7 Online Marketing Tips for Museums and Attractions

Scarlett Hawkins

March 3, 2021

In 2017, a KPMG study found that 55% of people will search online for reviews and recommendations before making a purchase and 47% will visit the company website – a staggering gap from the just 26% of people who physically stroll into the store or venue to make the initial purchase. In light of the limitations of movement and the increase in online engagement worldwide throughout 2020, it’s safe to assume that the gap between these data points is now wider than ever, making the need for a strong virtual presence more important than ever. Whether you’re back to business as usual or still virtual-only, these 7 online marketing tips will help your business stand out.

People spend more time staring at their phones than looking at billboards.
Photo by Lisanto 李奕良 on Unsplash

Why is online marketing important?

Online marketing is one of the most essential ways of building a trusted relationship between your brand and your intended audience, wherever they are. With people increasingly connecting with the world through their phone or computer screen – and now, with many staying at home for their own safety – the old-school ways of enticing clients need to be optimised to make sure your client engagement makes sense of this unprecedented era.

Museum marketing has, for a long time, focused on showcasing the wonders within museums’ walls (and not without good reason!), but as so many people are currently unable to freely wander into your venue, maintaining your online connection with the public is essential to ensure you remain top of mind. 

A study from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development about the impact of Covid on E-commerce found that tourism and travel sectors have suffered a significant decline in online spending; however, the study also pointed to the fact that people are likely to continue to travel more locally. This represents an opportunity for museums and attractions to cater more to local clientele, and one of the ways to get their attention is through online marketing. There are more ways to attract local tourists to your venue, of course. 

Museums and attractions with good online marketing strategies are better-positioned to catch the interest of the indifferent social media scroller or diligent review-reader. By offering free or paid options on your website and boosting your social media presence, you can ensure an ongoing relationship with the public – and shift your attraction to the top of the to-do list when life returns to normal again.

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that that the internet has made it possible to capture the sense of magic of places and experiences, and then broadcast that magic to the world. All you need is a clear understanding of what appeals to your client base, a pinch of imagination, and a decent internet connection.

Online Marketing Tip 1: Get to know your audience

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this online marketing tip – it can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a business dipping its toe into online advertising. For many people who live and breathe tourism, what can seem so obviously attractive about your museum or attraction can be hard to articulate in digital media.

The key to understanding your audience is to log the data that is already at your fingertips. Websites provide an abundance of statistics across any metric you can imagine that can help you hone in on who is visiting your website, what interests them, and their browsing habits. Take a deeper look at the discussions taking place on your social media and where your followers are directing their attention. Consider investing in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools that can rocket your business to the top of a search engine results page so you can stand out from the crowd.

Online Marketing Tip 2: Embrace your USPs (Unique Selling Points)

Photo by Noah Näf on Unsplash

Though you know what makes your museum or attraction special without question, being able to contextualise that special factor (your ‘Unique Selling Point’) for the public can be tricky. Your USPs could be anything – from the brilliantly in-depth guided tour that turns visitors into modern art junkies to the VR room that transports visitors to another world entirely.  

A person with limited understanding of textile manufacturing, for example, might see a perfectly-preserved garment dating as far back as 300 B.C., but not truly understand its significance. Your mission as a museum is to help them understand and get them excited. This is where showcasing your USPs plays an invaluable role in your online marketing. 

Knowing how to strategically (not to mention subtly) integrate your USPs into the way you present your museum online will build invaluable association between your brand and the narrative you want associated with your reputation. To incorporate your USPs into your communication, consider embedding them in the footer of your website, include them in email newsletters, or showcase testimonies from your users that reflect your USPs in your social media to show what others appreciate about your venue.

Online Marketing Tip 3: Tweet it, share it, do it for the ‘gram

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Social media is here to stay, and young people in particular are electing to do all their online browsing via these feeds, rather than seeking out dedicated websites. One of the most important online marketing ideas is to make sure your social media presence is engaging, interactive and projects your best features – just as with personal identity, so it is with business.

 The Art Newspaper named Twitter and Instagram the best social media platforms for museums, so while it’s best to have a diversified social media presence across as many channels as possible, resource-limited museums and attractions should aim to focus their attention on these two.

Develop a strategy for curated content, and ask yourself the right questions to make sure there’s regular content launched throughout the week, month and year. What big milestones are taking place this quarter? What can your museum or attraction highlight in alignment with these holidays so you’re at the forefront of peoples’ feeds?

