Social media might be a marketing goldmine for museums, but a lot of marketing managers make a huge mistake when they focus only on the “tried and true” platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The mainstream social media landscape offers less and less potential for organic reach, and paid boosted content is increasingly expensive and competitive. Then there’s TikTok.
For museums, TikTok holds incredible marketing potential. TikTok is still something (relatively) new, which means it’s easier to gain traction and build up reputation than it is on other social channels. The people TikTok reaches tend to be younger, and that’s key, because the Gen Z demographic is a coveted one for most museums. And TikTok’s sophisticated algorithms make it very easy for people to find content they want – and by extension, for museums to share it.
As Senior Creative Strategist Luis Bracamontes, who is in charge of Tiqets’ social media efforts, says: “Right now, TikTok is the main social media platform that can help you reach a broader (and often younger) crowd on a massive scale simply by focusing on organic content. This is a great opportunity for museums to maximize their marketing budget and reach new audiences.”
If your museum is not on TikTok yet, what are you waiting for? If it’s fear of the unknown, here are some museums crushing it on TikTok to inspire you.
Important advice for museums on TikTok
"The best way to go is organic; creating a consistent tone of voice with a brand that’s raw, relatable, and not necessarily high production."- Tiqets Senior Creative Strategist Luis Bracamontes
Creating content for museums on TikTok is not like creating content for other social platforms. A fairly new social platform, it was born at least ten years after the original explosion of social media marketing. Its audience is hip to digital advertising, and TikTok users are looking for something more authentic – low-budget, improvised, on-the-go content.
This is good news for museums on TikTok, because fans aren’t looking for expensive content you’d need to hire a consulting firm to produce. They don’t care all that much about content quality and, in fact, as Bracamontes says, “When content is super polished it doesn’t perform as well on TikTok.” In fact, the social platform itself advises brands to “make TikToks, not ads.” This means you already have the resources you need to make TikToks for free.
So, what does matter on TikTok? Entertainment.
Bracamontes explains, “While people still use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share information, that’s not where original content is now, and it’s also not where the conversation is. More and more often, when people are looking for connection or entertainment, they turn to TikTok.” For this reason, TikTok frequently births content that goes viral and themes that are mimicked by creators all over the world.
The best way to succeed on TikTok is to quickly create organic content with a consistent tone of voice. Here are some of the museums we think are doing this extremely well, and how they’re doing it.
1. Be playful, like the Victoria and Albert Museum
While the Victoria and Albert Museum in London exhibits art, design, and performance from antiquity to the modern day – a highbrow premise – their TikTok feed is fun and playful, often taking famous works of art and “digitally vandalizing” them for laughs. For instance, behold this wonderful animation of Marie Antoinette:
The V&A Museum also frequently features Gen Z museum employees explaining art history in hilariously accessible language, like this TikTok where “Medieval snail historian” Evan Hart talks us through the demise of the painter Raphael, who “died of having too much sex on his own birthday.”
The moral of this story: Have some fun with it, and your audience will, too. You might have staff members with a knack for this kind of content, so ask around for good ideas.
2. Tap into pop culture, like the Empire State Building
When globally beloved popstar Taylor Swift recently re-recorded and released her Red Album, the Empire State Building got in on the hype by posting a very low-production-quality TikTok of the tower itself singing Swift’s lyrics in the fog. How does a tower sing? With giant superimposed lips and eyeballs, apparently.
This low-tech approach is cute and funny, and in the case of the Empire State Building’s post, which capitalized on the trending hashtag #redtaylorsversion and tagged Swift herself, it garnered over 289K views.
The interesting thing to note about this particular TikTok is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the Empire State Building itself, but just cashed in on an existing cultural zeitgeist, and that’s a fairly easy thing to do on TikTok.
The moral of this story: Tune in to what people are already talking about, and take advantage of the hashtags they’re already sharing. Hashtags can make it very easy to jump into a conversation midstream.
3. Let other people create content for you, like the Rijksmuseum does
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam excels in its marketing in many ways, but one of the easiest and least resource-intensive is the way the museum leans into TikTok: by letting others do the work. A combo of young creators and influencers visit the museum and create video content; marketers at the Rijksmuseum simply curate it.
In this TikTok, Dutch actor Nasrdin Dchar animatedly describes The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede by Jacob van Ruisdael in 60 seconds. In a series of posts like this one, Dchar brings a little personality and dimension to 2D art on the walls.
Sometimes, this method entails paid collaborations with celebrities and influencers, but another way to approach it is to look for user-generated content, or UGC, that already exists – content that your museum has been tagged on, or that uses your museum’s hashtag.
There are two ways to reshare someone else’s content on TikTok:
- If the video was marked “public” by the creator, simply hold a finger down on the video and choose “Save Video” from the pop-up menu, then post it.
