Six Steps to Social Media Success for Any Museum

By Katie Novak

Whether you’re just getting started with social media, or you want to figure how the heck to make it work with a team of two, these six steps will get you set in a good direction.

1.Start with WHY

Develop a foundation for yourself (and anyone who you may need to get on board with your plan!) by starting with WHY. Answering the fundamental question of why you’re on social media will ground the rest of your plan and help guide your decision making. Do your best to answer your why by looking at your museum from your audience’s standpoint – what might they want to get out of following you on social media? What is special and unique about your institution that can be shared on social media? Ask lots of questions to help you get to your why, and use data (link: on what is happening on social media overall.

2.Analyze (Your Audience)

Whether you’re already on social or not, it is vital to understand your audience.

If you’re already using social media, use the insights tool(s) available to break down who your audience is. The insights on a Facebook page are a great place to start, but you will find much more thorough audience data is hiding in your Facebooks ads platform. Navigate to your ‘Ads Manager’ (link:, and chose audience insights from the top navigation menu.

If you’re not currently using social media, gather data on any audiences that you currently have. That could mean website visitation information via Google Analytics, or any data that you have on your ‘real life’ visitors. Don’t have any data? Decide who your ideal audience would be, and build from there.

3.Analyze (Your Content)

If you’re already using social media, now is the time to do an audit of your existing content. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer the option to export reports about you content. This allows you to see your content laid out in an excel document and gives you the option to sort based on any variable – take a look at which posts come in on top for engagement vs. impressions vs. other variables. It is also important to make note of any negative feedback, which can be found in Facebook post data reports. Negative feedback happens when someone hides your post, or chooses to hide all posts form your page. One or two pieces of negative feedback are nothing to panic over, but if you see that every time you post a certain type of content you receive negative feedback, it can be a sign that you should move away from that type of content.


Once you have a handle on your why you’re on social, who your audience is, and what content has performed well in the past, use this info to choose what platform(s) make sense for your institution. Be realistic about how many platforms can be managed – if your team is small (or nonexistent!) maybe only one social media platform is right for you. Focus on quality over quantity.

Be sure that at least 2 hours per platform can be dedicated each week – this should include time to both create and source content, and to engage with your audience in both a pro-active and reactive way. 


Now that you know your why, who and what, it’s time for HOW. Be realistic about how much content you can create and source, and prioritize what types of content you want to share.

Aim to publish content daily – no matter what platform you’ve chosen. If you’re using Facebook and/or Twitter, ensure that you’re sharing various types of content: images, videos, and links. Decide on a specific schedule for types of content. For instance, maybe you’re a transportation institution, and every Tuesday could be ‘Train Tuesday’, or maybe ‘Fancy Ride Friday’. Find something that you can share weekly on the same day that has a theme; this will help build trust with your audience, and gives them a reason to keep an eye out for your content on that special day, and always.

Be sure to include ‘curated’ content as part of your weekly posts – this means content that you didn’t produce, but that is related to you in some way. Maybe this is fun local community news, or interesting articles about other museums (that you’re not in direct competition with!). Ask an engaging question about the article, or pull a quote that will draw your audience in. Not sure where to start to find curated content? A website like Content Gems (link: lets you set up a daily email with posts from around the web that relate to the keywords that you’ve identified – start there and you may get some great ideas for publications to follow and source content form. 

This is also the time to decide what voice you want to speak with on your museum’s social media channels. Chose a voice and personality that makes sense for your institution; maybe your institution is lots of fun and uses emojis and gifs a lot. Maybe you’re more serious, but still like to make puns. Whatever works for you, ensure that it is consistent across all the platforms that you’re using. Include details about this voice in a document that can be handed over in case of staffing changes – even if there is a different person managing the account, it should remain consistent.

6.Execute and Engage

Now the fun part – putting your plan into action!

Secluding a block of time for laying out your week (or month!) on social media can be really helpful for managing your time. For example, maybe on Mondays from 10-12 you identify what content you want to post that week, find or create it, and schedule it to post. Facebook allows you to pre-schedule posts right in the platform, and this can also be done for Twitter using external apps, such as Hootsuite (link: https://hootsuite.comor Tweetdeck (link:  (no payment required!). This eliminates the need to think about posting every day. Currently, there are not any options that allow you to schedule or post to Instagram from an external site. If you’re using Instagram, try setting yourself a daily reminder or alarm to get your post up!

It is necessary to check in on your social channels every day. Respond to customer inquiries or questions, and thank people for sharing pictures, replying, or otherwise engaging with you online. Also, be sure to take a look at what else is happening on social media, and engage if it make sense (Twitter and Instagram make this easiest, use hashtags to find out what is trending!).


Bonus Tip #1:  find creative ways for your visitors to engage with you while they are at your institution, and beyond. Photo contests, selfie stations, and working questions into your exhibits can all be great ways to drive engagement. Gone are the days of no cell phones and no photography in museums… so we might as well embrace where we’re at!

Bonus Tip #2: Don’t neglect review sites! Our culture is increasingly motivated by online reviews, and it is important to treat these as social media platforms that are non-negotiable. While they do not replace the engagement possible on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, reviews are critical and should be monitored and responded to regularly (both positive and negative reviews!). Make sure that you’ve ‘claimed’ your institution’s page on Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Google. Spend time making sure that your pictures, address, hours, admission rate, and other important details are up to date.


Katie Novak has been working in social media since 2007, when she advoked for and built the first ‘Fan Page’ for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She spent many years doing double duty in marketing and education at Fort Calgary, and is now the part-time Social Media and Digital Outreach Coordinator for ICOM Canada. You can find her @keightyen and on LinkedIn. 



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