Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

Big changes and opportunities with Facebook brand pages

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Facebook has announced that it is rolling out redesigned ‘brand pages’, which will follow the timeline format which they introduced for individual users earlier this year.

Is this is good news for museums? I think so. The timeline format puts updates in the context of an organisations history, allowing them to tell their story.

While Facebook used brands with long histories like American Express, Coca-Cola and Burberry to showcase how the timeline can be used to illustrate their stories, it isn’t hard to imagine how a museum could use this to tell the history of not just their organisation, but the history of art, a nation or the earth.

Though it should be noted that Facebook only currently let brands add milestone back to 1800 and backdate posts to 1900.

The switch to timelines is going to make the history of your timeline more accessible to your fans, so now is probably a good time to have a spring clean and to look for opportunities to add new content.

The new Facebook brand pages offer the opportunity to create profiles which look more aesthetically pleasing. As with profiles for individuals these now include ‘cover photos’, this is a large image which appears at the top of the page. This is important real estate, so think about how you can use this space.

Facebook have put limitations on this image, banning brands from using this space for calls to action such as ‘like this page’ or ‘discounts on our website this week’.

With this update Facebook have also stopped brands from using custom landing tabs. These were a key marketing tool which many brands used to tempt Facebook users to click ‘like’ with discounts and contests.

Facebook are giving brands until March 30th to prepare their content for the new style of pages, so you have a few weeks to get ready.

Social sharing

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are essentially a person-to-person networks and while businesses and cultural institutions may try to leverage these for marketing, most are missing its full potential by treating this new media as they did the old.

In the real world, people share their opinions on the world around them, and this kind of conversation is the most powerful influence on the products we buy, and the way we choose to spend our free time.

Research shows that a recommendation from a friend is more powerful than broadcasting advertising messages, and on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter the same is true.

Personal recommendation isn’t new of course, ten years ago I might have told a handful of people about a new exhibition or a performance I’d enjoyed, but social media amplifies this ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, so instead of me having to go and tell each person about an experience, in one click I can spread the word to hundreds, or thousands of people.

I think that cultural institutions need to rethink how they are approaching social media, moving from the perspective of ’what do we want to say?’ to ‘how do we get people to talk about us?’.

There are many ways that you can make it easier for people to advocate on your behalf or encourage them to talk about your cultural institution.

Get people to ‘like’ you.

Facebook and other social media websites make it easy for people to share things that interest them with their friends through ‘social sharing’ buttons.

These share buttons can be added to any page on your website through a simple line of code and when someone clicks this, a link to the relevant content appears on the relevant social network, sharing this information with their friends.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, but research shows that the people who click Facebook ‘Like’ buttons have on average twice as many friends on the social network.

Ultimately I think this technology will step beyond the internet, for example a museum could have a ‘Like’ button next to a painting, and when a visitor swipes their smart phone next to this, it instantly posts a link on your Facebook wall.

Ask people for reviews

One way that TATE get people to talk about their exhibitions is through a reviews section on their Facebook page. This is an incredibly powerful advert for their exhibitions with real people sharing their experiences of TATE.

TATE use a free Facebook app called ‘Reviews’ to power this functionality on their Facebook page, and any museum or gallery could add this to their own page in minutes.

If you do choose to add reviews to your Facebook page, you need to also consider how you are going to inform people about this. You could use signage in your venue to inform visitors that you would like them to leave a review or if people are buying tickets, take their email addresses and send them an invitation to leave a review the following day.

Take in a lodger

Another interesting way to get a member of the public to share their experiences of a cultural institution is to invite someone to live in it. That is what the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago did when they ran a contest to find someone to live in their museum for a month.

The museum received over 1500 applications to live in the museum, and they selected a woman called Kate as the winner.

She did experiments, spoke to visitors and shared her experience with members of the public through a blog, through videos and through Twitter. Having an individual who is one step removed from the institution gives this social content more credibility than if the museum had written it themselves.

While in this case it was a museum that took in a lodger, I could imagine that this could also work for other cultural institutions, imagine a theatre enthusiast sharing a behind-the-scenes look at a new play taking shape.