- If you want to lose the watermark that TikTok automatically saves with the above method, you’ll need a third-party tool such as iMyFone MarkGo, RemoveLogoNow, Video Eraser, or Apowersoft Online Video Watermark Remover – but this is really not necessary.
- The Duet feature of TikTok also allows you to turn the original 9:16-ratio video into a 4:5 video with a split screen so you can record your own reaction or mimic the original.
You’ll often see celebrities using this last method to record their own reactions to fans lip-syncing or dancing to their songs. For museums, there are a lot of fun, creative ways you could take advantage of this feature, too, while also engaging with your fans. By the way, it’s always nice to request permission to reshare someone else’s content, but it’s not necessary in every case.
The moral of this story: Original content is not the only thing that matters on TikTok. When a meme takes off, it really takes off.
4. Bring history to life like the Black Country Living Museum
The Black Country is an area of the UK that gained its name in the 1800s from the extreme amount of smoke produced by the iron and coal industries. The rich history of this place is brought to life by the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, England, with a rebuilt, historically accurate village where visitors can immerse themselves in the old way of industrial life. It’s a pretty cool place, and the museum’s marketers translate the experience from a modern-day point of view with engaging, high-quality content such as this gem:
The costumes are impeccable and the musical choices strangely perfect. Perhaps that’s why the Black Country Living Museum has over 1.3M followers on TikTok! Who knew that many people were interested in the history of British industry?
The moral of this story: There’s a cool POV to any topic, if you can find it. Your museum is probably rich with subject matter just waiting to be animated in a funny or casually informative TikTok.
5. Make retro cool again, like the Sacramento History Museum
Where the Black Country History Museum juxtaposes historical facts with trendy modern music and fashion, the Sacramento History Museum in California leans fully into its retro nerd chic with regular TikToks about such subject matter as paranormal conspiracy theory, antique letterpress operation, and Gold Rush ghosts. TikToks often feature museum experts such as Howard, this gentleman who shows us how to make a print from a historic woodcut in celebration of National Button Day:
Without watching the TikToks, it sounds vaguely improbable that 2.1M followers would be enthused about watching a historic printing operation in action or learning in detail about the Gold Rush, but without trying too hard to be cool and hip, the Sacramento History Museum has managed to capture the attention of a lot of Gen Z fans with its approachable, lo-fi approach to sharing.
The moral of this story: You don’t have to try to be cool. Just be your best version of your brand and let people behind the scenes.
6. Be irreverent, like the Uffizi Galleries
Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi in Florence is one of the most respected art museums in the world, housing masterpieces by Gentileschi, Botticelli, Caravaggio, and other Italian Renaissance artists. The whole vibe is high culture, but the museum’s TikTok profile is no such thing. In fact, if there’s one word we’d use to describe the TikTok content of Uffizi Galleries, it’s irreverent.
Here, for your pleasure, is a mashup of the iconic sitcom Friends with a portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife bantering back and forth in French.
Silly? A bit. Cheap production value? You bet! Unlike the masterpieces on display in the museums, the artwork the Uffizi Galleries posts on TikTok is quick and dirty – and terribly fun.The moral of this story: Know your medium. TikTok is for cheap, quick, fun content. While it might make sense to create brand consistency across other social media platforms, on TikTok, you can let loose.
7. Take advantage of paid opportunities, like Tiqets!
One of the things that makes TikTok so great for museums and other attractions is that you can produce original, organic content without spending a ton of money.
But there are also paid advertising options, and with TikTok’s incredibly well-tuned algorithms, this can be a highly effective approach at particular times. When you choose to advertise on TikTok, you can easily find and zoom in on a specific audience, which is great – if you know your audience and what kind of content they’ll respond to. At Tiqets, we take advantage of TikTok advertising when we have a special event we are extra excited to promote, such as our Earth Day celebration in 2021.
The moral of this story: Pick and choose when you indulge in paid advertising versus organic content.
Use TikTok’s latest features to your advantage
TikTok marketing trends are so much more than just cute dances and entertaining lip syncs. As Gen Z gets older and enters the workforce, Tik Tok has become a more grown-up platform where 20- and 30-somethings hang out. So for museums and brands, Bracamontes warns, “The more you ignore TikTok, the more you’ll be left behind with this aging audience.”
One last thing about best practice for museums on TikTok. The platform recently introduced the ability to pin your favorite videos to the top of your profile, which is a nice benefit for strapped marketing teams who don’t have the resources to constantly release enthralling content. If you have TikTok videos that are particularly on brand or that speak to a current exhibit, you can anchor them to the top so people see them more frequently.
For more tips on how museums can use social media to reach a younger audience, check out Social Media Strategy for Museums: How to Reach a Younger Audience Online.