Museums should make every effort to build their mobile app catalogue. It could be a Collection app like at the Design Museum or location-based apps like Magic Tate Ball. Some museums might argue the cost of developing apps is uneconomical in today’s financial climate. We disagree. If restaurants, coffee shops and football teams recognise the need to engage their customers digitally to meet their expectations, why shouldn’t museums? If you look after your brand, then the pounds will take care of themselves.
Don’t replicate material. We said don’t replicate material. As tempting as it might be, visitors to your Facebook page will not be impressed if it’s just a rehash of your website. If someone wants your opening hours or to know if there is a café on one of the levels, in all likelihood they’ll go straight to your website. Or they’ll tweet you. Your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr and Youtube pages should ideally be very different from each other. They should reflect certain parts of your personality and, for that reason, will probably appeal to different people for different reasons.
If you want your visitors to engage with you, listen. And show you’re listening. With big bright flashing lights. Host a Tweet wall like the Museum of London. Better still – install a Tweet wall at the entrance, around the galleries and at the exit. The Tweet wall allows visitors and passers-by to see what they have written, and know it is not disappearing into the ether. They now have a stake in the wall and may want to hang around to see their message flash up and to interact with other visitors. It would be great if museum staff responded to these tweets on-the-spot. An ‘AskTheCurator’ hashtag would surely prove popular.
Learn to reward your visitors more. Having near-mastered the art of asking for money, it’s time to give something back. In the same vein as the Tweet wall, encourage visitors to post their Instagram snaps or Draw Something pictures to a ‘Vis-wall’. The author of the most popular content – measured by crowdvoting – wins fame, glory and perhaps even a prize from the museum shop.
Don’t introduce new technologies to your museum just for the sake of it. Ask yourself what purpose it serves. If you don’t know, how are your visitors supposed to? Whilst it’s tempting to show off to the world that your museum is with it, so to speak, without a clear and integrated strategy, chances are it will just look like a desperate gimmick. Remember, technology is servant, not master.