Treat bloggers like rockstars

You don’t have to go to the extreme of having someone live in your cultural institution to get them to write about you, just reach out to bloggers.

Blogger outreach is increasingly becoming common place. It takes a little research to build a ‘press list’ of bloggers who matter, either in your geographic area or in your field, but the results can be impressive.

For an exhibition which I developed two years ago, I made friends with four or five relevant blogs. Collectively they had a readership of over 100,000 each day, and that was a very targeted readership of individuals interested in the subject of my exhibition.

Once you have a list of bloggers who can be useful to your organisation, invite them to press previews and encourage them to write about your exhibitions, events or performances by giving them access to photography to illustrate a blog post.


Your social media activity should not just be focused on what you want to say, you should be constantly looking for opportunities to get others to talk about you.

How can you use social media to get people talking about your exhibition, performance or event?


This article was written by Jim Richardson, founder of
Europe’s major conference on social media for museums, MuseumNext and managing director of Sumo, a creative agency with a reputation for developing innovative digital marketing.

Jim regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to publications on social media and digital marketing.


What do people want from museums on Facebook?

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

During April 2011 MuseumNext ran an online survey about Facebook and the way that museums should use the world’s most popular social network. This survey was posted on the fan pages of several museums and we are grateful to those institutions for their help.

The research has some interesting results, especially when compared with the research into how museums should use Twitter which we published last week.

43% of respondents stated that they are aged 25 – 35. The over 65 age group is especially weak, with just 1% of those who responded to our survey stating that they were in this age group. This is despite our survey into UK social media usage stating that over 50% of over 65 year olds are using social media.

As with Twitter, those who interact with museums on Facebook are likely to be fans of a number of institutions, suggesting opportunities to work together to cross-promote activities.

When asked why they chose to ‘like’ a museum the majority of people did so in order to find out about upcoming exhibitions, while a large percentage also chose to do so in order to show support for the institution.

When asked what a museum should use Facebook for promoting exhibitions scored highly. We have linked to a PDF with the full answers we received below.

Finally, 83% of those questioned felt that they would be more likely to visit an exhibition if a friend recommended it. This is lower than the percentage we found in the Twitter Survey but still substantial.

To see the full data on how those who took our survey feel museums should use Facebook. Click to download a PDF of full responses.

6 Arts Marketing Trends from the UK

Sunday, February 13th, 2011


This is a presentation given by MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson at the British Council Digital Creative Conference, Tokyo. (It is also available in Japanese here.)

The heart of what I am going to talk about today is how arts institutions in the UK are responding to the changing expectations of their audiences through their marketing.

The driving force behind this change has been the internet, which over the past decade has moved from a place where people go to find information, to a place to create, curate and share content online.

Our society has undergone a socio-cultural shift, with audiences moving from being passive consumers of information to active participants who want to have their say.

In this new reality, cultural institutions have had to move beyond traditional advertising campaigns, and relying on positive reviews from a few trusted critics. After all, now everyone is empowered to be a critic, with the ability to share their opinions with potentially millions of people through popular social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Today’s cultural consumers are perhaps more informed then ever before and with this shift, the arts are moving from untargeted advertising to focusing on engagement.
1. Going Social

Facebook is the most popular social network in the UK, with an estimated user-base of 24 million, and the starting point for many institutions has been to establish pages on this website.

This makes a lot of sense, taking content about the arts in to a space where a lot of people are spending time.

The vast majority of UK arts venues have a presence on Facebook, and TATE is perhaps the most successful of these with over 140,000 Facebook users choosing to show their affiliation with the gallery.

One of the advantages of taking an institution like TATE on to Facebook is that users of this website engage with them on a level which simply doesn’t happen on a traditional website. For example, content posted on TATE’s Facebook page regularly receives over 100 comments from members of the public.

The other major social media platform in the UK is Twitter. TATE are also very active on this website, with over 246,000 people signing up to subscribe to news from the gallery through this website. This makes TATE the most popular British brand on Twitter.

