Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is one of MoMA’s most marketable attractions
Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr
For the second year running, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has come out on top in our survey of the most-followed museums on social media. After gaining 600,000 followers in the past year, MoMA now has more than 13 million people following its accounts, with almost 5.5 million of those on Instagram. We spoke to MoMA’s director of marketing and creative strategy, Rob Baker, to find out his secrets to social media success. Why is MoMA so popular online?I think one of the reasons, candidly, is we tend to go on to platforms early, so we build quite a significant following early on. And I think we continue to present content that adds value. When we think about any of our social media platforms, we’re always thinking about why MoMA is there.And how do you “add value”?Part of it is sharing really good content that people want to engage with and part of it is being attuned to what is happening in the outside world. The past year has been pretty exceptional, with a major election in the US, an international racial reckoning, and obviously Covid-19. I think we should use these networks to think about the moment and contribute to it in a way that feels authentic. That is something that we think audiences really enjoy and respond to.
A simple example was on the US election day last year: we posted a small video walkthrough of Monet’s Water Lilies (1914-26), which is obviously one of the star attractions at MoMA. We wanted to recognise that people needed a moment of calm and tranquillity in what was a very tense moment. The level of response was great.Another example was at the beginning of lockdown. We wanted to offer a kind of utility, things that respond to what people were thinking about or needing that day. We worked with our film curatorial team to give recommendations for things to watch at home. We also offered things like drawing prompts for kids. I think just being cognisant of where people are, or a country is, at any particular moment is when we’ve seen great success.How do you measure social media success?We certainly want to grow the reach of the museum, but probably the metric that we pay more attention to now is the engagement on our content. How many likes, shares, comments, does the content get? And I think we’ve seen really exceptional performance in those areas this year. What have you been doing differently in the past year?I think that something we ‘re trying increasingly to do is share users’ content—and we’ve seen a great response. In our Instagram stories at the moment we are often sharing people’s experiences of coming into the museum.