen to and engage them in two-way conversation through social media (Baruch). For example, CAM posted a reminder on October 4 that it was holding a children’s craft activity on Saturday, October 5. Yet there is no follow-up, no photos of children engaged in the activity. It would have been great to have asked some of the parents who were there, who undoubtedly had their cell phones handy, to post some of their pictures, using Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Because so much of the social media effort for both institutions is basic PR, it also lacks any kind of character or flavor, which is another best practice recommended by social media marketers like Trish Forant (Forant). Developing a stronger “voice” or tone to the social media messaging might also help to clarify the target audience and make the campaigns more engaging. And in both cases, blog or other posts written by the museums’ directors or curators would probably attract a lot of attention from followers.

It appears that the social media efforts for both the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Center are still in their infancy. While both organizations are using social media effectively for public relations, neither is utilizing these platforms to their full potential.

Baruch, Yolanda (n.d.). Module two: Translating business objectives into social media initiatives, SNHU website, retrieved from https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1133927-dt-content-rid-1095328_1/courses/MKT-655-13TW1-MASTER/MKT-655-13TW1-MASTER_ImportedContent_20130724121237/MKT-655-OLMASTER_ImportedContent_20130528050143/Learning%20Modules/Module%20Two%20Module%20Overview/MKT655_M2_Overview_1.pdf.

Blanchard, Olivier. Social Media ROI, Indianapolis, Indiana: Que/Pearson Education, Inc., 2011, p. 24-27.

Forant, Trish (July 10, 2013). 10 social media best practices for brand engagement, Salesforce Blog, retrieved from http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/07/best-practices-social-media-engagement.html.


3 thoughts on “Differentiation

  1. I was an art history and studio art minor and really enjoyed reading your post. I like your suggestions of a blog and using social media to drive membership. I think asking viewers to share and like posts also goes a long way. Great job!

  2. Nice analysis of the two brands. I agree that Ford created a community with social.ford.com. Ford’s also done a great job using brand ambassadors to promote their message. They chose 100 socially connected people, gave them each a new Ford Fiesta, and sent them on fun adventures. They used social media to talk about their experiences (http://www.fiestamovement.com/agents). Has Honda done anything similar to spread their message?

  3. Hi Jennifer, 1

    Really enjoyed how much thought you actually put on enhancing their current efforts. I think the follow-up is just as, if not more important, when showcasing events. The Oct. 5th, children’s craft event could’ve been a huge families attraction for them if they did the follow up photos as you mentioned. When I go out with my sister and the kids, we always like to look t the event photos before actually attending. This gives us an idea of how old the other children are and the actual activities they will be doing.

    Another social media tool that I think that could benefit art museums in general are apps like Foursquare. Foursquare can link up your check-in with Twitter and Facebook, so it isn’t limiting who can see the check-in. Plus this could be an added bonus to members. Why not recognize the “Mayor” of the museum check-ins with a VIP passes to a future exhibit or highlight them on Facebook. This will give their members more of an incentive to go and recognition all at the same time.

    Great post!


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