Marketing to arts audiences through Facebook and Twitter is quite different from traditional advertising. People spend a lot of time in these digital spaces and they don’t respond well to a stream of sales messages. Instead arts organisations need to build relationships and brand recognition, confident that research shows that those choosing to be affiliated with a brand on social networks are more likely to spend money with them.

TATE have walked the fine line between building a community and selling their product remarkably well, with discounts to Facebook fans proving a particularly successful route to create measurable ticket sales.

2. Starting conversations

While holding engaging conversations is key to social networks, we are increasingly seeing a desire from cultural consumers to continue this on the websites of arts institutions.

In response, museums are changing their approach to websites from places to find information to more personalized, engaging and social experiences.

One such example is Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings, a website which brings together collections from 24 art galleries and museums. Like a traditional collection, this provides information about the artworks and the artists who painted them, but the central premise of the website is to ask the public for their opinion.

The public are encouraged to do this by an incentive of winning a replica painting, or as the website promises ‘Tell us about your favourite painting and you can take it home with you’.

While traditionally the Museum may have valued the what the curator or an art critic think about a painting, this website acknowledges that audiences also have an opinion on art.

One painting could be selected by several people as their favourite, each with their own story of what the artwork means to them. Often these stories are quite personal. For example, one person wrote about how his grandmother had told him that a portrait looked like her as a young woman, something which he didn’t believe until she showed him a photograph, and now he wished to win a copy of the painting to give to his grandmother.

The stories give people a different starting point when approaching the art and the galleries. The opinions may be different from those of the curators but are just as valid.

The website has generated positive buzz around the galleries that contain the 100 paintings featured on the website. Perhaps the perfect response comes from a Twitter user called @fletchthemonkey: ‘Blown away by the quality of the paintings hanging in @YorkshiresFav, I think the weekend plans are now revised to going to see some!’

Another example of an arts organization bringing lessons learnt from the social web into their own website is National Theatre Wales, an organization founded in 2008.

Perhaps because the theatre was born in the midst of the social media revolution, it has put an emphasis on building a community of theatre-makers and theatre-goers who together can create performances that change the way we look at the world.

The National Theatre Wales website is the platform for this exchange; a social network of over 2,500 people who have helped shape everything from the individual productions to the direction of the organisation as a whole.
National Theatre Wales states that theatre has always been about forming a relationship with audiences and not just selling tickets. But by forming a community around their work, they are encouraging conversation about their work and a sense of belonging, ownership or affiliation with the organisation.

This kind of positive word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful. This is because personal recommendations have always been more effective than traditional advertising and social media magnifies these conversations, broadcasting them to countless people.

3. Crowdsouring

The Royal Opera House is not perhaps the most obvious place to find innovative uses of technology; it is perhaps one of the more traditional arts institutions in London.

However, in 2009, the Royal Opera house turned to Twitter to ask members of the public to help them to compose a new libretto, one 140 characture tweet at a time, a so-called Twitter Opera.

This wasn’t really a serious attempt to create a masterpiece, but instead an exercise in reaching out to people who might not think that opera was for them.

The Twitter Opera caught the imagination of members of the public, 900 of whom enthusiastically made suggestions for the final piece. The suggestions were molded in to a 20 minute production by professional composers, and was performed at the Royal Opera House.

While critics had their knives out for the production, the finished result received positive reviews with one newspaper columnist describing it as “actually watchable, listenable and rather funny.”

The initiative attracted a large amount of press attention, generating publicity for the organization both in the UK and further afield, and this together with online buzz attracted 1,000 people to the Royal Opera House across four performances.

This idea of co-producing the arts with members of the public has been embraced by a broad range of institutions from the stage to the museum, changing these organisations from being places to see the arts to platforms for creativity.

This fulfills the changing expectations of British audiences who increasingly want more participatory experiences.

An arts project which took this to an extreme was an exhibition called Democracy that took place in the North of England in 2009.

This project aimed to create the most democratic exhibition in the world. It not only asked members of the public to submit artworks through an open call for entries, but also to select what should be exhibited by voting online.

340 artworks were submitted through the website over a five week period and the most popular 50 pieces were exhibited in a gallery.

