Social Media & Public Relations

Social media can be an effective tool for attracting visitors who have never come to your institution — and for keeping them engaged long after they have left. If you want to join a community of information specialists in the digital world, the Museum Computer Network (MCN) offers resources and community that are perfect for those working with social media.

Social Media Policies & Guidelines

The Virginia Association of Museums published this brief guide for creating a social media policy. This guide suggests strategies to help institutions design an approach to social media that is appropriate for the size and scope of their organization. It makes an effort to remind institutions that digital presence is the new “face” of the organization; having guidelines for appropriate behavior is essential for maintaining a positive public image.Featuring exhibitions, collection items, and events can strengthen community engagement. The Smithsonian Institution published a sample social media policy for museums. This guide can help you to sync your social media goals with your institution’s mission. It is important to establish a set of goals for each social media platform that you use because each platform reaches audiences differently.

Protecting the privacy of your employees, audience, and institution on social media should be established in your policies and plans. Refrain from posting personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

As you develop your social media presence, the Social Media Policy Handbook from Idealware can help. To quote the authors,

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Screenshot from the Social Media Policy Handbook

For those who have limited experience with social media, this handbook will help guide you understand the role of social media and how to incorporate your institution’s mission with its social media policy. It also provides space for users to write down ideas and to brainstorm with the content provided.

Similarly, the Minnesota Historical Society provides a five-page slideshow of social media worksheets that museums can download and use. It discusses topics like social media goals, target audiences, the use of various social media sites. The worksheets also provide spaces for museum personnel to write their own ideas on the given topics.

If beginning social media seems like a major consumer of time and money, consider this one hour long webinar from the New England Museum Association. It will help you decide where to focus your energy to use your resources in the most effective way.

The Western Museums Association blog features four brief video interviews with museum technology experts who discuss creating a social media strategy and the benefits of social media use. The third video, about determining who will speak for the museum on social media, is particularly relevant for institutions just establishing an online presence.

This article uses the San Diego Zoo as a case study to discuss effective use of social media. It highlights the tactics that the Zoo does well in its use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs.

Using Social Media

The University of Minnesota created a guide to help you develop accessible posts for social media. This guide highlights the importance of Alt text, descriptive image text, and accessible formatting to creating an inclusive presence online. For information about making your museum accessible visit Museums for All. 

Sprout Social’s ultimate social media for museums guide will provide you with an extensive overview of the potential platforms that you can use to promote your institution.

This website is a user-friendly guide to using Facebook. It teaches organizations how to market themselves using the social media platform, and explains the uses of pages, profiles, and events.

Mashable has a thorough Twitter Guide Book for those starting out on the platform.

Screenshot from Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book

The Virginia Association of Museums offers the handbook, Why Should a Museum Start a Blog? It discusses various approaches to consider for museum blogs, appropriate content, and platforms friendly to the new blogger.This CrowdRiff’s blog post lists the various ways and benefits of using user-generated content to promote exhibits. User-generated content is content such as blogs, videos, audio, or images created by your audience. This Medium interview with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia discusses how you can source and co-create content with influencers. Hootsuite interviewed Kate Carter the senior digital marketing manager at the British Museum. This episode of Hootcast is an excellent example of how a museum can successfully engage, challenge, and educate their audience via social media.

If you are interested in seeing examples of blogs that work well, be sure to check out these links:

  • Texas Historical Commission: THC is the state organization for historic preservation. Their blog offers an insider’s perspective on projects and programs.
  • Museum 2.0: Nina Simon regularly updates her blog about her observations on contemporary museum issues.
  • Market Early America: Heidi Glatfelter’s blog is no longer active, but is an example of an effective history blog.


If you are interested in utilizing online tools to connect to visitors, there are a few options available to you. Constant Contact makes it easy to send e-newsletters, announcements, and surveys as well as advertise programs and events. Similarly, MailChimp, allows you to manage campaigns and subscriptions and create e-newsletters. MailChimp offers a free account option.


Free and easy-to-use services like Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts enable users to monitor their digital presence by tracking media mentions , industry trends, and competitor insights.

The wealth of visual and textual data has enabled museums to collect large datasets also known as “big data.” Big data is used to communicate market insights and forecast trends (e.g., traffic and content data). Learning how to read and comprehend social media analytics can help you to revise your social media strategies and create an enjoyable experience for your followers. This article published by Sprout Social is a comprehensive guide to all of the media metrics that matter.

Free Data Analytic Tools

These tools allow you to track audience engagement and demographics. Data analytic tools will help you to develop and strategize relevant marketing campaigns, fundraising campaigns, and programming.Many social media platforms and online tools have an evaluation feature. Google Analytics and Audiense are widely used for gathering data and generating reports and measuring the success of your online campaigns. The results can be presented to your board or used to improve outreach and fundraising efforts.

HootSuite, Cyfe, and Buffer are social media management programs that feature evaluation tools to gather data about your various social media profiles. The results can be used to determine which social media platforms work best for your organization.