Posit questions in your social media captions to encourage people to engage with your content, or embed a resounding ‘call to action’ so they know what to do next if your post has caught their attention. If in doubt, ‘Buy tickets for [exciting event] or check out our [special attraction] on the link below!’ is usually a safe bet, but be sure to change up the language or it can get stale.

Online Marketing Tip 4: Have a clear brand image

Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

Knowing what your brand is – and how it communicates – is essential to maintaining a consistent, approachable and engaging presence online, not to mention ensuring easy recognisability of your brand online.

If you don’t yet have a style guide that lays out the dos and don’ts of how to ‘Be the brand’ online, that’s the ideal place to start. The objective is to ensure your virtual ‘voice’ is consistent not only day-to-day, but among the few or many people who may contribute content now and in the future.

Make sure that anybody developing content for your website or social media is aware of the tone of brand voice, style and colour palette.

The style of your media feed is also important. Make sure your images and videos are harmonious when laid out in an Instagram grid or Facebook album. Having a little touch that’s definitely yours will enable a subtle rapport between your brand and a person scrolling past who, upon recognising your brand, experiences a little twinge of familiarity. 

It really helps to standardise your colour schemes. If you want to keep it simple, you can do so by making sure all posts are overlaid with a similar range of tasteful filters – but don’t turn up the settings too high, or you’ll wash away the details! 

Online Marketing Tip 5: Make sure all your media are high-definition and high-quality

Capturing high-quality content sometimes requires a little extra effort (and investment) up-front, but it can pay dividends down the line.

Content creation can be a lot of work, and many businesses make the mistake of bringing in a hobbyist photographer friend to snap some pictures in exchange for free admission, but this isn’t an area where cutting corners or being spontaneous is strategic: The best content is planned in advance, and it’s safer to call in the experts.

Think about what features of your business should be highlighted, and how that connects with your broader social media strategy. Are there photos and videos you can capture now and release throughout the year? Is there a good variety of angles, styles and themes? Does some preparatory work need to go into setting up equipment, securing the right lighting, and ensuring post-production is included? If your entire online presence is relying on whatever you’re about to produce, make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for from whoever is tasked with capturing the content.

Online Marketing Tip 6: Competitions and campaigns are your friends

Up your online presence and increase your audience with a well timed competition
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

What do people love more than anything? The chance to be a winner, of course!

If your museum or attraction has something of value to offer the general public (and trust us, it does), you can easily incentivise people to access that offering in exchange for online engagement. Consider hosting a competition to win exclusive access to your venue for 2 hours, or a social media campaign connecting what you do best with something relevant, thematic or engaging.

From International Donut Day to the International Day for the Elimination Against Violence Against Women and Girls, every single day in the calendar year has a handful of official (and unofficial) holidays attached to it. Consider which are relevant for your brand and find a fresh take on how to leverage that day for an online campaign that will drum up your online engagement.

The key to a successful competition to make sure people win without expending more effort than the value of the prize – more video challenges die on the vine than go viral, for example. It also is important to be smart about the rules and limitations of any competition you hold for the general public. Set clear guidelines and don’t give too broad a spectrum for anyone with a mischievous streak to sabotage your competition. After all, you certainly don’t want to go viral for all the wrong reasons.

Online Marketing Tip 7: Communicate your Covid measures

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

No list of museum marketing tips would be complete without a nod to 2020’s most-discussed and least-liked news story: Covid. And as much as we all wish we could stop talking about it, when you’re brainstorming online marketing ideas, it’s critical that you consider how you can adapt what you’re doing in the event of lockdowns, shutdowns or other potential barriers that might make it more difficult to bring clients to your door. 

Many businesses have been quick to adapt the ways in which they market themselves online – particularly those who have shut up shop until they can guarantee client safety. So you might find yourself scratching your head on what to do if you can’t entice people to come to your museum or attraction – but don’t worry, there are plenty of options available. 

We’ve documented a number of creative ways that tourism operators have kept their connection strong with their clientele despite the physical challenges – from virtual rollercoaster rides to online tours – so have a scan for some inspiration on thinking outside the box.


Learn how the best museums and attractions in the world are adapting to the ultra-digital age with our guide to virtual tourism.

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