The competition to gain enough votes to be shown in the exhibition meant that each participant began marketing the exhibition to their network of friends, spreading the word virally through Facebook and Twitter.

These two social networks were responsible for sending over 5000 visitors to the Democracy website over the five weeks that the project was open, making them an important source of publicity for the exhibition.

In the gallery, this concept of Democracy was continued where the fifty artworks were projected digitally and visitors could vote for their favourite artworks from their mobile phones. A vote would increase the size of the preferred artwork, and decrease the size of those around it, making the exhibition get better over time, in the eyes of the public (who were therefore the curators). This format of a constantly evolving exhibition encouraged visitors to keep coming back to the gallery.

Crowdsourcing is a particularly popular trend with UK arts institutions, and many are using this approach to reach out to their audiences by appealing to their creative side. And while the idea of an exhibition which has been curated by the public may run the risk of being accused of ‘dumbing down’, the trend shows no signs of disappearing.

4. Beyond the walls

With audiences struggling to find the time to experience the arts, technology is allowing arts organisations to find new ways to fit in to people’s busy schedules.

In May 2010 the Museum of London launched a free iPhone app which lets anyone experience a piece of history in over 200 sites across London.

Looking at the screen of your iPhone you can overlay moments from history across the scenes of the present day. These can be viewed as ghostly alignments, or the archive images can be brought up and explored in detail, along with information about Streetmuseum’s photographs and paintings.
The app itself was a marketing tool, launched just ahead of the museum opening new galleries, and it attracted a large amount of free publicity with large features about it in several British newspapers.

I think that where the app really works is in making the Museum of London more accessible to an audience which may not traditionally visit the museum, when faced with the overwhelming cultural choices London has to offer.

Another UK arts initiative which is using modern technology to reach new audiences is National Theatre Live. This broadcasts theatre live to cinemas around the world.

On 25 June 2009, the first of these broadcasts carried Nicholas Hytner’s production of Racine’s Phèdre to 70 digital cinemas across the UK to an audience of 14,000 people and another 14,000 people saw it live in the rest of Europe or North America. The final audience figure for this one performance, when allowing for subsequent screenings, is estimated to be around 50,000 people.

Research carried out by the National Theatre in the UK found that NTLive reached new audiences. Most of those who attended the screenings found out about them through the cinemas showing the productions which indicated that the National Theatre was tapping into cinema audiences rather than losing its own audiences to this low cost alternative.

In fact 33.9% of those who saw the production in cinemas said that watching an NTLive screening had encouraged them to see a production at the National Theatre.
Many other UK arts institutions are also developing new ways for audiences to engage with them through technology, with iPhone applications being an especially popular way to do this.

Many, like NTLive, are discovering not only new ways to reach audiences but new revenue streams which can help support their core activities.

5. Collaboration

On the same day that the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s memoir, A Journey, was published to considerable media reaction and controversy, discussion of another topic entirely was topping the trend charts on Twitter.

A one–day event, called Ask a Curator harnessed the networked power of museums and galleries on Twitter to create a global dialogue between members of the public and curators.

340 curators from institutions around the world took part in an event which would have been impossible before the advent of social media technology. Over 10,000 messages were exchanged between museums and members of the public over the course of 1 September 2010.

By working together, these museums and galleries were able to shout above the noise of social media networks and get noticed both by press who picked up on the story around the world and by the public, many of whom were surprised by what they might have perceived as ‘stuffy’ institutions opening their doors to questions on Twitter.

One member of the public commented ‘At last, museums are doing something useful with Twitter, rather than just sending me marketing messages’.

However, Ask a Curator was a very effective marketing campaign. An evaluation found that the majority of those who asked questions said they intended to visit the museums who answered them.

The success of Ask a Curator has been emulated by Ask Shakespeare, Ask a Conductor and several other groups since it took place in September, showing that this form of collaboration can work across several art forms.
A Night Less Ordinary is another project which has brought together arts venues to reach new audiences, in this case young people who haven’t visited a theatre before.

Since February 2009, this government-funded initiative has offered people under 26 free theatre tickets for over 200 theatres across England, the simple premise being that cost is a major barrier to this group attending the theatre.

