Social media and museum websites

Are social networks driving traffic to museum websites?

To increase website visits should not be the main reason why a museum joins social networks but it is nevertheless a plausible goal to include in the museum social media strategy. Now that many museums have been using social networks for several years, we are curious to hear from you about what has been learned and which goals have been achieved most successfully.

Social Media Strategies

In a past interview, I've explained my ideas on online strategies and on the differences between these and marketing strategies. It is shortsighted to think of online technologies just as marketing tools to communicate the value of products or services. Online strategies, such as social media strategies, should focus on helping museums to fulfil their organisational mission. For example, a museum that has for its mission to increase public understanding and enjoyment of modern art should use social media to encourage conversations about modern art and focus on increasing its understanding and enjoyment online. That said, for an organisation with thousands of fans or followers, it might make sense to include as a second or third goal the ambition to use social media to encourage online audiences to visit the museum website. After all, websites often include more information about the organisation's programme, collection, research, etc. That is exactly the case of Tate's Social Media Strategy, one of its twelve goals is to 'Direct traffic to the Tate website'. Tate's online strategy has been publicly available online since the 1st of April 2011. It is time to ask what have we learned since 2011? Has your museum been successful at achieving the proposed goals stated in its social media strategy? Which goals were achieved successfully and which ones need to be revised?

Increase online visits

In 2011, we have collaborated with the Art Center, LABoral in Gijon (Spain) in order to design and develop their social media strategy. In the case of this organization the website played a central role in their overall strategy because they target an international audience spread around the world. Not surprisingly one of the goals to use social media was to increase online visits. To achieved the proposed goals, it was decided to focus on the social networks for which the center already had an audience. The number of fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter was approximately 5,000 people for each network. The organization's staff was already posting and tweeting at a regular basis. The new strategy introduced two simple changes. First, the staff members were instructed to include in most posts and tweets a deep link back to the website. Secondly, a custom weekly report was created to inform the staff members about how many website visits each of their posts/tweets had generated. The website traffic with its sources on social networks, commonly referred to as 'visits via social referral', increased from 200 visits a month to 2,000 visits a month. The graph shows the number of monthly visits via social referral.

As it is evident from the collected data the strategy not only had an impact in the visits via social referral as the impact remained sustained well after the strategy was introduced. Visits via social referral currently represent 17% of the total online visits whereas in the past they used to be 3%. Similar results were included in Tate's Social Media Strategy document: 'Tests conducted over the last six months have proved that social platforms such as Facebook are key traffic drivers to Tate Online. Facebook has become the second highest traffic driver to the website.'

Share your findings

You can find out the percentage of visits via social referral of your website in a matter of minutes:

  • Open your Google Analytics account.
  • Select the 'Traffic Sources' tab.
  • From the 'Social' drop down menu, select the 'Overview' page.
  • Divide the number of 'Visits via Social Referral' by 'Visits' and multiply by 100.
  • The result is the percentage of visits generated from social networks.

As you probably noticed 17% of visits via social referral is quite high. A more usual result would vary between 1% and 3%, which might probably means that your organisation's website has a multitude of important referrals and it does not exclusively depend on social networks. What are the social networks that drive more traffic to your website? Is it Facebook, Twitter or any other? What is the percentage of social referral for your organisation's website? Sharing this information with others affords us the possibility to better understand our individual strategy and it will definitively put some of this abstract numbers back in context.

Feel free to reply to these questions in the comments bellow or/and via the hashtag #musesocial. Stay in touch @ruibeep.

Filed under: ,