As a relative newcomer (and decided lifer) to the Museum Marketing world, I decided it might be a good idea to start sharing Museum Marketing posts, articles, and any other related materials I happen to come across. The article you will find below was in the NY Times yesterday, and discusses the interesting relationship between museums and Instagram. While just a small facet of the potential of social media within a cultural organization, it’s a great way to approach the incorporation of channels such as Instagram into the workings of the traditional museum, and bring in fresh visitors, create new content, and engage new audiences. (Intermixed, you will find some of my own Instagram photos from the Adirondack Museum, where I am working as Marketing Assistant. Check it out!
Sharing Cultural Jewels via Instagram
“On a recent spring morning, some 90 minutes before the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened, Dave Krugman, a 26-year-old photo retoucher from Bushwick, Brooklyn, ushered six friends into its cavernous halls through a side door near East 81st Street.
Unimpeded by crowds, they roamed the world-famous exhibitions. Mr. Krugman photographed his fellow adventurers posing above the main staircase, standing stone-faced in front of an ornately carved Roman sarcophagus and strolling past the pool around the Temple of Dendur.
The rapid rise of social media has created many unusual alliances, but few are more curious than those the bushy-bearded Mr. Krugman has formed with some of the leading cultural institutions in New York. He has earned his V.I.P. access because he is helping them — free of charge — build their profiles on Instagram, an app for sharing photos and videos.
Though Instagram did not exist four years ago, it now counts more than 200 million active monthly users. Purchased by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool for companies that are social-media savvy, like Starbucks and Nike. More hidebound organizations have had to play catch-up to figure out how best to exploit this online pictorial medium. In recent years, many cultural institutions have created Instagram accounts under their names but then rarely posted photos, if at all. Until last July, for example, the New York Public Library had made not a single post to its account.
That’s where Mr. Krugman comes in. Leveraging his nearly 50,000 followers at @dave.krugman and a deep network of influential photographers using Instagram, Mr. Krugman has become a go-to guy for New York libraries and museums. The New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, among others, have all used Mr. Krugman to find their voices on Instagram and attract a coveted younger demographic.
“I just have a belief in the platform,” Mr. Krugman said. “So as smartphones democratized photography, I was able to quickly see the opportunity for institutions to connect with a whole new generation of creative minds and was excited to help them harness the power.”
Mr. Krugman acts as a combined referral service and consultant. The institutions maintain control of their primary accounts, but deploy Mr. Krugman in creative ways to attract more followers and a youthful audience. The Metropolitan Museum, for instance, allowed Mr. Krugman and his band of Instagram stars into its halls outside of normal business hours, and used a hashtag — #emptymet — that collects all of their photographs in one stream.
Their Instagram posts also link to the museum’s main account, @metmuseum, which drives traffic to the museum’s Instagram account. “Had a great time wandering the halls of the #emptymet,” reads one Instagram caption. “Thanks to @metmuseum for the opportunity!”
Mr. Krugman’s fame is growing in Instagram circles. In the past month, he has also led Instagram’s official “meet up” in New York, and Esquire magazine invited him to attended an evening at the Hearst Tower headquarters on West 57th Street in Manhattan as one of Instagram’s “influencers.” The National Gallery of Art in Washington has asked him to lead an Instagram event there this summer.
“People in other communities are seeing what he is doing and being influenced by it,” said Morgan Holzer, who runs the Instagram account for the New York Public Library and started collaborating with him last autumn.
Ms. Holzer said she had even heard from a museum in Minnesota that wanted to duplicate the Krugman experiment. “In museums, particularly, everyone in social media is always stretched thin,” she said. “Anytime there is someone who is as passionate as you are about what you are doing, it is exciting. And Dave’s follow-through is amazing.”
Mr. Krugman arrived in New York in 2011, not long after Instagram got off the ground, with an undergraduate degree in psychology from Boston University and a yearning to become a photographer. He freelanced as a photo retoucher, earning up to $100 an hour for working on product shots used for advertisements. He also became enamored of Instagram, posting photographs from his phone that documented his life in New York (skyscrapers at night, cars under elevated tracks, commuters through subway doors), and finding a community of like-minded shutterbugs.
When a photographer he admired, Jacob Santiago, suggested a “meet up” in Central Park in January 2012, he went. “It was freezing cold,” he recalled, “but I met 15 people and I was so surprised by how welcoming and how excited and curious and motivated toward photography they all were. I was like, ‘This is my world.’ And since then it has been.”
During the fall of 2012, Mr. Krugman was visiting the Metropolitan Museum when he had the insight that Instagram could be used to promote its exhibitions. He began a lobbying campaign, writing letters to the museum explaining how Instagram could be a valuable marketing tool for it.
“There is a comparison to be made between what the printing press did for books and writing and what Instagram has done for photography and visual arts,” he wrote in his first unsolicited letter.
As it turns out, Taylor Newby, the Metropolitan Museum’s online community manager, was setting up the museum’s new Instagram presence. After email introductions, the two met for coffee in March 2013 and came up with the #emptymet strategy. Mr. Newby arranged to take Mr. Krugman and a small group of Instagram photographers on a tour during a Monday in April 2013 when the museum was closed. (As of last summer, the museum became open on Mondays.)
After the pictures were posted, the museum saw its account gain thousands of followers. Then Instagram itself listed @metmuseum for two weeks as one of its featured accounts for new users to follow. Traffic jumped by 20,000 followers. Mr. Newby said that wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Krugman.
Now #emptymet tours occur almost monthly. Mr. Krugman has led about a half-dozen of them, with the balance being run by other Instagram users from across the world who lobbied the museum for special access. The Metropolitan Museum’s main account, less than 18 months old, now has over 170,000 followers.
“It is crazy huge,” Mr. Newby said, “and among our social channels like Twitter and Facebook, the Instagram users are the most engaged, with many more people who were really active. It’s helped us connect with a whole new audience, because across the board, they skew younger than our traditional visitors.”
Mr. Krugman has also shown institutions used to promoting their exhibitions on posters and billboards how best to exploit Instagram. Sending out pictures of shows and promotional material doesn’t work, he said. Instead, photographers should be able to use their own points of view.
With his growing reputation, Mr. Krugman has begun thinking about charging money for his Instagram services. “There are best practices,” he said. “It is much stronger than pushing out normal P.R. And I think I can share that with others.”
Read the full article here.
Learn more about #ITweetMuseums here.