Young people signed up to get free theatre tickets through a website which brought together performances from across England, providing one easy-to-use website.

The initiative has given away over half a million theatre tickets, and addee these names to the mailing lists of participating theatres.

78% of those young people surveyed said that they were more likely to attend a theatre again after attending a free performance.

The kind of collaborative approach used by Ask a Curator and A Night Less Ordinary is becoming the normal way for UK arts organisations to operate, accelerated perhaps because of the recent financial recession.

Arts organisations are showing that by working together they can make their voice heard in a world overwhelmed by marketing messages.

6. Gamification

Another trend which seems to be taking off in UK museums is the gamification of experiences to reach out to audiences who perhaps don’t think that the arts are for them.

There has been a whole generation of young people who have been brought up playing computer games and this poses problems and opportunities for the arts.

A player of a computer game is the protagonist, placed at the centre of the story and this is increasingly the way in which young people prefer to learn. But this is quite different from the experience they get when they visit a museum or sit in a theatre.

Technology is, however, offering answers with mobile phone apps that turn museums into board games and offer both an experience which is perhaps more appealing to young people and also an educational tool to encourage this hard-to-reach group to learn about art.

TATE Trumps is one such example. This game is based on the popular children’s game Top Trumps and is played in TATE Modern using an iPhone.

Players are tasked with running around the gallery collecting the seven artworks which they believe will beat those collected by their friends and then reconvene to do battle.

I think this is an excellent example of a museum using an iPhone app as a marketing tool, extending a cultural experience to a group who may not think that the arts are for them.

Games seem to be an incredibly popular trend in the museum sector at the moment.


This is just a quick snapshot of how the arts in the UK are using technology to reach out to evolving audiences. Those who are innovating are thriving, whilst those who refuse to change are looking more and more out of touch.

Donations on Facebook

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Guest post by Diane Drubay

The Boston Museum of Science has launched a campaign to raise $ 2,500 needed for the reopening of the planetarium by asking it’s Facebook fans to donate to attend a fundraiser through the application Fundrazr .

This quick and effective tool, launched by Paypal (the most used international payment method) allows you to manage donations, making fund-raising campaigns, but also sell tickets and manage membership fees.

This use of Facebook to raise donations can promote philanthropy among the younger audiences. With its low cost and simplicity, it is a really interesting method of raising micro-donations.

The Boston Museum of Science on Fundrazr accepts donations of $5 to $100. In exchange for their generosity, donors will receive tickets for shows at the planetarium, can attend ‘VIP’ events and a will be named on a plaque in the planetarium.

Diane Drubay is an expert in communication, online and new media for the cultural sector, she is the founder of Paris based agency Buzzeum.

Museums like Facebook

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Facebook offers museums a way to connect with over 500 million people, and it is not surprising that many institutions have taken steps to make it easy for the public to show their appreciation or affiliation by adding a Facebook Like button to their museum websites since Facebook launched them in April 2010.

The Facebook Like button provides an easy way to spread the word about your institution virally, and with the average Facebook user having over 130 friends, you can quickly gain a lot of attention through this simple tool.

When clicked on, a Facebook Like button posts information about the website, exhibition, painting etc that the user ‘likes’ on their Facebook where their friends can see it and share it with their friends too.

Research suggests that the people who click Facebook Like buttons are more ‘social’, having on average twice as many Facebook friends as the typical Facebook user, so this is a valuable group to appeal too.

Jasper Visser, Project Manager for new media and innovative technology at the Nationaal Historisch Museum in the Netherlands wrote about his experience with Facebook Like buttons in a recent blog post ‘I’ve been adding Like Buttons to many of our websites and the results are significant. Conversion is high and traffic from Facebook increased.’

This experience isn’t rare, and Facebook itself quotes statistics suggesting a large increase in referrals from the social network is the likely outcome of adding Facebook Like buttons to your website.

However while museums may note that they have a Facebook fan page on their homepage or in a website footer, most are not applying the Facebook Like buttons to the extend that they could to leverage the maximum exposure for there institution.

