Digital Marketing

While it might not rank high on every museum professional’s list of favorite activities, marketing is essential for all museums, regardless of size. Below you will find resources for developing and executing a digital marketing strategy that can help identify, expand, and deepen engagement with your institution’s audiences — starting with this short video overview of digital marketing:

This video from the marketing software company Hubspot offers a brief introduction to digital marketing

Creating your digital marketing strategy

Digital marketers aim to grow their institution’s audience and depth of engagement by strengthening awareness of how the institution is working to serve them. Coming up with a plan before implementing digital marketing practices can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful effort. By strategizing in advance, small museums can cultivate digital marketing practices that are consistent, mission-focused, and aimed at the audiences and communities you want to serve. This guide from the marketing software company Hubspot covers the basics for devising and executing a digital marketing strategy. And this article from MuseumNext offers planning advice from a museological perspective, with an emphasis on institutional self-evaluation and museum-specific marketing goals.

Types of digital marketing media

Digital marketers often divide the media coverage they generate into three categories: owned media, paid media, and earned media. Owned media refers to digital properties that belong to an institution, like the content on its website or social media channels. Paid media is advertising and promotion that an institution purchases, including social media ads, paying for email lists, and sponsored coverage in media outlets. Finally, earned media is engagement and press coverage that an institution “earns” by producing owned media that attracts attention without having to pay for it. You can drive web traffic to your owned media by promoting it yourself or by using Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a strategy we explore in more detail on our Web Design Fundamentals page.

A museum, for example, might earn media by posting a digital press release to their website that gets picked up by a local news outlet looking for a story. According to Titan Growth, a marketing consulting firm, earned media is “essentially online word of mouth.” Learn more about the best practices for each media type from this article by Titan Growth.

Don’t have a website where you can host your owned media? Learn more about how you can create one by exploring our Web Design Page.

Content marketing

According to this article from the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” In other words, content marketers use “owned media” to engage audiences and encourage specific actions from the people who interact with their content. A florist using content marketing, for example, might create video tutorials on flower arranging to show clients what they can do with flowers from her shop.

Museum professionals have always been content creators. But not all museums have recognized the potential of content marketing as a tool for engaging existing audiences and cultivating new ones. This guide from HubSpot offers a comprehensive overview of content marketing best practices, with examples, definitions, and strategies. And this blog post from the American Association of Museums applies content marketing to museums, showing museum professionals how they can use existing resources and practices to implement content marketing strategies.

Finding (and growing) your museum’s audience

Most museums set out to serve communities and audiences. This article from MuseumNext offers data-driven strategies to help museums identify and more effectively communicate with their existing audiences.

But what if your museum would like to grow its audiences to become more inclusive? Digital marketing can play a vital role in fostering audience diversity, though achieving this goal also requires institutional changes within the museum itself. See our resources on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion for more information. This article from the media outlet Forbes offers advice for how marketers can keep diversity “top of mind” in all of their messaging and communications. And this blog post from CrowdRiff, a marketing software company, offers museum-specific tips for increasing audience diversity using marketing.

Creating your museum’s brand identity

Consistent branding is essential for museums that aim to establish a lasting community presence. This blog post from Constant Contact explains the various processes involved in developing a museum brand, including coming up with a logo and identifying branding goals. This article from MuseumNext takes a closer look at museum brand identity from a design perspective, demonstrating how consistent design in branding can help museums compete in increasingly competitive environments. 

But branding involves more than logos. To create a successful brand, marketers consider brand voice, brand behavior, and brand environment. This article from Modus, a digital design publication, explores the essential components of a holistic branding strategy.

Leveraging social media

According to this blog post from the American Association of Museums, social media ranks high among the tools that museums should leverage to attract younger audiences. Social media platforms also offer sophisticated tools that enable museums to reach target audiences based on demographics and geographic location. To learn more about how your museum can use social media, check out our social media page.

Writing effective press releases

Traditional marketing tools like press releases play an important role in digital marketing. This short guide from the American Folklore Society covers the basics of writing and distributing informative press releases. And this resource from Target Internet, a digital marketing consulting firm, details how press releases can function as valuable digital content that generates earned media. The traditional method of emailing a press release to media contacts remains an important communications strategy, but giving your press releases digital space on your website allows for the organic distribution of your messaging.

Email marketing

Direct communication by email represents another important tool for digital marketers. Museum professionals can use emails to advertise specific events, share engaging content, and cultivate a consistent brand presence. This article from MuseumNext offers both email marketing strategies and a guide to the many email marketing platforms available today. And this blog post from Landslide Creative, a digital marketing consulting firm, provides museum-specific information about email marketing, including tips for reengaging inactive email recipients and advice about email timing and frequency.