A Facebook Like button works best when it links to specific content rather then say a website or an organisation as a whole, so making it possible for a visitor to your website to ‘like’ individual items in your collection or individual events will be more effective then encouraging them to ‘like’ your museum.

Ultimately technology may take this kind of sharing into the gallery.

A prototype developed at a workshop run by MediaMatic in Amsterdam lets visitors swipe an RFID tag next to a real world Facebook Like button to make it appear on their Facebook page, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this technology to start to appear in museums over the next 12 months.

If you have added Facebook Like buttons to your museum website I hope that you will share your experience in the comments below, if you are interested in adding this to your website you can find out how to on the Social Plug-in section of Facebook.


This article was written by Jim Richardson, founder of MuseumNext and managing director of Sumo, an agency with a reputation for developing innovative digital marketing.Jim regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to publications on social media and digital marketing.

Dealing with negative feedback

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

From time-to-time somebody will make a negative comment about your museum on social media websites. If this happens you shouldn’t take it personally.

The latest social media applications for mobile phones make it easy for people to make comments on the move, and these are often flippant, throw-away remarks.

In truth we all make this kind of comment, whether we aren’t happy with having to queue in a shop or whether we don’t like the food in a restaurant, we don’t think twice about these kind of remarks and they often are forgotten as soon as we have made them.

While in the past this kind of comment might have been made to a handful of friends, social media amplifies every complaint, broadcasting them to anyone searching on for a related subject on Google, sometimes for years to come.

While this idea may seem like a good reason not to venture on to social media platforms, it is worth remembering that these comments would appear on social media platforms whether your organisation is active on them or not.

By engaging with users on social media websites you can influence the way that your institution is seen by the communities which exist on these websites. One of the ways that you will do this is by being seen to take negative comments seriously and responding to complaints.

For me, the most positive implication of social media making everyday complaints more visible is that it gives us feedback that we would not have previously had access to, and makes it possible for us to learn from our audiences.

A museum which welcomes constructive criticism and responds by constantly striving to improve is only going to become better, and for an organisation with this mindset, social media can be invaluable.

So, while you don’t need to take negative feedback to heart, you do need to take all comments serious and be seen to act.

How to reply to complaints
How you deal with feedback will depend on your organisation, and how comfortable the management are with social media. Some museums believe that to be truly transparent, they need to answer any complaint made through social media on the platform that the remark has been made, so that other users can see that you are taking feedback seriously, and to invite further debate on the subject.

This level of transparency will not suit every museum, and I believe that it is important not to overstretch your organisation.

The more conservative approach to negative feedback would be to acknowledge the complaint in the public arena of the social media space that it has been made, and to invite the individual who has made the comment to discuss their concern via email, telephone or in person.

To me this is a safer starting point for a museum looking at social media, it makes the venue seem responsive, but lets the organisation deal with the complaint in private, just as the museum would with a complaint made in a venue.

It is worth remembering that it is easier for a museum to start with a more conservative approach and then move towards a more transparent model, rather than the other way around. The most important thing is that the organisation takes onboard feedback and develops a culture of continual improvement to benefit from the knowledge that it’s audiences have chosen to share with it.

Who should deal with complaints will depend on your organisation and the seriousness of what has been said, as most social media spaces are person to person networks, you may choose to address a complaint as an individual working within your organisation, or you may prefer to respond as the museum.

Both routes have there advantages and disadvantages, while it may seem more official to respond as the organisation, this can also jar with the informal nature of these platforms and that in turn, can make the museum seem distant and out of touch.

Personally I feel that it is better to approach a complaint as an individual working for the museum, rather then the museum itself, I feel this makes it easier to build relationships and to build the perception of your organisation being a collection of passionate individuals rather then a faceless institution.

If someone does make a negative comment you may decide that it isn’t appropriate to respond. Much of what takes place in a museum can be interpreted differently by different people and you may choose to ignore a negative response to an exhibition and leave that conversation to be debated by other members of the community.

One thing which you must be careful to avoid is a member of museum staff joining the conversation without identifying their link to the organisation. One example of this backfiring badly was when staff from the Southbank Centre in London added positive reviews of the stage production of The Wizard of Oz to

The Guardian newspaper reported in August 2008, that ‘Three posts expressed surprise at the criticism and lavished praise on the show. There was only one snag – the gushing paeans were written by staff at the Southbank Centre; just 75 minutes later, they were caught red-handed. A beady-eyed moderator noticed that the three rave reviews had all come from computers that shared the same IP address, the code that identifies an internet connection.’

The Southbank Centre later admitted that the three reviews had been written by their staff.

When to ignore comments
While most people will be pleased or even bemused to find that their complaint has been recognized by your museum, occasionally you might encounter someone who wishes to make a lot of noise for no real reason. The internet slang for this kind of activity is a ‘Troll’.

A Troll is less likely to make a complaint about your organisation, and more likely to try and be disruptive to your online communities, they may post off topic messages or inflammatory comments to try and deliberately provoke response.

Your starting point in dealing with a Troll, is to decide if they have a genuine point to make, or whether they are just trying to cause trouble. It is important to give them the chance to make a legitimate complaint and I would suggest that you invite them to do this via email, so that it can be dealt with officially. This is important to protect yourself from any claim that you have not given the individual a route to have their complaint heard.

If you do believe that the individual is being disruptive rather than trying to make a constructive criticism or comment then you have various ways in which you can deal with the problem depending on the social media platform.

If the trolling is taking place within a social network, then it is possible to ban a user from posting to your group, while moderation of blogs will allow you to delete any inappropriate comments before they are public.

Sometimes having a guide to acceptable behavior for community members can solve the problem, make it clear that your museum has a wide audience including children and that you can therefore not allow offensive language or vulgar comments to take place on your network.

Having these kind of guidelines also gives the community using these social networks a framework for policing itself, and you will often find that those breaking the rules will be told that they are out of line by other group members.

What to avoid
Ironically, one of the things which can cause the most negative response, is the way in which a museum is seen to deal with a complaint in the first place.

In 2009 New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz made a comment on Facebook about what he believed to be a very low representation of women artists on the 4th and 5th floors of MoMA. Kim Mitchell of MoMA sent Jerry Saltz a reply, which he posted on Facebook at her request.

“Hi all, I am (Kim Mitchell) Chief Communications Officer here at MoMA. We have been following your lively discussion with great interest, as this has also been a topic of ongoing dialogue at MoMA. We welcome the participation and ideas of others in this important conversation. And yes, as Jerry knows, we do consider all the departmental galleries to represent the collection. When those spaces are factored in, there are more than 250 works by female artists on view now. Some new initiatives already under way will delve into this topic next year with the Modern Women’s Project, which will involve installations in all the collection galleries, a major publication, and a number of public programs. MoMA has a great willingness to think deeply about these issues and address them over time and to the extent that we can through our collection and the curatorial process. We hope you’ll follow these events as they develop and keep the conversation going.”

MoMA are very active across the social media space, and it isn’t surprising to see them answering criticism and trying to take part in the conversation, but rather than this comment being seen in a positive way, it drew a lot of criticism not only from those participating in the Facebook conversation, but also on Twitter and in blog posts where people commented that the reply seemed impersonal, PR-like and that the institution was not interested in being part of the conversation. Others have defended the tone of Kim’s email saying that dealing with a ’serious and contentious complaint in a less formal way would have been incredibly bold’.

The response that MoMA have recieved to Kim Mitchell’s email could be enough to put any museum off the idea of proactively responding to criticism in the social media space, if an organisation perceived to be ahead of the curb can fall fowl of the conversation, then is it safe for any institution to respond to criticism on the web.

I personally feel that responding to comments about your museum, whether they are positive or not is essential. This will show that you’re listening, that you want people’s opinions and that this will build trust and social capital in your brand with your audiences.

The majority of feedback that you find written about your organisation on social media platforms is likely to be very positive, but positive action can come out of even the most negative comment, giving a museum the knowledge it needs to keep getting better.


This article was written by Jim Richardson, founder of MuseumNext and managing director of Sumo, an agency with a reputation for developing innovative digital marketing.

Jim regularly speaks at conferences and contributes to publications on social media and digital marketing.